Tweets, apps and status updates will join the usual barrage of dunks, three-pointers and no-look passes more than ever this weekend at the NBA's annual All-Star event.
For the first time, fans will be the sole dunk contest judges via Twitter, SMS and website-based voting. The league is also partnering with the social app Shaker to create a one-stop forum for fans to interact, chat and watch exclusive content.
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Updates to the NBA's GameTime mobile app bring new channels for fans to stream the 90-plus hours of video content the league has planned for the weekend -- ranging from on-court highlights to off-court fun in Orlando.
League executives say this year's will easily be the most digitally and socially connected All-Star function to date.
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"All-Star Weekend has really become a celebration of basketball, attracting a global audience and bringing together the best players from around the league," Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA’s vice president of marketing, told Mashable. "Given the global nature of social media, it's the perfect time to ramp up our efforts in the social space."
The NBA has long been at the forefront of embracing social media among pro sports leagues. Many of its players were early adopters of Twitter, in particular. Today the NBA claims more than 240 million fans of the league, its teams and players across Twitter, Facebook, and Chinese social networks. But the NBA's social drive fits into a larger strategy, too.
"We are committed to delivering great content to our fans 24/7. More and more we're using social media as the lens for that, so to speak," Rosenthal Brenner said.
The tweak to the dunk contest, an enduring fan favorite, is the biggest change in store this year. Fans will be able to vote by tweeting the hashtag #SpriteSlam along with a letter corresponding to their favorite dunker, as well as through text message and the NBA.com website. One contestant, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, even invited fans to submit dunk ideas to him via Twitter.
The league is also brining back its popular All-Star Pulse feature, which tracks trending topics on Facebook and Twitter throughout the weekend. And a similar, but new, social initiative this year is the Social Spotlight, which will showcase top tweets, photos and videos from fans on NBA.com. The spotlight is part of an added effort to "really visualize" the NBA's social offerings this year, said Christina Miller, who manages the league's digital efforts.
But the video options through the Game Time mobile app and a host of exclusive written content on NBA.com show a digital engagement emphasis beyond just social media.
For a league keen on new technology, the slew of digital offerings is what Rosenthal Brenner said will make this year's "the biggest All-Star Weekend yet -- at least until next year."
Do you think the NBA is doing a better job than other pro sports leagues of leveraging social and digital technology? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.