If you’re anything like me, watching sports is a full contact experience. The allure of the industry has always intrigued people. One thing fans love more than watching and listening to games, trade talks, and analysis is talking about them. For the better part of the modern sports era, radio has provided a platform for the everyday fan to engage with current discussions, and within the last 20 years it’s also found a home on blogs, discussion boards and forums. Social media has now provided a new playing field for fans to voice their opinions for the entire world to see.
The days of waiting in line to have your card signed are over, now fans seek and cherish the contact made on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. In addition to connecting with fans, athletes have also had an opportunity to share their passions, promote charitable causes and get themselves into trouble by airing professional grievances. Twitter has been the heaviest hitter in sports. Not only can you retweet your favorite athlete’s comments, you can also tweet at them while they’re on the field/court/ice. What’s better as a sports fan than being able to tell a player directly that they’re blowing the lead, dropping perfectly thrown passes, or eating too much fried chicken? Don’t scream at the TV, tweet about it and commiserate with other hostile fans also glued to the TV.
One association is banking on this engagement to help save a tradition plagued with decreased viewership and criticism. This weekend the NBA has chosen to lean on Twitter to revive a dying All-Star Weekend event, the Slam Dunk Contest. In the past this contest has been one of the most watched events of the weekend but it’s gone downhill to say the least. Many point fingers to high profile players not wanting to participate, while others feel like it’s all been done before and there’s nothing new to see.
This year the NBA has decided to make the contest an interactive experience for fans watching at home and in the stands. While in the past, guest judges, typically past players, have been the end all be all for crowning the dunk champion, this year fans will choose thanks to Twitter. According to TNT and the NBA, there will only be one round of competition and each contestant has three dunk attempts. This differs greatly from the multi-round format of past years. Fans will vote by tweeting their desired player’s last name and the hashtag #SpriteSlam – nice work @Sprite. Fans can also follow and interact with the contest participants throughout the event – Indiana Pacers’ Paul George @King24George, Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams @RealDWill7, Rockets Chase Budinger @Cbudinger, and Utah Jazz Jeremy Evans @JeremyEvans40.
It’s an interesting strategy for increasing viewership but will this attempt at re-engaging fans in the Slam Dunk Contest work? The shortened format combined with the engagement opportunities may make this more appealing to viewers. As demonstrated by Sprite’s sponsorship, it’s also a tremendous opportunity for larger brands to generate social buzz. It’s a good strategy for both parties. Let’s see how it all plays out on Saturday night at 8:00PM EST on TNT. Perhaps Twitter will prove to be a game changer for the many struggling All-Star events across the board.
What was you’re all time favorite Slam Dunk Competition performance? Would you have tweeted about it?