Bay Area News Group’s partnership with Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson delivers an appealing new kind of audience engagement. The three-time NBA champion comes from a sports family, continues to refine his skills, plays an active role in the Bay Area community, and loves to keep up with the news by reading his local newspaper.

We launched the partnership with Klay Thompson in 2017 after learning of his pre-game newspaper reading ritual. His mom encouraged him to take a break from all the screen time; he says the ritual helps him relax before games. He also likes the old-school feel of reading a physical newspaper, but on the road he keeps up with the news by checking eastbaytimes.com and getting breaking news alerts to his phone.

The message here is multifaceted: A busy athlete with a large fan base relies on a simple but informative ritual. It informs him about his community and the world. It opens his mind to new topics and strategies. If it helps him, it can play a role in the lives of other young people.

In the time since we began our partnership, Dub Nation (a nickname for Golden State Warriors fans) has blossomed, as have Klay’s skills, from making three pointers look easy to maximising his defensive talents to setting records. He also knows that teamwork gets the job done — just like in journalism.

Since 2017, Klay Thompson has helped promote a daily newspaper reading habit.
Since 2017, Klay Thompson has helped promote a daily newspaper reading habit.

Our campaigns with Klay focus on how his newspaper ritual enhances his work and personal life. The campaigns include “Klay Knows” house ads, the KlayOffer Web site, videos about his ritual, a “Thank you, Klay” campaign with subscribers sending in e-mails, Facebook marketing, and a meet-and-greet opportunity for our Membership Rewards subscribers. 

Our active Membership Rewards programme is open to digital and print subscribers, creates the dream-come-true option for a sports fan: a chance to meet Klay, take a picture, and ask a few questions.

With Warriors fever at its peak, Klay not only reeled in new users but also upped the engagement rate for those who subscribed with the Klay offer. An A/B test of our onboarding e-mail series showed the Klay e-mail creative outperformed regular creative for both print and digital in the e-mail opened category for both of our regional news brands, East Bay Times and The Mercury News.

The report showed the Klay-themed creative open rate at 54.9% versus a 28.4% open rate for non-Klay themed creative. In the e-mail read report category, the Klay creative performed well too: 51.2% compared to 26.4%.

Special offers for The Mercury News and East Bay Times center around the Klay Thompson campaign.
Special offers for The Mercury News and East Bay Times center around the Klay Thompson campaign.

Our “Thank you, Klay” campaign ​ran in fall 2018 with the goal of engaging our subscribers to tell us what they thought about Klay Thompson being our brand ambassador and promoting the newspaper. ​

This campaign generated a great response from our customers who shared an oftentimes emotional commentary on why they thought Klay’s advocacy was so meaningful. We received more than 100 detailed responses from a wide range of different readers, including a 16-year-old junior in high school and someone who had been a subscriber for 37 years.

Klay’s low-key style makes an impression in video posts, too. His role as our news champion made a splash online with the ​“Klay Multitasking”​ YouTube Video at 152,000 views and the​ ​“Start a new ritual, read the paper​” YouTube video hitting 29,000 views. Another way of explaining his newsy ritual involved his mom’s role. We called it ​“Klay’s mom knows best​” and it attracted 3,100 views.

Another asset we utilised to boost our retention numbers is our IVR phone messaging system. ​We recorded a personalised message from Klay Thompson to our subscribers thanking them for their loyalty. Shortly after, we received an e-mail from a high school teacher saying that he called our toll-free customer number a few times just to have his students listen to that message to promote reading and education in his classroom.

To that point, the partnership with Klay greatly helped our News in Education (NIE) efforts. By April 2018, a few months after the launch of the partnership, ​we secured 25 additional teachers (teaching multiple classes) to our NIE programme from the Klay e-mail campaign.

They registered 2,956 new students into our programme and set up newspaper and online access to the newspaper for their classrooms. ​At that time, we had 14,125 students in the programme or 471 classrooms. Our budget based on prior year enrollment was 10,235 students or 341 classrooms. Our improvement was +3,890 students or +130 classrooms, which equals a 38% increase. The added classrooms and students were a direct result of our e-mail campaign to teachers.

Klay really has an effect on the category of engagement that turns into retention:

  • Average retention for Klay starts at 26 weeks is ​71% compared to 59%​ for all starts over the same time period.
  • Retention at 12 months for Klay starts is 69% versus 48%​ for all starts over the same time period.

One of the goals with the Klay partnership is to appeal to digital and print users. There is a timeliness to digital ​— you get what you want now. But as any athlete might acknowledge, the newspaper provides a lasting link to great experiences: clips of victories, records beaten, awesome headlines, photos capturing split-second magic moves.

We are proud of our partnership with Klay, and what he accomplishes in the sports world and the news realm. We make a good team.