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Superstars Help Showcase Importance of Social Media Value for Teams

MVPindex tracks social analytics to help teams and brands better understand the monetary value that channels can bring through sponsorships.




MVPindex - sports - sponsorship - measurement

Image via MVPindex

In the modern world of data, nearly anything is measurable, like the tremendous value on social media LeBron James brings to a team.

The social media analytics firm MVPindex tracked social channels following James’ signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the results were startling. From June 29 to October 30, the Lakers gained more than 1.9 million followers, while in the same timeframe, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 233,900 followers across all social accounts.

The real effect James has on the team’s engagements is yet to be seen, but the Cavs were last season’s most engaging team in the NBA on social — a statistic more than likely to change this year. The Lakers were fourth, with nearly 120 million fewer engagements than King James’ former club. When news broke James would sign with the Lakers on July 2, though, the Lakers received an increase of 287,400 followers.

“Even the single-day effect of LeBron’s decision is interesting,” MVPindex co-founder and CMO Kyle Nelson said. “This was their largest single-day follower spike since MVPindex started tracking them in January 2014. The Cavaliers, however, lost 23,700 followers on that same day. LeBron is the top NBA player on social media when ranked by engagement and social value generated in 2018.”

SEE MORE: How the Seattle Storm Social Team Pulled at Community Heartstrings

MVPindex posted those James findings on its Twitter page, and recently also posted similar analytics for the value NFL players and teams generated for Fortnite. There were 474 posts with 363,400 engagements, worth nearly $611,000 in brand value for Fortnite from players and teams.

For context, the Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster alone was worth a $70,600 value for the game.

Tracking social numbers and their values is at the heart of MVPindex’s existence, as the company tracks more than 90,000 entities, including more than 9,000 brands in more than 80 sports.

Former star athletes also maintain a high level of engagement and value. For example, Shaquille O’Neal’s 27 posts about JCPenney in the year prior to October 5 generated more than $1 million in brand value, or $39,000 per post.

While looking at single athletes is insightful, team social channels aren’t driven solely by players.

Recently, the firm looked at several social campaigns by NHL teams from last season. The Chicago Blackhawks designed a series around saves their goalies make, which was sponsored by the plumbing company Roto-Rooter. Last season, the “Between the Pipes” activation ran 10 Instagram posts and four Twitter posts and generated 112,000 engagements, equaling $77,000 in value for the sponsor.

The Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals generated a $698,000 value for their regular-season postgame score graphics, which were sponsored by

SEE MORE: Chicago Bulls Strive to Digitally Innovate While Honoring Their Past

MVPindex released a blog detailing those two campaigns and five others — including a Pittsburgh Penguins campaign with Coors; a Ford-sponsored, fan-driven campaign for the Toronto Maple Leafs; and a McDonald’s-backed campaign for the Montreal Canadiens.

“As more and more brands begin to value social media and the audience it attracts over traditional forms of sponsorships, such as signage, social can no longer be seen as something that is simply thrown in as a part of the sponsorship deal,” Nelson said. “Teams need to understand how to leverage their social footprint and engaged audience when pricing out new rate cards and activating with sponsors.”

A ranking of team followers across channels is also regularly updated by MVPindex, and largely dominated by NBA and NFL teams. The New York Yankees are the only non-football or basketball organization in the top 15 of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram rankings.

Football teams also owe some of their value to players — like the New Orleans Saints, for example. The team’s quarterback, Drew Brees, who broke the all-time passing yards record this season, has 1.9 million followers on Facebook — the fourth-most among players in the league, behind J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.

Humans also aren’t the only things worth looking at within team rosters. Becoming a transcendent pop-culture figure in October, the Philadelphia Flyers’ new mascot, Gritty, became the most-followed NHL mascot within a week, more than doubling the numbers of his closest competitor, the Los Angeles Kings’ Bailey.

Nelson said a third-party analytics firm like MVPindex, or competitors like Sprout Social and TrackMaven, help measure the team’s social value and understand how to better utilize those tools.

“For any organization on social media, there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “There’s definitely been an emphasis on social media for teams, not just in focusing on high-quality, engaging content for fans, but also understanding how that content can drive value for sponsors, too.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at


NBA, Instagram and New Era to Deliver Shoppable Championship Moment

As Instagram expands into e-commerce, it’s teaming up with the NBA and New Era to offer fans the opportunity to buy officially licensed championship gear.

