Lessons from courtside

At a Raptors game a while back, we were struck by the energy of the crowd. It was very different than what we’d experienced at hockey and baseball games. Basketball just has a different “feel” than other sports. It seems younger, hipper and hotter. The NBA is doing something right.

Hang out with your core market

The first rule of marketing is to know your audience. But the NBA also knows where to find that audience and how to engage them. The league says its core market is 18- to 34-year olds.

Where would you find this particular group? On social media, which is also where you’ll find the NBA. Various teams’ Twitter feeds are full of pop culture references to hot hip hop artists and TV shows. You’ll find plenty of Vines of dunks, drives and behind-the-scenes silliness.

The end result is a league – and star players – that fans can relate to.

Your core market may be very different, but you can still find out where they’re hanging out and meet them there.

Let your fans (i.e., clients) sell your brand

Most professional sports leagues are proprietary when it comes to live footage. Not the NBA. They let their fans share game pictures and video over social media without jumping through any hoops (pun intended). This is a subtle yet effective way to sell a brand.

Another winning idea: celebrity team ambassadors. The Raptors have Drake, the Nets have Jay Z and the Lakers have Jack Nicholson. These aren’t celebrities paid to endorse a team. They’re genuine fans … who happen to have huge followings of their own.

You might not think your brand has fans, but it has loyal clients who are happy to spread the word about what you do and why they love working with you. Let them.

There is no off-season

Letting your clients sell your brand doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work. The NBA’s marketing people don’t get an off-season, because they can’t let fans forget about the game for four or five months.

While your clients are promoting your brand, you will be too. Use a consistent voice, keep your message short and simple, and have a sense of humour. Above all, don’t be afraid to take a few risks!

Sometimes the outcome won’t be what you want. But quite often, the payoff for taking smaller, more calculated risks can be big.

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