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[June 08, 2014]
White Hot beer, more social media for this year's NBA Finals [Sun Sentinel :: ]
(South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 08--There's a new White Hot beer, new women's Heat gear and lots more social media, even in Mandarin.
As the Miami Heat make their fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals, marketers are finding new ways to promote the team, the league and related businesses.
What's new this year is local -- like Peace Love Heat shirts made by a Miami business. And it's global, including 16 new NBA broadcast partners. Broadcast coverage will reach 215 countries and territories in 47 languages through televisions, computers and mobile devices.
Here are highlights of what's new and cool this championship series: WHITE HOT WHEAT ALE: Just in time for the Finals, Heat fans now have their own local beer.
Miami's Wynwood Brewing Co. had been experimenting with making an American wheat ale that was not as cloudy as German or Belgian ones, when Heat executives stopped in, tried it and liked it.
Now, White Hot (W)heat is available at the AmericanAirlines Arena and at the tap-room of the months-old brewhouse. It's paler than most wheats -- more white like the Heat's long-time White Hot Finals theme.
"The really neat thing is having such a powerful organization support local guys like us," said brewery founder Luis Brignoni, whose startup now employs about a dozen people. "It's really nice." SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLOSION: For Heat fans, this Finals will have more social media than ever in more languages, from Mandarin to Portuguese.
The Heat already have some 16 million followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, up from about 10 million a year ago. And they're dedicating more resources to serve and expand that fan base globally, said Lauren Cochran, the Heat's new director of interactive marketing and new media.
The Heat's social media group now assigns someone to travel with the team, offering fans more access to players on and off the court. That includes a recent video posted on Facebook of Greg Oden and Udonis Haslem in a victory dance after winning this year's Eastern Conference Championships.
"Nobody else would have seen that -- without social media," Cochran said.
The Heat outreach also includes a staffer fluent in Mandarin, plus re-posting items for different time zones to seize on when Heat fans are most likely to check online, she said.
In addition, NBA Facebook Live will give fans the chance to ask players questions during practice sessions. The live 30-minute shows at facebooklive.com will feature Heat and Spurs players, including Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili. Fans can ask questions through Facebook and Instagram.
PEACE LOVE HEAT GEAR: For female fans, there's a bigger line of popular Peace Love World gear this year.
The Heat reached out to the fast-growing Miami company last spring to design some hip women's shirts for fans and sell the gear at the arena.
"They were flying off the racks. By the time they were delivered, they'd sell out in seven minutes," company founder Alina Villasante said of the shirts, which retailed for about $35 to $98 per item.
Executives from other NBA teams saw that success and started ordering for their teams. Last month. Peace Love World earned an NBA license to make women's wear for all 30 teams, allowing it to sell Heat merchandise over the Internet as well as in stores.
"Our line is court-side chic for the fashionable female fan who wears her heart on her sleeve -- which is me," said the Cuba-born Villasante.
NOVELTIES AT THE ARENA: At the AmericanAirlines Arena, fans also can enjoy new artwork for this year's Finals, plus lots more food, beverage and retail options than during last year's Finals.
Hollywood-based Metro Signs has placed 2014 Finals banners on the arena. It also branded the 300-level with wall graphics highlighting fans celebrating key moments like the raising of the Heat championship flag, said Bruno Dede, the company's president.
In April, the team opened a new 800-square-foot space next to the box office that is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and, on game days, until 30 minutes after the game ends.
Food and beverage options soared this season too, including outlets from such popular local eateries as Pride & Joy BBQ, Misha's Cupcakes, Biscayne Tavern, Pao Town and China Grill. There are carts for salads, fruits and gluten-free options. And in arena lounges, celebrity chefs like Ralph Pagano of Alba offer pop-up restaurants.
MORE GLOBAL THAN EVER: The Heat's performance will get a bigger world stage this year, thanks to NBA's growing outreach to millions more fans through social media and other platforms.
This year, signs with The Finals logo appear courtside in seven languages besides English: French, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.
More than 250 members of the international media members from nearly 40 countries are expected to cover the games in Miami and San Antonio. That includes a team from China's CCTV, who will produce a customized feed for all games with commentary and graphics in Mandarin.
Overseas, the NBA is organizing four viewing parties at sites in Australia, Mexico, Japan and in the Philippines at the newly opened NBA Cafe in Manila. It also sent Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas to Mumbai to provide game analysis to a broadcaster there during a visit aimed to grow basketball in India.
AND IF IT AIN'T BROKE: Of course, some Heat sponsors, partners and fans are simply repeating or tweaking last year's marketing. And that's fine, too, said Scott Becher, executive vice president at Z Sports & Entertainment, a division of Fort Lauderdale-based Zimmerman Advertising.
"Once you get to the Finals, it's about the team. There's enough community connection to keep it exciting," Becher said. "Championships market themselves." Staff Writer Kerry Close contributed to this report.
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