The NBA is no longer using Second Life

The NBA is On YouTube, Vine, Snapchat, and Even Yo, But No More Second Life.

As you might expect, the National Basketball Association is blowing it out this weekend for its All-Star festivities in New York. And the increasingly global league has a constant need to reach new fans–and sometimes, that means trying nearly everything.

Over the past week, for example, the league has hosted a live Facebook interview show featuring players and fans chatting with the comedian JB Smoove. It’s having stars take Instagram photos that look like they are defying gravity. And on Friday, the league announced that it will shoot the All-Star game in virtual reality.

The NBA is heavily active on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Vine and is even experimenting with the fledgling social app Yo and believe it or not, Pinterest, said senior vice president of digital, Melissa Rosenthal Brenner. Overall the NBA now claims 780 million social media followers.

Some of these social efforts are geared toward making the league more money (like the Yo experiment is meant to drive fans back to, which sells ads) and some are pure marketing for now (like Facebook videos, which don’t carry ads as of yet).

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“The best description I can give you is that we are students on social media,” she said. “As content producers were are evolving with the platforms. We want to aggressively market to new fans, while we actively listen to them.”

But the league, like many other global media conglomerates, sometimes tries things in digital that don’t work out. Back in the mid 2000s, like many media companies, the NBA was bullish on the then red-hot virtual world Second Life. “We spent and inordinate amount of time and energy there,” said Ms. Brenner. “We built what we thought was the perfect experience and not a lot of people came. But we learned a lot.”

The NBA’s marketing team learned to do a lot of research on new social platforms, get to know their management teams, watch how their fans are behaving, and most importantly, to go with their guts, said Ms. Brenner.

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The decision to produce All-Star footage in virtual reality for devices like the Samsung’s Milk VR that few people have ever even used is something of a gut-driven move. But Ms. Brenner said that the NBA’s games lend themselves to the new technology, since cameras can capture the athletes up close. And the vast majority of fans don’t actually get to go to live games, making virtual reality an attractive future alternative, she believes.

“We are cautiously experimenting to see how the market responds,” she said.

The same might be said of the NBA’s push on Pinterest. Unlike Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the league doesn’t have a big Pinterest following yet–less than 12,000 followers–possibly because many of the sport’s male fans don’t use Pinterest much. “We are still experimenting with Pinterest,” she said. “I see a lot of potential. One of our challenges as a marketer is how to be patient.” Read more here

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