The NBA recently surpassed 75 million followers on Instagram, making it the eighth-most followed brand on the platform.
The NBA has significantly more Instagram followers than the other U.S. pro sports leagues; the NFL has just 26.3 million followers, while the MLB has 9.3 million and the NHL has 5.8 million.
“What’s really been our guiding philosophy throughout is we’ve tried to be a first-mover on all of these platforms, and in many cases, we were the first sports-league account on the platform,” Kevin Esteves, the NBA’s associate vice president of digital strategy and analytics, told Basketball News last year. “Then, it’s about optimizing content for the platform that we’re on — not just spraying the same piece of content across all of our platforms, but really optimizing for each platform, nurturing that fan base and giving them exactly what they want. That’s sort of been key in our recipe for success.”
The NBA's Instagram account has gained more than 5 million followers since August.
Also, it's worth noting that nearly 70% of the NBA's followers are based outside of the United States, which is a testament to the league's global reach.
“I think a lot of brands can be hesitant around new platforms as they’re emerging because they aren’t sure if the ROI is there, or they’re not sure exactly how it ladders up to their overall company objective,” Esteves said. “When you think about social media when it first started, a lot of brands were in the business of driving people back to their website or other offerings, whereas I think we’ve always had the directive from our executives to optimize for the platform we’re on and nurture engagement there.
“At first, it was a very big marketing platform for us, but now, social drives just about every business objective that we have. But I don’t think we could have achieved that if we were thinking that our first post on each platform had to drive 10 of our business objectives. We had to nurture engagement on those platforms to then be able to capitalize in the long-term. I think we benefited from that approach. Globally, I think you’re starting to see more and more sports leagues embrace a similar approach, being on multiple platforms and [creating specific] content that they make available on those platforms to engage fans and ultimately increase the reach of the sport.”
To learn more about the NBA's social-media strategy, check out this article from last year.