Live From the NBA Draft: NBA Digital Puts Social on the Floor With Multiple Sets
The social-media circuit moves from behind the scenes to front and center
Last night at the NBA Draft, the social-media world once again exploded with hot takes, player profiles, and collegiate-highlight reels. With the event’s popularity on the rise, the team at NBA Digital has made some changes in its onsite presence, shifting its behind-the-scenes activities to the limelight in the form of two physical sets visited by players moving along their path of media obligations.
“Last year, Bob Carney [VP, emerging media, NBA] thought that some of the most interesting parts of the Draft happen backstage, where fans can’t see it.” says Melissa Brenner, EVP, digital media, NBA. “One of them are these social-media booths, which we had set up where the players would come through the Brooklyn Nets weight room. [This year,] it’s such a great moment because you get to see the player walk across the stage.”
A Primetime Stop on the Media Trail
In the beginning, digital coverage of the NBA Draft was not nearly as complex and thorough as it is now. And, Brenner notes, the procedure of getting the job done was rigid and rudimentary.
“[The players] would talk in a confessional style to the camera about their family, how they were feeling, and what [this night] meant in their journey,” she says. “There would be a lot of clerical and administrative things that would go on where you would make sure that you check-marked [all of your boxes] for Twitter and Instagram.”
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Today, the NBA has broadened its creative palette and established a primetime location on the media trail. An onsite NBA TV show interviews the selected player moments after Commissioner Adam Silver makes the announcement. When the short segment concludes, the player encounters two sets that capture the unforgettable moment of becoming a professional athlete. The league tapped Fresh Tape, a Denver-based creative agency specializing in studio sets, to construct them, which took 20 hours over two days to complete.
The first is a reduced-scale replica of the stage, including the familiar NBA Draft board and commissioner podium. The player expressed feelings of gratitude to and appreciation of the person or people who most impacted his trajectory. After concluding the message, the player wrote down a phrase with his signature and placed the plank on the replica Draft board.
Next was the Twitter-centric social stop, which incorporated elements of a basketball court and the hashtag symbol that has become synonymous with the platform. Here, the player chose a hashtag phrase that best described his thoughts and feelings immediately after being drafted into the NBA.
— NBA (@NBA) June 21, 2019
Live vs. Edited: Finding the Proper Application
To cover the entire event as efficiently as possible, Brenner and company blended scheduled posting and real-time recordings.
“Some of [the posts] are live, [and] others are edited [by a backstage edit team]. It’s a little bit up to the producer to decide what [is shot live] due to the noise of the arena and how we think the audio is,” she said. “Usually, we prefer to cut and trim [the footage] because, with some platforms, we have to be really [time-]sensitive.”
In addition, an all-hands-on-deck approach was required. Besides the scripted stations on the main floor, other platforms —Instagram, Facebook, YouTube — covered different aspects of the Draft, such as the fashion sense of No. 4 overall pick and future New York Knick RJ Barrett.
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“Everybody is a content person, [even] people who are not normally staffed to the digital department. [For example,] I’ll walk by someone and send [a picture] to one of our lead users and say, Hey, I found this,” Brenner says. “It usually doesn’t make [our social-media channels], but, for the one or two times that it does, I feel pretty great because I got something [that] they thought was high-quality.”
First-Person Accounts: Leveraging Players’ Followings
Although the NBA pushed out a majority of the content generated on Draft Night, the players who experienced the pomp and circumstance provided first-hand commentary on the festivities with the help of basic re-tweeting and Greenfly, a league partner that offers an avenue for reliable content-sharing between two parties.
“This technology allows us to send content to players and players to send content to us really seamlessly. Our players have huge followings — in many cases, larger than the NBA or our teams,” says Brenner. “The [Philadelphia] 76ers have actually mobilized their whole staff with over 100 content producers to help tell a story that’s bigger than what’s happening here. [Also,] we’ll be talking to the [newly drafted players] at the Rookie Transition Program on what Greenfly is so we can get them onboard. It’s been a great symbiotic relationship.”
Moving on Up: From Behind Curtains to the Draft Floor
The inner workings of NBA Digital’s Draft coverage have grown exponentially. And, in a league that is fully embracing and diving deep into the depths of social media, NBA Digital’s Draft Day schedule is expected to become even busier.
“When Sam Farber [VP, digital media, NBA,] first started,” Brenner explains, “he and another individual were in a corner with some black piping and drapes outside of [then-Commissioner David Stern’s] trailer/green room. They used a Twitter mirror, so it was essentially an iPad set up in selfie mode, and the player would just take a picture of himself. We’ve come a long way to now having high-quality sets.”