Since its inception in 1951, the NBA All-Star game has always been about one thing—the fans. At a time when attendance was down, the league decided to host an exhibition game between the best 12 players from each conference. After drawing a crowd of over 10,000 (nearly three times the league’s regular season average), the game has since become a perennial fixture on the NBA calendar and a must-see event for fans.
But a lot’s changed in the past 70 years. For one, more people are tuning in to social media to catch highlights and short-form clips of the events as opposed to watching the full, live broadcast. In fact, TV viewership of the NBA All-Star game is down by nearly 50% over the past twenty years.
It’s not that the NBA is doing anything wrong. In fact, declining viewership of all-star games is consistent across all four major US sports leagues. But the NBA has proven to be vanguards at mastering the art of social media—so while TV numbers may be down, views on social media are through the roof. Just check out this stat on social media viewership from this year’s All-Star Weekend.
In terms of engagement and followers, the NBA is leading the pack when it comes to creating engaging content, and the rest of the industry is taking note. It’s no secret that sports viewing habits are changing and that fans want more access to short-form content and highlights before, during, and after games. Part of this evolution means that leagues, teams, and broadcasters need to publish a lot of content to get fans’ attention and drive them to their owned and operated platforms—like websites, apps, live broadcasts, and OTT services—in order to gather data from fans which can be used for targeted ads, selling subscriptions, merchandise, and more.
To get an idea of just how much content is being published from NBA action, we dug into data from all of our clients broadcasting the league’s games, and found that as of the All-Star break during the 2022-23 season, LeBron James already had over 9,000 published highlight videos. That’s an average of 225 per game! But if you thought LeBron was leading the league with the most highlights, you might be surprised. Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo hold the top two spots, which might have something to do with their international appeal. While certainly household names in the United States, they also command astounding fan bases in their home countries and all over Europe, having played abroad before joining the NBA.
Personalizing Content to Drive Engagement
One way that rights holders can increase engagement is by delivering content and highlights to targeted audiences. More specifically, that could be segmenting different groups by their geographic location or preferred broadcast language and then serving them that content accordingly. At an event hosted by WSC Sports, the NBA’s Head of Content and Original Programming, Andrew Yaffe, discussed the great results they’ve seen from capturing things like every made basket by a player from France, and then delivering that to a French audience. As a fan, who wouldn’t prefer to consume their favorite content in their native language?
Spotlight on All-Star Weekend 2023
Huge events like the All-Star game provide ample opportunity and a perfect environment to create really great, engaging content. With so much going on, social media was buzzing with highlights and clips from the weekend’s various events including the slam dunk and 3-point contests, All-Star Celebrity game, Jordan Rising Stars tournament, and the 72nd Annual All-Star game. This year, three of our clients broadcast the All-Star game, so we thought we’d take a look at the data to cast a light on how they told the story through highlights. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jayson Tatum’s record-breaking 55 points helped him earn first place when it came to the having the most highlights published.
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The Highlight of the Weekend
While the 72nd annual All-Star Game had no shortage of electrifying dunks, without question the biggest success from the weekend in terms of viewership and engagement was the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest. Adding to the drama was the fact that winner, Mac McClung, had just been called up from the G-League and signed by the Philadelphia 76ers. The contest, which in the past featured some of the league’s most iconic highlights like Michael Jordan’s dunk from the free-throw line and Vince Carter’s historic performance in 2000, got over 520 million views in just the first 12 hours. When it comes down to it, sometimes it helps to have inherently viral content in your bag. So to sign-off on this year’s festivities, we leave you with this compilation of Mac McClung’s memorable performance, which is sure to rack up tens millions of more views in the months ahead. Here’s to hopefully seeing him defend his title in 2024 in Indiana.