The analytics that each of the league's teams marketing departments use also pinpoint the most and least interesting aspects or content (both digitally written and video-based) delivered across the website and microsites. The league marketing teams have also experimented with more interactive experiences with passive spectators, focused experiencers and absorbed identifiers through the use of social media. This also validates the findings of Napoli with regard to the egalitarianism of content in marketing and its role in creating active audiences who become absorbed identifiers over time (Napoli, 2010). The role of social media in any experiential marketing strategy must be predicated on audience participation that is so convincing that it inspires AIDA to be attained in a marketing strategy (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Further, the role of social media can create the strongest of fall links between those evaluating an experientially-driven brand and those that choose to become an active audience (Basheer, Ibrahim, 2010).
By coordinating all of these factors into a single unified IMC strategy, the NBA is creating a very efficient progression path for moving passive spectators to focused experiencers, and on to absorbed identifiers. Using the real-time analytics that Web 2.0 technologies provide combined with social media, the NBA marketing department is able to chart the progression of passive spectators to absorbed identifiers along the AIDA Model (Sayre, 2008).
Apple iPhone and Google Android Mobile Applications
The NBA has among the most affluent sports fans in North America the core absorbed identifiers or active audience in their customer base is considered affluent by any measure in this region of the world. The median income of the typical NBA fan is over $100,000 U.S. A year, with the majority spending over $150 per ticket to attend a single game (Ross, 2007). Apple reports that the single most-watched live sport on their best-selling iPad is NBA playoff basketball games (Apple Investor Relations, 2012).
The NBA uses its mobility strategies, also segmented like microsites, to drive passive spectators to purchase their first ticket. The mobility platform has proven highly effective for moving audience members from educational to promotional strategy content, primarily using visually-based content to achieve this. The use of promotional strategies on their mobility-based sites that rely on video-based content are even more effective than couponing as a promotional strategy (Mongeon, Winfree, 2012). This is because the videos provide the focused experiencers an opportunity to see what the experience of being at a game is like before actually attending one (Ross, 2007). Mobility is quickly emerging as the most effective marketing strategy the NBA has for underscoring just how unique their experiential value proposition is. It is clear that by combining the convenience and increasingly higher levels of performance mobility platforms provide along with customization of video content is driving faster consumer identity formation in the focused experiencer segment of their audience (Hackley, Tiwsakul, 2006). Video then is emerging as a highly effective medium for driving audiences from passive spectator status to focused experiencer, as the delivery of video in real-time gives the potential Audience participant a chance to view the excitement of an NBA contents without having to forego other entertainment alternatives (Ross, 2007). This significantly reduces the cognitive dissonance that passive spectators feel when comparing the time cost of attending an NBA event relative to staying with their more familiar and often habitually attending entertainment alternatives over time (Sayre, 2008). Video marketing has continued to show above-average returns on investment for the NBA as well, which is consistent with previous studies (Aoki, 1999).
Of the two applications, the Apple iOS-based version is more popular by a factor of seven based on downloads, and the reason fro this is the dominance of the Apple iPhone and iPad throughout the NBA customer base (Mongeon, Winfree, 2012). This is fortuitous for the NBA as those consumers who are brand-loyal to Apple have higher incomes by at least 30% or more than Google Android users (Apple Investor Relations, 2012). This also provides a very effective marketing platform and co-branding segment of the broader IMC strategy for the NBA, as the iTunes store is a trusted e-commerce platform globally. The NBA can quickly create the urgency and excitement of moving from passive spectator to focused experiencer through the continual promoting and updates of their Apple iOS apps. The Google Android application has just 30% of the downloads and needs more emphasis on personalized video options to gain greater acceptance; yet the demographics and profile of the typical NBA customer align more closely with the Apple iOS customer.
The NBA has created and continually refines one of the most effective IMC-based strategies in professional sports globally. The combining of websites, microsites, mobility strategies and the continual use of educational strategies to gain passive spectators' attention has proven to be highly effective. The league marketing department has also been able to segment the educational strategies, promotional strategies and information strategies to the level of interest and activity of each audience member. They have done this through an innovative integration of the AIDA Model combined with the passive spectators, focused experiencers and absorbed identifiers' interests and motivators. This has all been accomplished by having the website and microsites serve as the hub of the IMC strategies, as these digital properties provide the NBA with an opportunity to quickly quantify audience member interest and also understand what content they find most and least appealing. The IMC strategy as designed is effective today, yet the pace of change in the audience base is increasing, forcing the NBA to be more finely tuned to their preferences and wants more than ever before.
To stay in step with its audiences and continually move passive spectators to focused experiencers and on to absorbed identifiers, the NBA needs to accelerate the use of mobility strategies. This can be done by seeking out even greater levels of customer intelligence with regard to the needs, wants and preferences of passive spectators, using the mobility platform in place to move them to being focused experiencers. The depth of expertise the league already in analytics needs to be focused on mobility-based strategies and the delivery fo fresh, interesting video to move audiences along to become absorbed identifiers. What holds the passive spectators back from choosing to give of their time for a new experience is both cognitive dissonance and the trade-offs of time relative to value of the experience itself (Sayre, 2008). As the NBA is seeing significant potential of their mobility platforms for moving the passive spectators through the AIDA Model to absorbed identifiers, the league needs to continually build out this strategy to succeed over the long-term.
The NBA has learned how to use the AIDA Model effectively for moving audiences from being passive spectators, through focused experiencer roles to becoming absorbed identifiers. The unique approach to using an IMC strategy to join the AIDA Model and specific audience participation roles shows the value of tailoring content to the experiential aspects of a brand (Sayre, 2008). Further, the ability of the league to enable consumer identity formation through this process further underscores the value of analytics and market intelligence (Hackley, Tiwsakul, 2006). These strategies have been so effective, teams that had been nearly bankrupt due to natural disaster decimating their communities have seen a rejuvenation, with New Orleans showing the greatest progress of all following Hurricane Katrina (Apostolopoulou, Biggers, 2010). The NBA needs to stay vigilant however to change, as the active audience that provides the majority of its revenues continues to shift to social media and mobility platforms. The success of the IMC strategies to date in transforming passive spectators to absorbed identifiers now needs a more precise, targeted approach on mobile platforms. This will include greater levels of Apple iOS and Google Android application development, and more precise analysis and rapid production fo videos as well. This strategy will further provide the NBA with a defensible market position relative to competing forms of experiential entertainment is active audience considers spending time and money on.
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