2019 NBA Draft
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 20: Rui Hachimura is interviewed after being drafted by the Washington Wizards during the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20, 2019 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Ryan McGilloway/NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards celebrate one-year anniversary of Japanese Twitter launch

On September 30, 2019, the Washington Wizards launched a Japanese-language Twitter account after the explosion of interest from Japanese fans when Rui Hachimura was drafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. Over the past year, thousands of Japanese fans have used the Wizards Japanese Twitter Account to learn about basketball, follow Hachimura and engage with the global NBA audience.

The three main objectives of the account are to provide behind-the-scenes access to the team, to give Japanese fans in-language content, and to amplify DC and Japanese cultures. The Wizards have accomplished these goals in a variety of ways over the past year.

To promote in-language access, the Wizards invested heavily in creating a Japanese specific digital team by hiring digital correspondent Zac Ikuma, producer Daiei Onoguchi, and Japanese-language specialist Ryo Shinkawa. This Japan-focused team has created Japanese video, written and social media content throughout the NBA season, hiatus period and NBA Bubble.

Ikuma and Onoguchi produced Japanese pre- and postgame shows that covered news, highlights and important team information. They attended all home and away games as well as special events like the NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago where Hachimura played in the Rising Stars Game. Ikuma also hosts the Wizards Global Podcast, whose guest list is tailored to the Japanese audience.

Shinkawa took over the management of all Japanese social media and written content for the website in early 2020. Through these outlets, Shinkawa engaged with fans and provided them with access and answers to questions about the Wizards, Hachimura, and the NBA. Shinkawa also created the first ever NBA team Japanese blog “Ohayo Wizards” that recaps games, breaks down news and explains NBA events like the NBA Draft Lottery and NBA Draft to new fans.

The Wizards also actively collaborates with other Japanese athletes and sports teams. The Japanese Twitter has connected with Japanese athletes like Naomi Osaka, Shohei Ohtani, Yuta Watanabe and Yu Darvish throughout the season to promote awareness for both the Wizards and Japanese athletes.

The Japanese B-League was another opportunity for promotion and collaboration between the U.S. and Japan. The B-League team Chiba Jets, a team that has led the league in attendance for four straight years, has its own mascot “Jumbo-Kun” that has been crowned the “Mascot of the Year” three straight years. The Wizards and B-League collaborated to create a social media competition between Wizards mascot G-Wiz and Jumbo that helped generate significant engagement and interaction between the two leagues.

The Japanese-language Twitter is also an award winner. It has been named a finalist for a Shorty Award in Sports and a finalist for the Hashtag Sports “Outstanding Use of Twitter” award. Internally, the Wizards have been recognized by the NBA as a best practice for international growth of the game via social media.

After an unprecedented first year in the NBA, the Wizards’ Japanese account will further expand by creating more localized content, giving fans greater team access through virtual experiences, and sharing more direct messaging from players, staff and coaches to Japanese fans.

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