6 Social Media Insights About The NBA Finals

NBA Finals

The NBA Finals is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, not only on TV but on social media as well. How much social media engagement was there around the Finals this year compared to the past? Additionally, how much do players and paid partnerships around the games connect with the social audience? 

ListenFirst dug into the social media analytics and here 6 insights you should know about the NBA Finals.  

Insight #1. The Twitter Conversation Around The NBA Finals Peaked In 2016

Looking at the volume of Tweets using either the phrase “NBA Finals”, the hashtag #NBAFinals, or the hashtag #NBAFinals with the year (example: #NBAFinals2022) during the time period the finals occurred during that year.

During the NBA Finals this year, meaning between June 2-16, 2022, there 1,201,942 Tweets that mentioned the event. That’s a decrease of 70.25% from the volume of Tweets mentioning the NBA Finals between Jun 3, 2016 – Jun 19, 2016.   

There are a few reasons the volume of Tweets discussing the NBA Finals during the past 10 years peaked in 2016. It was the year the Golden State Warriors set the NBA regular season record for most wins, only to lose to LeBron James and The Cavaliers in the Finals, the franchise’s first title. Additionally, it was the last time a Finals series went to a Game 7.  

In 2017 and 2018, the Warriors and Cavaliers would play each other in the Finals again, but during those years the Warriors had Kevin Durant on their roster, and those series were much shorter.

The amount of Tweets discussing the NBA Finals was up 2.35% in 2022 from 2021, but the social media interest in having the Warriors back in the Finals still can’t compare to the audience interest in the Warriors facing off against a competitive LeBron James team in the Finals.   

Insight #2. Stephen Curry Was The Player Who Gained The Most New Followers During The Finals 

Looking at the Warriors and Celtics players with the most new social media followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok between June 2-16, 2022. 

The MVP on the court was also the MVP on social media. During the NBA Finals this year, Stephen Curry added 945,917 followers to his social media accounts, including 720K followers on Instagram and 100K followers on TikTok (he has 28.8 million total fans on social media). 

That’s 4.4X more followers than any other participant gained during the NBA Finals. Klay Thompson got 216,99 new followers during the Finals, while Jayson Tatum was the Celtic who got the most new followers, adding 133,216 followers in the same time period. 

Insight #3. Role Players Overperform On Wikipedia 

Looking at the number of page views on the official Wikipedia pages for the Warriors and Celtics players between June 2-16, 2022. 

During the NBA Finals, the Stephen Curry Wikipedia page was viewed 1.09 million times. However, other than Curry, the top performers on Wikipedia were somewhat unexpected. 

Andrew Wiggins, had the next highest total, with 437,000 views of his Wikipedia page. Wiggins is not exactly an obscure player, he was the number one overall pick of the 2014 Draft, but up until this season, his career was viewed as a disappointment, and he was recast as a role player. Wiggins was in the NBA Finals for the first time, and with casual NBA fans not hearing about him in a while, they were curious to learn more. 

Similarly, the Al Horford Wikipedia page got 392K page views during the NBA Finals, more than any other Celtic. He’s far from the biggest star on the team, but Horford’s career was considered all but over after disappointing stints playing for the 76ers and Thunder. With Horford getting national attention for the first time in a few years, people were visiting his Wikipedia page to catch up on what they missed from the University of Florida graduate. 

Unlike with other social media networks, the audience uses Wikipedia to learn about people they’re less familiar with, not necessarily the biggest stars. 

#4. Sponsored Content Had A Big Impact During The NBA Finals

Television ads weren’t the only valuable real estate for brands around the NBA Finals. The NBA shared 600 sponsored posts during the NBA Finals that averaged 28,703 engagements. The top performing sponsored post was an Instagram post sponsored by YouTube TV announcing the final score of Game 2 that got 912,385 engagements. 

During the finals The Warriors did 10 paid partnership posts on Facebook and YouTube, with those posts averaging 15,021 engagements. The top performing of those posts named Draymond Green player of the game, was sponsored by Google Cloud and got 43,545 engagements on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics shared 36 sponsored posts on Facebook and YouTube during the finals that averaged 5,153 engagements. The top performing post, got 19,177 engagements, was sponsored by VistaPrint, and promoted Game 4 ahead of it happening.

Insight #5. NBA Finals Players Should Be Doing More Paid Promotion Posts  

Obviously players don’t have the time or energy during the NBA Finals to monetize their social media channels personally. That said, given the spotlight on these athletes during the Finals, someone should be posting paid promotion posts on their behalf which would increase engagement. 

For example, an Instagram post by Klay Thompson celebrating his 4 rings, with a Michelob Ultra banner prominently in the background got 688,864 engagements on Instagram. Meanwhile a Marcus Smart Instagram post promoting Uleva hemp products got 16,999 engagements. 

The engagement ceiling for social posts by players is even higher. The top performing post by an NBA Finals player during the series was by Stephen Curry saying “Night, Night” on Instagram after the final game, which got 4,202,706 engagements. That was not a paid promotion post, but 12,402,000 viewers watched that Game 6 on TV, and if the average engagement on Instagram posts is between 1%-5% this means exponentially more people saw that Curry post than watched the game.  

A sponsored post shared by an MVP is worth far more to brands than a TV spot at this point. 

Insight #6. The Audience Still Pays Attention to Post Game Comments  

There were 16,635 Tweets mentioning the term ‘Holy Cannoli’ between June 16- 20, 2022. Klay Thompson memorably used the phrase in a post game interview to express how he felt after just having won the NBA championship again. 


Given the impact of NBA players as social media influencers, and how much engagement and follower growth they get during the Finals specifically, paid partnerships posts with both teams and individual participating players, is an ideal way for brands to stand out around the event. Understanding which of these players are connecting with the social media audience and how, will give brands the necessary context for optimizing this marketing strategy. This is a key missed opportunity for brands and should be built into the next large sporting event to maximize a brand’s reach and create ROI.

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