Basketball, Twitter, and Hearing Loss Awareness

September was a special month for me. As a basketball fan, I was eager to go home every evening and follow the Basketball World Cup in Spain. On September 9th, Slovenia was playing the USA in the second game of the quarter finals. Although I’m a supporter of the French national team, every basketball enthusiast looks forward to watching Team USA and its constellation of NBA superstars display their high-flying skills on the hardwood.

However, this time around it wasn’t the thunderous dunks of James Harden and Anthony Davis that caught my eye, but an unknown member of the Slovenian team who was wearing a headband. Wearing a headband isn’t anything unusual in our sport but in this particular case I was surprised to notice that it was helping the player hold hearing aids behind his ears. Something that wouldn’t have struck me prior to working for Phonak.

Miha Zupan playing defense on Anthony Davis, notice his hearing aids.

I immediately grabbed my iPad to do some research on him and found his wikipedia page. Miha Zupan is his name, and he plays for Uşak Sportif of the Turkish Basketball League among hearing players at the highest level in Europe, despite being hard of hearing since birth.

“I need to tweet this!” was my first thought. Obviously, it’s my job. Phonak’s presence on social media is not only about promoting its products. Actually, occasionally talking about our hearing aids and accessories is only a “side effect” of what the brand’s presence on social media is all about. One of our objectives on these channels is to create awareness about hearing loss, so that people who are affected take less time to take action. I saw the fact that Miha Zupan was currently playing some of the most watched athletes in the world as an opportunity to do just that. Twitter would allow Phonak to convey its message as part of the conversation about the game.

It was halftime by then, and I started thinking about how to write the perfect message in 140 characters, bringing the light on Miha Zupan and how amazing what he was accomplishing was. I researched the hashtags most used in the tweets about the game and included them in the message. I also mentioned @FIBA (International Basketball Federation) and asked their community manager (I happen to know him) for a picture of Miha I could use, and for a retweet (they have more than 170k followers). The tweet went live at the beginning of the second half.


The results were staggering. By the end of the game we had been retweeted 87 times for an estimated reach of more than 220’000 people. Phonak’s tweet became one of the top tweets of the #Spain2014 Basketball World Cup, amongst those of the FIBA, the NBA, USA Basketball and NBA teams like the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors, who have hundreds of thousands of followers. People following the game on Twitter — yes, Twitter has become the second screen experience for television —  were now noticing Miha Zupan and his hearing aids.

I believe that this, for at least a couple of people, raised awareness about hearing loss, and also showed that it is not a condition that would prevent you from facing the very best, in this sport or any other sport.

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