With a bounding pulse of 2,949 Twitter and Facebook mentions per hour over the weekend, the 2012 NBA All-Star Game can be deemed an "engaging" success.
"Our mission for All-Star is the same as our goal every day of the year, which is to enhance our fans' engagement and enjoyment of the game," Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA's Vice President of Marketing. "And that's really what social media is for us. It's a way for fans to interact with each other on a global basis."
The marquee event was available to fans in 215 countries and territories in 45 languages, making it the most broadly distributed All-Star in league history through new TV partnerships, digital innovation and by engaging 241 million followers globally through social media.
The number of followers is just one social media metric the NBA monitors throughout All-Star and beyond.
"We look at everything from trending topics to individual post engagement on Facebook, as well the volume and sentiment of mentions across all platforms," Rosenthal Brenner added. "We'll put out a pretty robust analysis post All-Star on volume, sentiment, as well as key tweets or Facebook status updates that really tell the story of what fans feel about our game and feel about the event itself."
Assembling a great team and producing quality content are just two of the NBA's keys to success in building out an integrated social program during All-Star. But, it's equally important for the League to be on the right platforms where its globally diverse fan base tends to hang out.
"We don't have a one-size fits all strategy," Matthew Brabants, Senior Vice President of International Media Distribution and Business Operations, iterated on Sunday night. "We always have to stay ahead of the trends in social media as user patterns in other countries differ.
"In Brazil, for example, Facebook isn't the first place fans go to connect. We want to make sure that we're reaching out via Orkut and other social networks. We're working in close communication with third-party groups to make sure they're aware of those trends and are doing it properly."
The NBA's not only following those trends, it's creating them.
During All-Star weekend, NBA.com launched its first-ever "NBA.com Social Spotlight" that featured the best fan tweets, photos and videos in one convenient place. NBA.com's All-Star Pulse also made a return appearance, accessible for the first time on mobile and iPad using HTML5 technology. Pulse amplifies the most-buzzworthy topics during NBA All-Star weekend on Twitter and Facebook, including comments from players and celebrities.
Both features were part of the NBA.com All-Star Scene Takeover, which is a robust social clearinghouse on the site's homepage. Rosenthal Brenner describes it as "the ultimate visualization for all things All-Star." Collectively, these activations gave fans real-time, behind-the-scenes content that enhanced their All-Star viewing experience.
All-Star social media integration didn't end with content and dialogue. It also extended to fan voting. Both domestic and international viewers were enabled and encouraged to either vote online, on mobile or through social media to determine the winner of the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge MVP, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, and the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game.
Though Orlando was the "basketball capital of the world" for a few days according to David Stern, NBA All-Star was truly a global experience. More than 336 international media members from 39 countries descended on Central Florida to cover the 61st annual event. Over 90 media members hailed from Greater China, 21 from Japan and 11 from the Philippines.
One correspondent even utilized a backpack enabled with LiveU Technology to provide exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage in real-time to VIP members of the NBA's online community on Tencent, China's largest and most used social network.
"We have a fairly young fan base around the world that's tuning into the NBA, a tech-savvy fan base," Brabants said. "A fan base that's using their mobile phones, that's on Facebook, Twitter or Tencent in China. So what we've done is made it a real priority to reach out to those fans directly and integrate with our partners in that outreach."
The NBA directly engaged with 41 million followers in China, up from one million at NBA All-Star 2011. And more than half of the nearly 200 million followers and likes combined on the official NBA, team and player pages are international fans.
Rosenthal Brenner says one secret to its social media explosion is top-down support.
"You have to have a mandate from senior management that technology and, social media in particular, is a focus and we have that through David Stern and through Adam Silver. We've been allowed to experiment and grow our business pretty aggressively."
When you combine a wildly popular league with a corporate culture of embracing technology and engagement, only one question remains:
How social will the 2013 NBA All-Star Game be?
Follow Peter Robert Casey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_R_Casey