Live Shines as Turner Brings High-Level Social Integration to NBA All-Star Weekend

Although driving linear tune-in was the goal, social programming was designed to fit each platform

These days, many of the major sports-media properties are giving digital and social-media departments a seat at the table when it comes to planning coverage of major events. Few do it better and more seamlessly than Turner Sports.

Turner Sports created a small studio area called Area 21 that was a home to some live social video content. Kevin Garnett hosted a Facebook Live from the location during the Slam Dunk Contest. The show was meant to serve as a second-screen complement to the linear television production.

Turner Sports created a small studio area called Area 21 that was home to some live social video content. Kevin Garnett hosted a Facebook Live show from the location during the Slam Dunk Contest. The show was designed to serve as a second-screen complement to the linear television production.

This past weekend at NBA All-Star in New Orleans, the network had more than a dozen people working specifically on social-media executions. Whether it was Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or SnapChat, various properties, including NBA on TNT and NBA TV,  featured an aggressive content and marketing strategy.

For the network, the ultimate goal is still to drive tune-in, so Turner’s social-media team used the resources at its disposal to amplify television on social media. For example, Turner live-streamed the player intros prior to the start of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game on Facebook Live to help promote tune-in and get social-media users to turn on the game on their television.

Throughout the weekend, Turner created live social-specific programming using a production team of only four (TD, producer, two doing graphics). The crew used Vidpresso technology to integrate graphics featuring comments, polls, trivia, etc., for any live shows produced specifically for a social platform during the festivities throughout the weekend.

“We have enough technology to do a really awesome job but not too much that we need 58 people to staff it,” says Matt Wickline, senior director, Turner Sports Social Media.

He takes SVG through the highlights of each platform:

Turner’s Facebook strategy couldn’t be more dramatically different from what it was a year ago, with Facebook Live providing a significantly more mature set of tools for producing and distributing content.

A year ago, Turner went live only twice on Facebook, and it was through a phone. This year was a very different story.

“[Last year,] it was really walking around with a person and experiencing what they were experiencing from a first-person view,” Wickline explains. “It wasn’t very interactive; it was just a neat thing to see. Since then, we have put a ton of money and time into creating a production infrastructure that mimics television but is much more lean and mean and appropriate for that platform.”

Now Turner is dialing directly into the Facebook API to create fully produced shows for a social-friendly audience. The network dedicated half of an NEP production truck in the compound to running live social-media productions for platforms like Facebook Live. In addition, there was significant integration between the social team and the traditional broadcast unit that allowed leveraging of high-end linear content for social-media distribution.

Turner Sports currently has an exclusive agreement with Twitter to produce two live shows per week that air only on Twitter through its NBA TV brand. Although, normally, those shows  air midweek from the NBA TV studios in Atlanta, for NBA All-Star, that programming was produced live onsite and aired on Saturday and Sunday serving as lead-ins to the major events taking place those evenings.

Warmup Live From New Orleans was streamed solely to Twitter and offered a unique studio-content opportunity for Twitter. In addition, Turner and the NBA partnered with Twitter to create a custom emoji campaign. Using the #NBA All-Star or #NBA on TNT hashtag, on-air talent triggered the custom emoji that would appear in users’ posts.

Turner Sports used Instagram to kick off the All-Star festivities with a special campaign on Instagram. While NBA TV aired a “Dunkathon” featuring full replays of iconic Dunk Contest highlights from league history, Turner was also feeding Instagram with unique content to promote that linear programming. Turner contracted 10 designers to make captivating re-creations of iconic dunks to promote the NBA TV marathon.

Throughout the weekend, Turner also partnered with Instagram and the NBA to create a photo booth, with all the players coming through on media day. In addition to pictures, the social team was able to capture five to 10 clips of the players using props and dancing around to show their personalities.

“We want to show how fun these guys are and showcase that they really are more than just basketball players, which, of course, is what people want to engage with on a social-media platform,” says Wickline. “We feel like that was mission accomplished.”

A series of SnapChat filters were deployed on both a local and a national scale to drive awareness of the NBA All-Star Game.

On the national side, a filter including the faces of selected NBA All-Stars and a filter that turned the user’s head into a giant spinning basketball were released by SnapChat and put into its filter rotation for the weekend.

On the content-creation side, five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber wore SnapChat Spectacles throughout the weekend — specifically, for the Dunk Contest — to help program the SnapChat Discover Channel dedicated to the game.

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