In LeBron James’ career full of highlights, one play stands above all others: The Block. The basketball star’s full-court chase-down and rejection of Golden State’s Andre Iguodala in game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals helped the Cavaliers win their first-ever title, ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. The play (see video below) has its own Wikipedia page. Even Iguodala recently tipped his cap to LeBron, calling it a “great play” and saying he hears about it all day on social media.
Aside from the Cavaliers, there was another big winner that night: State Farm. The insurance company’s omnipresent red signage on the basket stanchion pad can be seen in nearly every angle of the play’s highlight. The basket-side branding garnered over 48 minutes of easily viewable, in-focus exposure throughout the broadcast — or the equivalent of 96 commercials — in terms of air time.
But the reach of The Block for State Farm is far greater for myriad reasons. On the broadest level, it’s because videos and photos of that moment will continue to air and be shared long after LeBron retires and is inevitably elected to the Hall of Fame. It’s impossible to measure the value of logo placement so far into the future, but there are ways we can analyze and assess the effectiveness of State Farm’s positioning by looking at social media.
One 40-second YouTube clip of The Block, uploaded by an account not owned or operated by the NBA, has over 433,288 views and more than 2,900 engagements. State Farm’s stanchion logos can be seen, fully and partially, throughout the video. Using image recognition technology and algorithms, we can scan this video and accurately determine duration and average size of the sponsor’s logo relative to the overall picture, as well as details that ascertain how effective the signage is. By this measure, a post from a YouTuber can end up driving significant media value.
NBA’s officially YouTube account also posted a montage of The Block, which also features the State Farm stanchion visible from multiple angles, and has over 752,500 plays and 6,983 engagements. Image recognition tells us where in the arenas these displays should be — and how they should be executed creatively — for maximum engagement and value.
The added exposure from YouTube is just the benefit the Internet provides. State Farm didn’t have to buy promotion on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or make sure some social media manager was using the correct hashtag. Major news outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated and fans in the arena and at home alike shared videos, GIFS, photos, memes, etc. that featured the stanchions. A photo of The Block was posted by CBS Sports months after the game occurred. Consumers weren’t being marketed to by a brand, they were just enjoying a collective feeling of awe at LeBron’s preternatural performance. The posts then and now are positive and organic, and subtly keep adding to State Farm’s reach and value.
Thanks to the digital age, the ease of viewing, producing, and sharing content is only going to increase for live events with massive audiences. The proper tools are needed to measure the media value coming from sources outside of traditional broadcasts. Sponsorship measurement technologies rooted in image recognition algorithms provide sponsors and rights holders the best metric to understand value earned in a media ecosystem that has expanded far beyond television and radio. Accurately assessing and predicting these developments in sponsorships will maximize the revenue for everyone involved. It just takes the creativity, ingenuity, heart, and hustle to defy the improbable and change the game.