It Pays To Win

What Analytics Say About The Cavaliers

It was inevitable. No team had ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals…and then suddenly it wasn’t inevitable after all. In one of the most dramatic and emotional comebacks in basketball history, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in the last game of the 2016 finals and won the NBA championship. 

It was the first major sports title Cleveland had won since 1964, in a year when the city badly needed some good news. Beyond that, the multi-year rivalry between the two teams had created a social media feast. With names like Stephen Curry and LeBron James involved and highly motivated fan bases, the social media activity around these games has been intense.

So what do the analytics have to say that we don’t already know? Intuitively we know that the Cavaliers were underdogs who captured the nation’s imagination, but the numbers really bring that feeling into focus. In an overview of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, during the time period around the NBA finals, the Warriors engagement rate increased a relatively small 9.66%. By contrast, the Cavaliers engagement rate increased a whopping 171%.


Even more interesting is the all-important number of Facebook post shares. The Warriors had a post share increase of less than 1%, while the Cavaliers had a massive 357% increase in people sharing posts. With Facebook strongly promoting shares over page posts, this metric represents serious revenue to any organization that counts on social media marketing. Looking more deeply into the Facebook posts, it is clear that the win created incredible excitement, with the official announcement of the Cavalier’s win receiving almost 1,000,000 views – many times more than any other post in their history. 


Metrics give us a much more nuanced look at the emotions around an event and they definitely help organizations get the most out of their successes, but no matter how you look at the numbers, when it comes to the Cavaliers it simply pays to win.