The NBA made history this weekend – only it wasn’t the history most were expecting. The Golden State Warriors had been near-invincible achieving 73 wins during the regular season, but their bid for the trophy to solidify the achievement was disrupted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose win is historic in its own right.
LeBron James made good on his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland and a half-century streak without a championship. In doing so, the Cavaliers also became the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals.
They say basketball is a game of momentum swings. Social data reveals the Warriors had the early social momentum. Game 3, the Cavaliers’ first win in the series, generated more social engagements for Cleveland than Golden State, but overall engagement was lower. It was Game 5, when the Cavaliers won at Golden State that social momentum, and momentum for the series, tipped in favor of Cleveland.
Game 7 was the most dramatic game in the series. 20 lead changes and 11 ties resulted in the most social engagements for any game in the series. Though Cleveland wouldn’t seal their victory until the final moments of the game, they dominated in social engagements immediately after tipoff, garnering 462,517 social engagements to Golden State’s 286,141 through halftime.
The most buzzed about moment came at the final buzzer when Cleveland clenched the title. The historic victory generated more than 1.6 million social media engagements and was the most rebroadcast moment on TV.
LeBron’s tears of joy following the win also caused a large response on social and was the second-most rebroadcast moment of the game.
Brands were able to capitalize on the historical event. Drawing 30.8 million viewers, Game 7 was the most-watched NBA Finals game since 1998. Though audience interest grew throughout the series, TV advertising space remained limited. An average of 38 minutes of ad minutes was allotted for each game in the series. However, overall ad time did not fluctuate despite interest from a greater number of brands during Game 4 and Game 7. High demand for sporting moments will require brands to secure spots early and be creative to find additional channels for connecting with their audiences.
Automotive, followed by consumer electronics, was the top category during the NBA Finals. Toyota, Kia, Nissan, and Honda bought a total of 37 minutes of advertising time throughout the 7 games. Collectively Toyota, Kia, Nissan and Honda achieved an average Social Index of 378, which means people engaging with the NBA Finals on Facebook and Twitter were 2.78x more likely to engage with these automotive advertisers than another brand.
Apple, with its 18 spots, also made a strong impact on NBA fans, receiving more than 2 million engagements and a Social Index of 5,415. Samsung also performed well achieving a Social Index above 1 thousand and earning the second-most social engagements.
Though Taco Bell achieved fewer social engagements than Apple or Samsung, the fast food brand still earned a high portion of the NBA Finals audience, indicated by its Social Index of 1,247.
Breaking a 52-year streak without a championship doesn’t happen often, nor does achieving 73 wins in a season. Even without such historical significance, sports continue to reign supreme as cultural events that must be watched live and shared.
Technology is only enhancing audiences’ ability to experience and participate in these moments making them all the more important for brands. Likewise, brands that leverage technology to connect and activate upon consumer insights across screens during shared media experiences like sports will be able to make the greatest advertising impact and create the most brand value.