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An inside look at how the NBA became a social-media juggernaut


An inside look at how the NBA became a social-media juggernaut

In 2021, “NBA” was the No. 1 trending Google search in the United States, beating out “Squid Game,” “Mega Millions” and “stimulus check” among other top searches. “NBA” also fared well globally, ranking as Google’s No. 4 trending search worldwide.

Kevin Esteves, the NBA’s associate vice president of digital strategy and analytics, did a double take when Google released this data a few weeks ago.

“I read it a few times just to make sure I understood what they were capturing and measuring,” Esteves told in a phone interview. “It’s an incredible stat. In a year like 2021 — with all of the news and trending searches that would’ve been in contention for the No. 1 spot — for the NBA to occupy that top spot, I think it’s just a testament to the health of the brand and how exciting the league has been over the last few years. It’s an incredible brand-health metric for us, but I think it also speaks to how the NBA is more than just a basketball league; it kind of infiltrates the conversation across culture, music, fashion and social justice.”

The NBA has always had an excellent social-media presence, but 2021 was perhaps the league’s most impressive year to date.

Last year, the NBA was the most-viewed and most-engaged pro-sports-league account on social media, driving 24 billion views and 2.3 billion engagements across all platforms. Also, the NBA added 18 million followers across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Facebook combined last year — the most of any U.S. pro sports league.

“What’s really been our guiding philosophy throughout is we’ve tried to be a first-mover on all of these platforms, and in many cases, we were the first sports-league account on the platform,” Esteves explained. “Then, it’s about optimizing content for the platform that we’re on — not just spraying the same piece of content across all of our platforms, but really optimizing for each platform, nurturing that fan base and giving them exactly what they want. That’s sort of been key in our recipe for success.”

In addition to growing its following on the…

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