Access to players, coaches and celebrities has long been a hallmark of SportsCenter. During the 2015 NBA Finals (Game 6, tonight, 8:30 ET, ABC/WatchESPN) the player access portion has been brought to all new levels through a social media collaboration with Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes.
“The philosophy starts with providing intimate access the fan isn’t used to getting,” said social media coordinator Brendan Kaminsky. “NBA fans aren’t at Harrison’s gym, his apartment, in the car on the way to the arena, hanging out by the ice bath, nor do they have the ability to directly ask him questions after the game. We want to give them more of that otherwise-private experience.”
Spurred by an idea by content associate Jeff Hernandez for a playoff video diary with a participating player, Barnes became a logical choice because of his prior relationship with Kaminsky, a fellow North Carolina Tarheel.
“Harrison and I got to know each other through UNC,” Kaminsky said. “After he was drafted, we stayed in touch and would casually talk about using social media to connect with his fans. He liked a couple of my ideas, so he brought me on as a social media advisor.”
Kaminsky eventually took a job with ESPN but kept in contact with the Warriors forward, who has started every regular and post season game and is averaging 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds overall.
“Harrison was eager to do it,” said segment producer Tim Dwyer. “Jeff Hernandez and Brendan were on-site with him for all moments, prompting him with topics, filming and collaborating. They then produced most of the content from the site as well.”
The content has undoubtedly resonated with more than 40,000 likes and several hundred comments for each Instagram post. Three of the videos cracked the top 10 for daily video plays to espn.com, and the ride-along video was No. 1 for the day it was published, with more than 114,000 plays.
Some of the content has made its way to SportsCenter on TV as well.
“It’s unique content during an NBA Finals that has generated huge fan interest,” said Glenn Jacobs, senior coordinating producer, SportsCenter New and Next. “The chance to hear directly from one of the players involved is really cool. Seeing Barnes driving to Game 2 is something you could only get from SportsCenter. The hard work of Brendan, Jeff, Tim and [producer] Mike Bucklin has provided great elements for our fans to enjoy across all our platforms.”
Barnes, too, has been pleased with the results thus far.
“To start, Harrison loves social media, so he’s more inclined to like this than other athletes,” Kaminsky said. “But beyond his love for social, Harrison has told us he’s enjoyed explaining his story.
“It’s important to him to be authentic,” he said. “This has required some patience, whether it’s waiting for the most natural moments or tossing out moments that feel forced. He has told us he appreciates SportsCenter being willing to be patient with him to achieve that authenticity.”
It’s so authentic, in fact, that fellow Warriors have taken notice.
“His teammates have even made comments about wanting to be in future clips,” Kaminsky said. “One story that sticks out: After his teammates saw his workout clips on SportsCenter Instagram, they were apparently all making fun of his form in the locker room. Needless to say, they are paying attention to it.”