How the NBA Can Help You Fix Your Digital Advertising Accounts

Anthonys Basketball Post
Anthony Lower
March 29, 2016

Let me set the stage here. Our office happens to have a lot of NBA fans. The other day, we were having a (heated) conversation about the state of the league. Because we’re advertising nerds, somehow our basketball conversations always work their way back around to PPC.

During this discussion, we realized that some of the issues with NBA teams have interesting parallels with issues we see in digital advertising accounts. I know this sounds like a stretch—stick with me.


What’s the Ideal NBA Team?

First, let’s look at what the ideal NBA team looks like. The Golden State Warriors are making a push for the best regular season of all time while they’re trying to repeat as NBA champions. They also have the most exciting young player in the very likely back-to-back MVP: Steph Curry.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the most talked-about teams in the league; they’re a heavy favorite to win the East for the second year in a row. Bonus? They also have LeBron James, who will go down as the most dominant player of his generation.

The thing is, despite all of these assets, you shouldn’t want to replicate the performance of either team. That honor goes to the San Antonio Spurs.


The Team with the Most Consistent Performance: San Antonio Spurs

Since Tim Duncan’s rookie season with the Spurs (‘97-‘98), they’ve never had a winning percentage below .646, they’ve never missed the playoffs, and they’ve played in the NBA championship 6 times, winning 5 of them.

In digital advertising, just like in the NBA, consistency is key. Having your advertising campaigns break records and set all-time highs is great—but what you really want to see are consistent high returns. When you do see losses, it’s important to make sure they aren’t significant and don’t last for long.

It takes a lot of hard work for any paid search account to achieve “Spurs” status. Let’s break down some of the most common digital advertising issues we see and their NBA parallels.


The Team Missing One Key Piece: Los Angeles Clippers

The L.A. Clippers have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA over the last couple of seasons. While they have top 10 players at their disposition, like Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers has never been able to find even a serviceable small forward or bench.

Now for the search campaign comparison. A common mistake we see in accounts is that one aspect of the campaign will be performing very well. However, a lack of attention in other areas prevents the account from reaching the next level of success.

In order to truly maximize the returns you need, you need to ensure that Search (Google & Bing), Display, Remarketing, Social advertising, and Google Shopping campaigns are working together.


The Team that Needs Better Coaching (or, ahem, Optimizations): Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have arguably two of the top 5 players in the league right now, as well as several other young and talented players. Despite these assets, they’ve only played in one NBA championship—which they lost.

A lot of blame seems to go to their coach for failing to get the most out of these skilled players. We see this all the time in digital advertising accounts.

We’re confident in the keywords we are targeting, we’ve created relevant and engaging ad copy, and we have all channels running—but the performance just isn’t there. Here are some words of wisdom: the worst thing you could do would be to completely blow up and restructure the current account. Instead, take a step back and analyze the account piece by piece.  

By remaining patient and willing to test, test, and test again, you will be a better “coach” for your account. Only then will you be able to figure out how to best optimize the campaigns to reach the best performance possible.


The Team that Isn’t Up-To-Date: Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have had a really strong competitive team during the last three to five years. They have strong, physical defense and smart play; unfortunately, these strengths don’t mean anything considering they haven’t kept up with the ever-evolving NBA.

Their team is full of old and slow players. Most importantly, they lack a vital skill in the NBA right now: 3-point shooting.

Constant evolution is a major component in digital advertising. Just because your account is performing well today doesn’t mean that it will be performing like that 6 months, let alone 2 years, from now.

Search trends can change quickly. Mobile is becoming even more important and Google has even restructured the SERP layout. Failing to keep your account up-to-date can completely ruin any good account.


The Team that’s Poorly Structured: New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans may have the next great player in Anthony Davis, and they have a lot of interesting and talented players surrounding him, like Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Despite all of this on-paper talent, the team has struggled to find consistent success.

A large part of this issue seems to be the way the pieces fit together in the team structure. An account’s structure is perhaps the most important component of any advertising account.

It doesn’t matter what keywords you’re targeting in AdWords if you dump all of them into the same ad group. You could write the most engaging ad copy ever, but if it’s showing for keywords that aren’t related you won’t see the results you want. Keeping your accounts properly structured is just as important as having the correct keywords and targets.


The Team with No Clear Plan: Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have been sleeper picks to win the NBA championships over the last couple of seasons. And yet, they always seem to underperform.

When you look at the roster, it’s clear that the Bulls doesn’t have a clear plan. Their franchise player, Derrick Rose, has suffered several major knee injuries and no one is confident in what he will bring to the court. Their best player, Jimmy Butler, is young and coming into his prime. And their dominant front court is either declining or redundant (think of Noah, Gasol, and Gibson).

Failing to have a strong plan can ruin your digital marketing efforts. Unless you have specific markers in mind for conversion volume, ROI, CPA, and other measures of success, your strategies will likely fall short.  


The Team without Quality Players: Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are in their fourth year of miserably failing efforts to land a star player. The reason the 76ers aren’t good is because they don’t have players talented enough to compete.

Learn a lesson from the 76ers. If you aren’t targeting the correct keywords or demographics, you can spend all the time in the world restructuring and optimizing the account—but you’ll never see the results you want.


The Team without Any Organization: Sacramento Kings

Even in a league with the 76ers fielding a roster of bench players, by far the NBA’s biggest laughingstock is the Kings. With a couple of exceptions, their talent is sub-par, they don’t fit together on the court, the coach doesn’t care, and no one in the organization has a plan of how to correct it.

It’s dire, guys.  I can’t stress this enough: YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE THE KINGS. If everything is failing in your current digital advertising efforts, you need to seriously reevaluate what you are doing, why you are doing it that way, and what your goals are.

I may be a little biased, but I would recommend getting an agency to handle it and then let them do their thing. Check out our paid search services.


Phew.  So glad I finally had an outlet for all of the NBA/PPC cross-universe thoughts I’ve been having for a while.

I hope you learned something about the NBA—but more importantly, I hope you learned about the many different ways your digital marketing can be tipped up. Trust me: these issues can be fixed, even if you feel like the Kings right now. If you put in the time and get the right help, any account can become the Spurs.

Do you have any other NBA parallels for common paid search issues? How much did you love nerding out over this post? Tweet us at @Perfect_Search

Anthony Lower
Director, Search & Social Advertising

Anthony Lower is an Indiana University alum who really wishes Chewbacca was in his posse. If he were stranded on a desert island, Anthony would hope he had his golf clubs, bicycle, and a radio – why not turn his time there into a vacation?

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