How NBA is winning the war of relevancy

Courtesy of USA Today Images

Just face facts. The NBA is bigger, bolder and savvier than other US sports when it comes to online engagement and social media popularity. The squeak of the court and swoosh of the net is only the backdrop to what’s really going on.

The NBA has taken over the internet. It’s broken the backboard and left shattered glass all over the MLB’s efforts to create entertainment.  When two NBA players throwing shade at each other on social media is covered more than an all-out brawl in baseball you know it’s game over for that sport.


What the NBA is doing isn’t even rocket science. Yet the MLB and NFL act as if they have yet to discover fire, never mind the Internet. So while they slumber, the NBA continues to gobble up the new wave of fans and is milking their attention spans like big fat cows in a field.

Here’s the truth. As attention spans shorten and we have more stuff to fill time, the idea of sitting and watching an afternoon of sports gets less appealing. Especially when everything that happens is available within seconds directly on your phone. The new wave wants immediacy.

So while the NFL restricts the use of its footage and content, the NBA put its on a pedestal for all to consume and share.  This is the era of highlights, great clips, looped replays and non-mainstream content creators.  The NBA has leveraged fans who want to create and share while the NFL has locked them out.  It’s like it has forgotten people seeing the sport is actually good for business.


Imagine if the NFL took away the media shackles. The content online would explode. There would be millions of bone-crunching tackle compilations, amazing drives and eye-popping touchdowns just flooding social media, news channels and fan forums. The NBA and MLB would not be able to compete, because in terms of action the NFL is number one.

Let us consider the Super Bowl. It was unreal, with twists and turns that could rival any blockbuster. Yet the moment the final whistle sounds, that’s it. There is no flurry of content creators giving fresh perspectives saturating the internet with new, easy to consume video. A few days of tweets and headlines and it’s gone. The major networks move on. How different would that be if restrictions were lifted?

You may say that “the NBA draft and finals have just ended,” but it’s not about the breaking news which has a life cycle of minutes in this era. It’s about how much content that can be produced to feed the consumers, who are looking at hashtags and social channels like they are TV channels of old. The major networks only make and share so much, so it’s left to others to create trends.

This is where the NBA outlives its season, by being active and relevant all year around. There is no down time, and better still, the players put on a show off the court.


They know the only ingredient you need to stir up the masses is a conflict. If you look at the NBA it’s full of sophomoric bitchiness that’s reminiscent of school girls calling names. It’s pathetic on the surface, but it’s fantastic when juxtaposed to the world of platitudes and political correctness. It’s fodder to share and retweet. It’s short, it entertains for a short period of time and there’s a big old share button to press so you can feel a part of something.

This ability to instantly relate is another big thing the new wave of sports fans crave. And it’s something they can’t really do while simply watching TV.

This new wave I keep talking about is the one that drives trends. These fans consume and share like their lives depend on it, and they love/thrive on conflict.

Just look at how savage chat rooms and forums have become with internet tough guys. These people are junked up on YouTube videos, energy drinks, and Cheetos. This is why extreme sports and eSports are growing exponentially.

Conflict. People want to see you rant and scream.

Fail or win? That’s irrelevant. Just entertain and engage.


So while the NFL and MLB fight over TV audiences the NBA has this little thing called the world wide web practically all to itself. It has invaded everything the younger generation loves. From music to culture to fashion, along with the petty wars that constantly ensue.

The NBA realized being relevant in this era isn’t about whether the sport is interesting. It’s about whether the bite-sized highlights and sound bytes engage, attract and have the potential to go viral. It’s about the characters and their 15-second highlights.

Until the NFL and MLB figure this out they’ll forever be floundering in the new era of technology. That’s a fact.