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Viewing the NBA Postseason Through a Social Lens

Playoff Teams Collectively Create 7.57B Impressions Through Conference Finals

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Social Media
June 9, 2023
June 9, 2023
 min read

After a grueling 82-game schedule, spring basketball brings with it the requirements of added passion, heightened anxiety, and grander stakes. For it is in April when the NBA postseason gets underway, with 16 teams vying for a title. And with action on the court becoming more intense, so too must the teams’ social media presences. The 2023 NBA Playoffs have been marked with upsets – a pair of play-in tournament teams reached the Conference Finals for the first time in history, with the Miami Heat claiming an Eastern Conference championship as a No. 8 seed – thrilling Games 7, and nearly two months of nightly action that has kept fans engaged all along. We used MVP’s social platform to gather insights about the teams’ online activity, assessing content from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube from April 15 through May 31, encompassing the entirety of the first three rounds of this year’s postseason. In that time, the 16 playoff contenders collectively created 7.57 billion impressions across their owned accounts, resulting in $147.9M worth of post value. Teams and their partners are all privy to a piece of that pie in the form of brand value through text, image, and video asset placement, and MVP can help detail who receives the biggest slice and why.

Historical Franchises Set Post Value Pace

Throughout the playoffs, teams with historical relevance, recent success, and an overlap of the two have consistently led our social rankings across almost every major metric. Among the 2023 NBA Postseason participants with a national appeal were the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat.

First Round: The top teams in our first-round rankings significantly lifted the average for our set of 16 participants, resulting in only the aforementioned franchises finishing above the line during the period spanning April 15-30.

• Golden State and Los Angeles generated 58.5% of the $58.6M in total post value during the first round with $20.2M and $14.1M, respectively.

• Boston and Miami were a distant third and fourth, as the Celtics accumulated $3.87M during their series against Atlanta and Miami netted $3.73M during its upset of Milwaukee.

• Phoenix, with $2.24M in post value during the back half of April, was the only other team to exceed $2M.

Second Round: As Golden State and Los Angeles squared off in the Western Conference Semifinals, they continued to garner the most social media attention among the remaining playoff teams.

• The pair boosted their overall post value share to 72.8% for the round.

• Boston maintained its third-place ranking by generating $4.85M in post value during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, while its opponent – the Philadelphia 76ers – finished in fourth with $3.83M.

• Notably, although Golden State and Los Angeles clearly outpaced the rest of the field, average post values rose by 97.8% and median post values increased by 2.15x during the round.

Conference Finals: After eliminating Golden State, the Lakers ascended to the top of our social rankings during the Conference Finals despite losing in four games to the Denver Nuggets.

• Los Angeles enjoyed 35% of the total post value collectively generated by the conference finalists with $8.57M.

• Importantly, engagements were more evenly spread among teams during the dueling series. Only Denver failed to exceed the clubs’ average of 13 million for the round.

What This Means: Highlighting post values demonstrates the potential each team exhibits to generate value and visibility for its brand partners. Through social analysis, MVP can reveal best practices for maximizing sponsorship spend and reaching targeted audiences during heightened periods of social activity. This is especially important as the postseason progresses and value potential rises. Throughout the playoffs, teams with large followings have thus far been the standard and drawn the most attention, but success on the court has begun producing results for teams like the Denver Nuggets.

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Series Wins Breed Social Success

Winning basketball games creates excitement among fan bases, which often entices elevated engagement on social media. Throughout this year’s postseason, no team has reaped the rewards of that more than the Denver Nuggets. The Western Conference’s No. 1 seed entered the playoffs with the second-fewest followers, ahead of only Memphis. But in less than two months, riding the momentum of a run to the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance, they increased their total following by 5% to 5.74 million. And along with that, they enjoyed impressive round-over-round boosts in other metrics that their fellow conference finalists could not match.

Conference Finals Relative to First Round: Each of the conference finalists shared less content during the playoffs’ penultimate round than they did during its opening series. Nevertheless, three clubs managed significantly more reach.

• The Nuggets had the strongest relative showing, increasing their total post value by 2.73x while boosting engagements and impressions by 3.66x and 2.73x, respectively.

• Miami and Boston both ramped up their post value generation, seeing increases of 71.8% and 53.6%, respectively.

• Los Angeles’s quick defeat at the hands of Denver resulted in a drop-off in content by 49.7%. As such, their post value during the conference finals was only 60.8% of their first-round total.

Conference Finals Relative to Second Round: Both eventual NBA Finalists markedly strengthened their social game as the championship round approached.

• Compared to content shared during their second-round triumph over New York, Miami increased its post value generation by 2.44x thanks to 2.67x more engagements.

• Denver continued its climb, as well. After the Nuggets boosted their post value by 20.4% from the first round to the second, they experienced a 2.27x jolt from the second to the third.

What it Means: Round-over-round success among winning teams continues to demonstrate the importance of winning when it comes to social engagement and value generation. Franchises with nationwide allure will always produce positive results, but those, too, are compounded by victories. However, teams with largely regional followings have heightened opportunities to meaningfully position their partners well each time they advance to a new stage of the playoffs.

Platform Results Remain Consistent

Despite different sets of teams being included at each interval, social results by platform remained consistent throughout the first three rounds of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. By margins of 9-17%, Twitter was the greatest post value generator during each round while also creating over 40% of the impressions every period and being responsible for 50.9% of the overall content, with 49.6% during the conference finals being its low mark. However, Instagram was responsible for roughly three-quarters of the engagements despite never exceeding 20.7% of the overall content.

First Round: Twitter netted 45% of the total post value by being the platform that hosted 51.9% of all team content. Instagram earned 75.7% of the total engagements and finished second in post value with 29.7% – the only time this postseason it has exceeded Facebook’s total.

Second Round: Twitter’s post value share dropped to 40.1% as Facebook’s share rose to 31%. The shift was largely a result of Golden State generating $9M in post value on the platform – 40.8% of its total for the round.

Conference Finals: Twitter achieved its highest post value share at 45.5% and topped all platforms in impressions with 46% of the total. Instagram once again had more than 75% of the total engagements.

What it Means: Brands and partners should glean from this data that Twitter is overwhelmingly the safer bet in terms of brand value generation than any of the other three platforms. It consistently brings more than 40% of the value as fans discuss game action in real-time. Meanwhile, IG is home to the most engagements and interactions and responsible for the most concentrated value. Noticeably missing from relevant post value discussions was YouTube, which earned only 0.2% of the overall post value despite hosting 8% of the content. While there is seemingly potential on the video-sharing platform, it has yet to yield tangible results.

Nuggets, Heat to Benefit From Finals Appearance

With the NBA Finals well underway, MVP is continuing to monitor the value of a championship-round appearance for both the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat. In the coming weeks, we will share our broadcast and social analyses of the series, revealing what it means to the participants, their partners, and the league as a whole. In the meantime, connect with us for a social demo to learn more about how playoff content impacts brands and their investments.

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