This year’s NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors was one of the most-watched and highest-rated Finals in history, due in large part to players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry playing in the series. While the basketball on the court has been played at a high level, both teams have set a new standard for fan connectivity and incorporating technology into the game experience.

On-court, 3D projections are a growing trend in the NBA, and many teams have jumped on the bandwagon in the past few years in an attempt improve the pregame experience. Some NHL teams have also employed the use of projections onto the ice, video and still images included. Sure, it looks great to the 20,000 fans in the arena, but it looks spectacular on television to the millions of people watching at home, which is a necessity for ABC, the Finals rightsholder, if they wish to broadcast the pregame event.

One of the first times we saw this was in 2013, when the Miami Heat projected an impressive championship video montage onto the court.

The Cavaliers began projecting images onto the court last season, and it has been a hit. Now that the team is more successful, the entire country is able to watch the pregame videos from the comfort of their couch.

One area that sports teams have been expanding their respective brands in recent years is through social media. On social media, fans are able to interact with their favorite teams, and teams are able to take on a personality instead of being solely a source of regurgitated statistics and information. Take the Warriors for example. They have built a Twitter following of nearly one million people by being snarky, funny and unique on the platform.

The Warriors use hashtags, gifs, videos, emojis and anything else you can think of to be one of the most entertaining sports teams on Twitter. They’ll respond to fans that mention them and, sometimes, opposing players.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sat down at Chat Sports: The Minds Behind The Game during the Finals, and both mentioned connectivity as key to success for a franchise.

“What you learn from your customers, whether it is sports or anything, that to me is the best part of social and mobile,” Lacob said in an article by SportTechie.com. “You have your tentacles, (and) if you use them right, you can get that live customer feeling that you can’t get if you’re sitting in an ivory tower somewhere.”

The Warriors certainly know what their consumers want when it comes to social media. During the Finals, Twitter introduced hashflags, which include logos of the Cavaliers and Warriors, as well as the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.

Both Lacob and Gilbert understand that the way fans consume sports is changing, which is obvious in the way both have improved the pregame experience. Fans are no longer isolated from the teams that they love. They can now interact with them through social media and experience the game in a much different way.

The Cavaliers and Warriors have established themselves as innovative marketing minds in the NBA. It’s no wonder they were the last two teams standing in the NBA Finals.

-Matt M. 

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