Creative Roundtable: Net Gain

With a social media full-court press, the Knicks' new site is off to a better start than the team itself

CR_OM_03111The torturous lost decade is behind us, and the New York Knicks have been reborn this season, with hotshots like Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler lighting up the court. Knicks fans, who had spent 10 years griping about the team, aren't complaining these days. They're hopeful and eager to connect with the new Knicks and other Knicks fans, and they can do so via

Built by theKMco, the site, launched in November, offers content, including video, photos and post-game interviews, and serves as a social media hub with tools like Facebook Connect and Twitter. According to thekmco executive creative director Kenny Miller, the Knicks wanted a site that would "reinvent the way a sports team engages with its fans" by making players more accessible through social media, as well as giving fans a voice. With new features, including real-time apps rolling out into February, the expectation is that KnicksNow will evolve into a place where fans congregate and participate in activities while they're watching a game.

So is a slam dunk? OMMA asked three digital creatives with serious game to take a look at the site: Wunderman's Joanna Peña-Bickley plays in a couple of women's basketball leagues in Manhattan and boasts that she is "a very good point guard." Carrot Creative's Robert Gaafar declares he has been a Knicks fan "since birth," and TWBAChiatDay's Joshua Bletterman bravely stuck with the Knicks through their dreadful lost decade, noting, "It's like being in a bad marriage - you hope that it's going to work itself out and luckily it did."

Can it be truly said that reinvents how a sports team engages with its fans?
It's taken it to another step and I love what they have done. It brings the influencers into one space. The team - and I don't see other teams doing this - has realized that the individual is a media. So if I am a Knicks evangelist, I am a media outlet for the team. The posts in the Click and Roll section of the site are a really nice way of promoting and highlighting those evangelists.
Bletterman: The way social media is integrated is really progressive. This site is very 2011. You can tweet, and there is Facebook Connect - all that stuff is right there, and it's integrated into the page. The site feels more like an organic dashboard than it does a Web site. It's all on one level.
Gaafar: It is different from a typical NBA team's Web site. In terms of the Facebook Connect integration, everybody's doing that now and that's a big positive because it eliminates registration fatigue.

Real-time activities will be incorporated into the site. Are basketball fans like you interested in connecting with each other on a site like KnicksNow while watching a game?
Absolutely. Our generation sits on the couch with the laptop on their lap and they tweet and they're just trying to aggregate all that into one area, specifically into their own platform.
Peña-Bickley: I think it's fantastic because most people watch sports today with some kind of device either on their lap or in their hands. If I'm going to a game, or I happen to be engaging in anything basketball, the first thing I do is I check in via Foursquare and see who is around me.

What do you think of the look of the site?
I love the design. The use of the orange and blue is really tasteful and smart. It sounds like a simple choice, but it's something a lot of people overlook: They try to use cool colors as opposed to the colors that are authentic to the team. I also love the huge photography and how it doesn't slow the page load at all, and I love the bottom navigation. That is honestly the best navigation I've seen in a decade. It's super comprehensive, it's really fun to use and it's really fast.
Gaafar: It feels a bit like Tumblr at first, however, the simplicity is nice. It'll definitely keep a fan coming back to the site. It's a simple grid system that's in your face. It's large, beautiful images, and the bottom navigation is really nice.
Peña-Bickley: It is designed for social interaction. It has a nice hierarchy to the information and really big pictures. But there aren't a lot of things that are personalized, so one example of an improvement they could make is, if I log in utilizing Facebook, they've got a ton of information on me, they know if I've "liked" one of the players, and the site should reorganize the content so that all of the information and posts about that player appear at the top.

Is there anything you would add to
Video content. The more video content the better. Those of us who are writers and designers love to believe that our content is being read, but you're going to find that more people watch. The Web has changed in such a way that it's starting to become a little bit more of a lean-back activity rather than a lean-in activity, and the ability not just to have a topic covered by video but to allow people to respond via video is something that could be really interesting.
Gaafar: There needs to be more user-generated content on the site overall. The only user-generated content that you see now is comments and every once in a while they'll aggregate a user-generated item like a tweet or a photo from some game. If they had more interaction, it would better serve the site and the community.
Bletterman: I could go either way on the user-generated video. What could be interesting is giving the Knicks players cameras and letting them do their own thing. I would love to see Amar'e going sneaker shopping or Landry Fields and Raymond Felton going out to a steakhouse.

What do you think of the site overall? Is there potential for growth here?
I see potential for growth not necessarily in development of the site but in content. Fans aren't necessarily going to be driven here. They're going to want to subscribe and get this on whatever device they want so they can get a conversation started at a moment's notice. I'd say the most frequent question I have with most team sites is, when's the next game? The ability to create a social event with your friends at that game would be a wonderful way for them to take this into the next social level.
Bletterman: This is the best team site I've ever seen. I'm hard-pressed to find any way to improve it, but one improvement I would make is related to video. I wish the videos played in the frame. When you click on the video, it jumps you out to another page within the same shell.
Gaafar: This is a nice attempt. They're doing a great job going in a different direction, but I would worry about this cannibalizing the site and their fan page: They could be spreading themselves thin in terms of resources and advertising dollars. I wish they had spent their dollars more on Facebook, but I can see why they're going this route - going outside the Facebook platform and the limited ability there in trying to present something that's more imagery driven. Overall, though, the product itself really matters for a Web site like this to be successful. If the Knicks were playing terribly this year, I don't know how many people would be excited about this Web site or excited about the content.

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