Michael McCarthy



Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Sports fans are most likely to open their wallets and make an impulse purchase after their team wins a championship. As Instagram expands into e-commerce, it’s teaming up with the NBA and New Era to offer either Golden State Warriors or Toronto Raptors fans the opportunity to buy officially licensed championship gear as they’re popping champagne.

Here’s how the digital “tap to shop” promotion will work: The minute the buzzer sounds ending the 2019 NBA Finals, Instagram will instantly offer a $50 cap/t-shirt bundle for the winning team via New Era. The combo will be exclusively available on Instagram for 24 hours after the game’s conclusion. After that, the gear may go on sale at

The 37.7 million followers of Instagram’s NBA account just have to tap on the post for details, then tap again to buy. Instead of being sent elsewhere they can handle the entire purchase within the app.

As the “authentic cap” of the NBA, New Era is currently selling Warriors/Raptors hats emblazoned with the gold “2019 NBA Finals” logo. The NBA, Instagram and Fanatics offered a similar “shoppable moment” after the Warriors won the Western Conference Finals.

“As the Authentic Cap of the NBA, we’re excited to honor the championship team with the official New Era Authentics: Championship Series Cap and Team Celebratory Tee Bundle exclusively available through the NBA’s Instagram,” says John Connors, New Era’s director of basketball. “This partnership gives us an opportunity to reach fans and provide them with product that helps them celebrate their team’s NBA championship.”

Paige Cohen, a spokeswoman for Instagram’s tech communications, notes fans “want to be part of” the winning team’s celebration. “They shop the gear, they get all decked out,” Cohen says. 

Cohen has a point, according to sports retail expert Mike May. Capitalizing on the thrill of victory can create a “financial windfall for those who have the right product at the right time.”

It can even inspire couch potatoes to put down the clicker and play the sport they’re watching on TV.

“When (fans) emotions are high there’s often a disconnect between common sense and spending — and spending just takes over,” says May, who consults for PHIT America. “It’s an interesting day and age that we live in. It gets faster. The immediacy of Instagram just adds to the festivities — and the spending.”

READ MORE: Canadian Craze Carrying NBA Finals Viewership

Instagram and New Era previously partnered with the NFL to offer a digital shopping experience during the 2019 Draft in Nashville.

The ceremonial act of young college football stars putting on the cap of their new NFL teams has become part of the NFL Draft day ritual. A photographer shot photos of the players in their New Era caps. The photos were shared to the NFL’s Instagram account, complete with shopping tags, driving fans to The caps sold for $30 to $38.

The NBA can tap into a huge pool of hoops fans on social media. The NBA’s Instagram account boasts the most followers of any pro league account. The account has drawn 11.8 billion views, and 1.3 billion engagements, this season alone. And Instagram’s new role as a digital mall keeps growing.

In March, the social media giant launched a “Checkout on Instagram” button that enables users to shop and buy products without leaving the app. Users enter their name, email, billing information and shipping address.

Over 1 billion people use Instagram every month, according to Hootsuite, with 500 million on the platform every day. Roughly 60% utilize Instagram to discover new products.

READ MORE: NBA and Twitter Team Up to Bring “Virtual Sports Bar” to Life

Sam Farber, the NBA’s vice president of digital media, said the Finals offer the league an opportunity to “test innovative initiatives” during its biggest event of the year.

With the Raptors leading the Warriors 3-2 in the NBA Finals, the series returns to Oakland for Game 6 Thursday night. If the Warriors survive, the Finals moves to Toronto for Game 7 Sunday night.

“We’re excited to partner with both Instagram and New Era to bring exclusive merchandise to fans in a new way.”

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Stanley Pup Correspondent Fetches New Fans for NBC Sports & NHL

According to NBC Sports, the Stanley Pup campaign has had more than 18 million impressions this postseason.

Ian Thomas



Photo Credit: NHL

The multiple-month grueling road to the Stanley Cup Final annually catches the attention of the sports world. This year, one of the most dogged chroniclers of that journey has helped the league gain even more traction – Sunny, the Stanley Pup correspondent.

