Atlanta Hawks Thriving Off Court Thanks to Rebranding, Embracing Social Media

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IIFebruary 4, 2015

Jan 28, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) celebrates with fans after their win over the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 113-102. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

The on-court success of the Atlanta Hawks has been well-documented this season. Along with a 40-9 record, the Hawks also enjoyed a 19-game win streak that lasted over a month before finally ending on Monday in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

But for as much success as the Hawks have had on the court, they've also enjoyed a tremendous amount of success off it thanks to their marketing department and front office, which has successfully rebranded the franchise at the perfect time.

Before the start of the 2014-15 NBA regular season, the Hawks made major changes to their team and Phillips Arena. For their preseason opener, the Hawks unveiled new uniforms, a new secondary logo and a redesigned court, according to Fox Sports

The Hawks weren't the only team to make these kinds of changes before the season, but unlike the rest of the Association, these changes couldn't have come at a better time. After finishing with a 38-44 record last season, the Hawks have turned things around, posting the best record in the NBA.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer has changed the way the Hawks plays basketball, while the marketing department has changed the team's look. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin believes that this rebranding effort has been vital.

"I think the visual and artistic changes are a part of the shift in perception" Koonin told Bleacher Report. "With the Pac Man logo, new jerseys and bright new court, walking in the arena this season has a very different feel, but that’s only part of it. We made a conscious decision leading into the season that we wanted to become more inclusive and reach out to a younger, more multicultural audience."

Both of these factors have helped the Hawks improve attendance, an area where the team needed to turn things around. Phillips Arena has started to see more and more fans return to watch games, with the numbers to prove it.

Hawks Attendance By Season
SeasonGamesAverage% Capacity
2014-152616,72789.3%
2013-144114,33976.6%
2012-134115,12580.8%
2011-124115,19981.2%
2010-114115,64883.6%
ESPN.com

Attendance continues to improve this season, and tickets are starting to sell much more quickly. The Hawks will take on the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors, on Friday, but tickets sold out an entire week before the game, according to Hawks social media coordinator Jaryd Wilson:

Along with rebranding efforts, the Hawks have embraced the role of social media in promoting the team with terrific success. The team's official Twitter account, @ATLHawks, has successfully combined game updates and press releases with fan interaction and humor. 

"We’re just having fun, and I think Hawks fans and sports fans truly appreciate that," Koonin said. "We don’t take ourselves too seriously and like staying current and in the pop culture conversation. There's no better place to get all the news you want about the team and have a laugh than with our Twitter account."

Creativity isn't a problem for the Hawks, either. After the 19-game win streak ended, the Hawks tweeted out a message to the fans using song titles on Spotify:

Thanks to their engagement on Twitter and the team's terrific season, the Hawks continue to gain followers, adding nearly 60,000 over the past three months and an average of 1,411 per day, according to Twitter Counter.

Hawks Twitter followers over past three months
Hawks Twitter followers over past three monthsTwitter Counter

Not only have the Hawks embraced social media, but they've also found ways to incorporate it during games. Back on January 7 against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Hawks held "Swipe Right Night", encouraging fans to use Tinder to meet up with matches during the game.

Despite some early technical difficulties, the night was a huge success. Fans who were matched met at a special suite during the game, with the Hawks providing free roses and Altoids.

It doesn't hurt to have a team that keeps winning games, but the Hawks have done an excellent job at changing their image while becoming more engaged with their social media accounts. In an official press release, the Hawks noted the following increases in social media engagement from January 2014 to January 2015:

  • Facebook: Increase of over 200,000 more fans reached daily; more than 20,000 additional engaged daily users
  • Twitter: Over 14,000 new monthly followers; 450,000 more daily impressions
  • Instagram: More than 20,000 new monthly followers; over 2,000 more likes on posts

The result of this increased engagement on social media, along with the team's success? Significant increases in attendance, viewership and merchandise sales.

"Social media is such a big part of how millennials communicate and take in information that it’s vital to not only our brand but every brand to incorporate social media in their strategic planning," Koonin said. "We have been and will continue to be early adapters in that space."

With a team that keeps winning games and a marketing department that isn't afraid to get creative and embrace social media, the future of the Hawks organization is bright. Koonin and the rest of the front office are excited for what lies ahead.

"We want to keep doing our best to make the city of Atlanta proud," Koonin said. "The support has been amazing, and we don’t take it for granted. We’re excited about our direction and some of the things we will roll out for next season."

All quotes from CEO Steve Koonin were provided firsthand. Tyler Brooke is a current student at Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business, majoring in finance with a minor in journalism. Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerDBrooke

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