The Golden State Warriors aren't just seemingly unstoppable on the court and—as we reported yesterday—in the realm of branding. The NBA's reigning champions, who advanced to the Western Conference Finals last night, are also leading the way on social media.
Using paid Facebook ads to promote tickets for the hottest team in the league may seem unnecessary, but there's a marketing reason for why it has sold out 175 straight games. The Warriors have pitched last-minute tickets via Facebook ads this season for various games, sometimes against quality opponents like the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder. Indeed, in an era where nearly every sports fan owns a flat-screen TV and where all pro teams struggle to get fans off the couch, even the Warriors have to sell themselves.
"When we use Facebook as it was intended, we get great results," said Daniel Brusilovsky, Golden State's digital initiatives lead, in a report published by BlitzMetrics, the Warriors' social ads vendor. "It's not about algorithm magic, but personalizing the fan's journey so we deliver the right message to the right audience, triggered by behavior."
Data from social vendor Talkwalker shows that the Warriors generate more buzz and reach more people on social than any other NBA team this season—and it isn't even close. During last year's playoffs, the Warriors drove more than 55 million organic video views on Facebook.
"The Warriors have taken a unique approach to engagement with fans by running social recap stories with hashtag campaigns and encouraging their loyal fanbase to join the conversation online," said Todd Grossman, Talkwalker's CEO of the Americas. "They have also made good use of video on Facebook and Snapchat to further engage an already plugged-in mobile audience."
In data they trust
How do they do it? The Warriors know their strengths on social and target accordingly.
BlitzMetrics CTO Dennis Yu said that the most successful videos are 10 seconds long, and that 80 percent of their video views happen on mobile (85 percent of those views are with the sound off).
BlitzMetrics data show that sales perk up when Facebook remarketing begins 72 hours before game time, when the Warriors will promote a highlight or showcase a giveaway. Hitting fans with a sales pitch 48 hours before tip-off is the sweet spot for conversions.
Facebook is key to the Warriors. The team's average YouTube video will get around 10,000 views, but native Facebook videos can get 50 times as many eyeballs. Using Facebook's Custom Audiences, they aim for the most relevant ads possible. If a fan engages with a lot of posts about star forward Draymond Green, they'll see more ads featuring Green.
Videos and images are also winners for the Warriors on Twitter.
Yu said that the Warriors use Facebook ads hand-in-hand with Google with great success. The Warriors may have put to rest the search versus social debate by embracing both.
"This is the power of remarketing—to bring back people who you've touched in another channel," Yu said. "Facebook is the most powerful remarketing channel, since it has the largest audience and most powerful tools. But you'd want to run Google and Facebook remarketing, since they work hand-in-hand—search is not 'better' than social or vice-versa."
How powerful are social ads for the Warriors? Yu noted that one paid impression on a popular post can drive 320 incremental organic impressions.
Dominant on the West Coast and growing worldwide
If you still need evidence that Stephen Curry has taken the West Coast torch from Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, consider this: The Warriors are now massively more popular outside of California than the Lakers. Looking at Twitter mentions this season, the Warriors toppled the Lakers (who have nearly four times as many followers) internationally.
Outside of the U.S., the Warriors are most popular in the Philippines (more than 152,000 Twitter mentions this season), Spain (more than 68,000), Canada (more than 59,000) and France (more than 47,000).
According to Facebook, from 2013 through 2015, the Warriors' official page saw a 53 percent lift in international fans.
Hey, what can you say? The Warriors are killing it on social, too.