The idea for a Stanley Pup correspondent was the brainchild of Matt Ziance, manager of consumer engagement at NBC Sports. After seeing the way that Sunny, a labrador and guide dog in training, had captivated audiences as the official Today Show puppy, the idea of having a dog being a continued part of the network’s coverage of the NHL playoffs was spawned.

“Each year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’re always searching for new, organic ways to stand out in our overall marketing messaging,” Ziance said. “While looking at successful campaigns across our properties, we saw a strong connection between our fan base and utilizing puppies in our campaigns.”

That led NBC Sports to incorporate the Stanley Pup across its broadcasts and social posts on a weekly basis. Across the playoffs, Sunny traveled more than 10,000 miles across the country while attending games in Boston, Denver, San Jose and St. Louis, as well as appearing at the network’s studios in Stamford, Connecticut – creating unique content while also finalizing his guide dog training by working in high-volume areas and new surroundings.

That content has been a boon for NBC Sports, the NHL and the reach of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. According to NBC Sports, the Stanley Pup campaign has had more than 18 million impressions this postseason across collaborations with The TODAY Show, the NHL, the We Rate Dogs Twitter account and the Guide Dog Foundation – an audience that includes many who are connecting to the Stanley Cup and the NHL in a new way.

Dan Palla, director of consumer engagement marketing at NBC Sports, said the network spends significant time in the build up to the launch of the playoffs each year thinking of “every single way we can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs bigger than it has been before.”

“The tagline we use is ‘there is nothing like playoff hockey’ – there is an inherent truth to that and every hockey fan knows that,” Palla said. “It’s also about growing the game and making the Stanley Cup Playoffs resonate off the ice, and thinking of new ways to draw people into the compelling games and the culture.”

Palla said when he first heard of the idea of bringing Sunny onto the hockey team, he said “it’s hard not to smile when you think of a Stanley Pup correspondent – we knew it was an opportunity to bring hockey to audiences in a different way that felt like a shot worth taking.”

The NBC Sports team worked with the Today Show staff to understand what worked well with Sunny in terms of content, as well as with the Guide Dog Foundation to ensure that the experience would also be beneficial to Sunny’s training.

READ MORE: Like Novak Djokovic’s Outfit? NBCUniversal Wants To Help You Buy It

The ability to capture hockey-related content with Sunny has allowed the two NBCUniversal programs to have cross-company promotion on-air as well as on social media, while also having hockey content reach new audiences. For example, the Stanley Pup correspondent was featured on the popular We Rate Dogs Twitter account, which has more than eight million followers. That also helped spark user-generated content coming from hockey fans and dog lovers alike on how their own ‘Stanley Pups’ were enjoying the playoffs.

Palla said NBC Sports has made it “mission critical” to help raise awareness of the sport and the NHL outside of the traditional ways of marketing hockey, something that he thinks has helped viewership. The NHL 2018-2019 regular season averaged 424,000 viewers across NBC Sports’ TV and digital platforms, up 2% from the previous year.

Both Palla and Ziance said the network has been thrilled with Sunny’s contribution to this year’s playoffs. While Sunny is now leaving the NBCUniversal family to become a full-time guide dog, Ziance said the idea of another future Stanley Pup Correspondent is something the network will consider not only for the 2020 playoffs, but potentially for the regular season as well.

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Twitter Doesn’t Want Sports Rights

Front Office Sports



*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

You can count out at least one social media company from the TV sports rights game. 

According to Max Mason of The Australian Financial Review, the company is not interested in battling for major sports rights, but wants to partner with rights holders, such as TV broadcasters, to extend their audiences and bring in more money.

Friend, not foe…

While Twitter does have deals to broadcast games on its platform with leagues like the WNBA, NWHL and more, the goal for the platform is not to be a linear TV broadcaster.

“The way that we’re approaching our business and our partnerships in the space is not to compete with rights holders. I don’t want to be a linear television broadcaster.” – Kay Madati, Twitter’s vice-president and global head of content partnerships

Bigger together…

Instead of competing with one another, Madati and Twitter want to serve as a way for traditional linear broadcasters to be able to amplify their content and drive new revenue.

“We’re here to make those events bigger by marrying the conversation that happens on our platform around those things. We’re here to actually come to them and say ‘we can make your event, your investment in this property that much bigger and that much better’.” – Kay Madati

More video is good for Twitter…

According to Mason, video has become the dominant source of revenue for Twitter, comprising 50% of money coming in.

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