(Left) Holipro Digital Entertainment (Representative Director Shu Suzuki (Right) DeNA Kawasaki Brave Thunders Business Strategy Marketing Department Manager Naoto Fujikake
It is a famous story that DeNA restored the Yokohama Stadium, which used to be a quiet old bird, into a V-shape and made it a popular stadium. It seems that DeNA’s knowledge of the sports business is being utilized not only in baseball but also in basketball.
Kawasaki Brave Thunders, a professional basketball club operated by a DeNA subsidiary, recorded the highest average number of visitors per game in the 2020-21 season among the 22 clubs in the B League. In addition, sales other than tickets have more than doubled over two years, and are growing steadily.
Behind this is the use of digital marketing such as video content such as TikTok. Kawasaki Brave Thunders’ YouTube channel subscribers, which were around 4,000 two years ago, are now 100,000. This is the number one in the B League and J League combined.
In addition, TikTok started operation with an official account in September 2020, and the number of followers has exceeded 100,000 over two years. It is second only to the Yomiuri Giants in domestic professional sports clubs.
Regarding such Kawasaki Brave Thunders digital marketing, Mr. Shu Suzuki, the representative director of Holipro Digital Entertainment (hereinafter, Holipro Digital) to which the talent MC Miyu Murashima who is the assistant MC of the team belongs, is DeNA Kawasaki Brave Thunders Business Strategy Marketing Department Manager I will talk to Mr. Naoto Fujikake in detail.
“Deepen the attachment of existing fans” on YouTube, “Expand awareness” on TikTok
Suzuki: I met Mr. Fujikake when I was introduced to ByteDance, who runs TikTok. She loved basketball herself, and the HoriPro Group also planned to open an entertainment hall in Kawasaki, which made her feel connected to Kawasaki Brave Thunders. I would like to ask you again this time, why did you decide to use TikTok?
rattan hanging: Kawasaki Brave Thunders’ home arena is “Kawasaki City Todoroki Arena”. The maximum capacity is 5000 people. In the second year after taking over the business, awareness increased, and it was possible to accommodate up to 4,750 people, and it was expected that the maximum number of people could be reached the following year.
If that happens, no more spectators can be gathered at the Todoroki Arena in Kawasaki City. As a result, it becomes difficult to expand the base of fans. Of course, that doesn’t mean we haven’t done anything. We plan to build a new arena in Kawasaki City that can accommodate 8,000 to 10,000 people in a few years, but it is extremely difficult to suddenly double the number of spectators just because the new arena is built. In addition to gathering people at the match venue, we needed a mechanism to create fans for Kawasaki Brave Thunders, so we began to focus on digital marketing.
Suzuki: There are many options for digital marketing methods other than TikTok. Have you tried other platforms?
rattan hanging: I used YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. However, at the beginning, the content was not so rich. Therefore, we started by organizing each role.
Fortunately, when I asked the people who came to the arena how they got to know Kawasaki Brave Thunders through a questionnaire, the effect was so great that more than half answered YouTube. In parallel with YouTube, I arrived at TikTok looking for something that could be more widely recognized.
TikTok is a video-optimized platform. It also has an excellent function to be suggested as a recommended video. Therefore, YouTube and Twitter have started to operate for the purpose of “deepening the attachment of existing fans” and TikTok for the purpose of “widening awareness targeting potential fans”.
In the first place, basketball is closer to the court than baseball and soccer, so it is powerful at the moment of scoring a goal, and it is easy to understand “why it led to the score”. It is also a sport where the hurdles for those who watch the game for the first time are low. That kind of clarity is easy to cut out into video content such as TikTok, so it goes well with it.
@brave_thunders Is there anyone who can play like this? #B League #basketball #Yuma Fujii #Kawasaki Brave Thunders ♬ Surges –Orangestar (feat. Natsuko & Loin)
Commitment not to make content premised on people who know
Suzuki: The first time I saw the Kawasaki Brave Thunders game, I was surprised that the offline and online experiences were well connected. Watching the video on TikTok, I knew that there was something like this, and when I watched the game at the arena, I saw a performance that was more shocking than I saw in the video. In other words, the story design is solid.
In the case of Kawasaki Brave Thunders, we invited DJs to the match venue, plugged in the sound sources that are popular on TikTok, directed fireworks and flames, and showed excitement like a live performance. In that way, it is becoming possible to provide an experience that does not fit in the video and think that “just watching it online is not enough”. In addition, the support method using Harisen is simple, and there is also a mechanism that makes it easy for people who come to watch the game for the first time to participate.
rattan hanging: I’m honored to hear that (laughs). As for the cheering method, we give a lecture every time before the game. If you are watching the game for the first time, you will not be able to become a fan, let alone enjoy the game. The hurdles around that are also thoroughly removed.
