Case Study: Trail Blazers’ Use of Twitter to Chat With NBA Fans


I have been intrigued about the buzz around Twitter and curious about its potential use as a tool to engage and interact with consumers. My curiosity was fueled earlier this summer when I saw a campaign by the Portland Trail Blazers who used Twitter (view the site here) as part of a campaign to stimulate conversation among NBA fans about the recent draft (Portland had the number one pick).

I connected with my friend Stephen Landau, partner at Portland based digital brand agency Substance (his firm created the campaign) for a few words of wisdom…why Twitter, why now and how did it work?

Why did you and the Trail Blazers feel that Twitter was the right platform for this campaign?
When we were thinking about ways for the Trail Blazers to extend their digital brand beyond the web site, the idea of communicating via mobile devices came up. But with traditional text messaging, there’s a fairly expensive cost in sending out text messages and setting up a number. Twitter, however, is free to subscribe to (via the web or mobile device), and free to use. This allowed the Trail Blazers to send out messages whenever they wanted.

Why did you we think it was important to communicate using Twitter, why not blogs or email?
With the NBA Draft drawing significant attention because of the caliber of potential first round picks (Greg Oden or Kevin Durant), we wanted to build upon this excitement for the Portland fans. Twitter allowed fans to be a part of the conversation, hearing what was going on pre-draft, all the way up to the moment the draft choice was made.

Post-draft, Twitter was used to send announcements about Greg Oden, his visit to Portland, and then moved into information about Summer League.

We also used Twitter as a content management tool, pulling the Twitter feed directly into the “Oden or Durant” microsite. This allowed the Trail Blazers to publish content to the microsite without investing in a full content management tool.

Can you share any results of the campaign?
Currently, over 150 people are “following” the Trail Blazers Twitter feed via Twitter, which doesn’t count other RSS feed subscriptions. The plan is to continue to utilize Twitter for communications during the basketball season… everything from special ticket offers to game results.

Any parting comments?
The interesting part of Twitter, as with many Web 2.0 technologies, isn’t what people might initially use it for. For example, many people dismissed Twitter as a “what I’m doing right now” kind of online service, to write about making toast, or going to a movie, or whatever they were doing. But abstracting this idea to further think about, “what is my company (or my brand) doing right now,” using the existing technology, allows for continued growth from a digital brand standpoint. The more compelling and relevant the content, the better the conversation between people and brands, and better conversations result in better relationships.

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