Suzuki: When you try to market sports on TikTok, the players you belong to are the main players. Is there anything you are conscious of?
rattan hanging: TikTok is a short video, so the players’ super play and rare play are the main focus. One of the things I am conscious of is “do not make the content premised on people who know it.” For example, we avoid content that is interesting because we know the competition deeply and content that cannot be communicated without knowing the athletes deeply. We put out rare and good plays of the players who won the MVP and the players who were selected as the representative of Japan, so that we can understand how amazing it is.
Guiding young people with a strong interest in “what happened to the production?”
Suzuki: Personally, I feel that Kawasaki Brave Thunders has succeeded in successfully incorporating young people living in the city center as a result of adopting TikTok early. That is why there are many young people in the audience. Especially for junior and senior high school fans, I felt that there were many patterns of coming to watch games with my parents.
rattan hanging: Basketball has a lower average age of fans than other sports, and many people belong to junior high and high school club activities. I knew clearly that it would go well with young people. I thought that if the younger generation could create a habit of watching basketball on a regular basis, it would increase their recognition as a sport.
Since the full-scale use of TikTok, the number of young people has clearly increased. Due to admission restrictions due to the influence of the new coronavirus, there were many situations where the venue could accommodate 5,000 people, but only 2,500 people could be accommodated, and the number of tickets purchased had to be reduced. Still, looking at the percentage of ticket purchases, the number of people in their twenties is growing, supporting sales.
Suzuki: Previously, when I cast Hina Kagei, a talent who belongs to our company, as an MC, the age group of the fans was clearly younger than on other match days. When watching sports, it is rare for many fans to visit the venue just because they want to see the talent. However, on this day, Hina Kagei was one of the triggers for watching the game.
rattan hanging: Thanks to Hina Kagei, I was able to push the backs of people who said, “I’m interested in basketball, but I’ve never seen it.” In the match where Mr. Suzuki came, Hina Kagei and the players were practicing dribbling together as a video content of TikTok. As a result, I think that the interest in “what happened to the production?” Was raised. I have made various efforts so far, but even if the talent side has power, there are some that will not be effective unless they are deeply involved in planning.
As for the talent who belongs to HoriPro Digital, Miyu Murashima was accepted as an assistant MC and support creator of Kawasaki Brave Thunders, and the fans showed his willingness to support him.
@brave_thunders #Kagei Hina Thank you, @kageihina! # 24 seconds leg through #basketball #Kawasaki Brave Thunders ♬ Bluma to Lunch – BLOOM VASE
Until then, the video content was also live-streamed mainly by players, but when I tried it only with Miyu Murashima and the cameraman staff, it was very popular. It was a very thankful example because I knew that it was possible to succeed even in live distribution without appointing players.
There is a big chance because there are fewer places to go through
Suzuki: Has sales increased since you started TikTok?
rattan hanging: There are some parts of SNS where it is difficult to see the effect. However, in the case of Kawasaki Brave Thunders, profits are increasing. The numbers also show that we are approaching the acquisition of new fans.
Suzuki: From 2020, digital efforts have increased at a stretch due to refraining from going out. And now, the problem is that a certain number of people are thinking, “I don’t have to go to the site because I can see it online.” What are your thoughts on this issue?
rattan hanging: I think that the place where people who like the same thing gather together is decreasing, and in a sense, a place to create a sense of unity in a “dense space” is becoming valuable. As mentioned above, basketball has a small match venue, so the distance between players and fans is short. At the same time, the distance between the fans is close. I think that the “value to support together” will be further enhanced through games and performances.
Suzuki: Taking advantage of the “merits of watching a game at a short distance” that was originally provided in basketball. Besides, Kawasaki Brave Thunders calls himself the “Sanders Family”, isn’t it? In a good way, everyone has a strong awareness of being a family. If we can form a community in a good way, it will be a good example to indirectly prevent fans from leaving.
rattan hanging: Indeed, we are also focusing on creating a community. As one of them, Kawasaki Brave Thunders also holds a monthly online salon. We interacted with the players and made it possible for families to communicate with each other. Thanks to that, we are able to keep a high repeat rate.
I myself loved basketball very much. I was in charge of the game business at DENA, but when I took over Kawasaki Brave Thunders, I wanted to move myself. I think the possibilities of basketball and digital still remain, so I would like to make it even more exciting with the “family”.