I’m going to Arco Arena this Saturday afternoon to check out the Sacramento Kings.

That’s nothing new – I’ve been to many games and have been cheering the team on since the Reggie Theus, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Webber days.

What’s different this time around is that my online social media connections has gotten me a personal invite to hang out and enjoy the game from a more privileged perspective.

Yes, I will be cheering for the Sacramento Kings at Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks with about 25 other social media influencers.

The Sacramento Kings is the first professional sports organization to leverage Klout, a San Francisco-based company that identifies and ranks social media influencers in terms of their reach and popularity on Facebook and Twitter.

It also develops “Klout Perks” programs that incorporate leading influencers in branded campaigns. Klout has also run programs for Virgin America Airlines and Walt Disney Pictures that gave away free flights and Tangled movie tickets to leading social influencers.

For the Kings campaign, “we sent out invitations to leading influencers in Sacramento and surrounding areas,” said Megan Berry (@meganberry), Klout’s marketing manager. The influencers achieve high scores in three areas – True Reach, Amplification Probability and Network Score, indicating they have a high number of followers, a likelihood that their messages will generate actions and an influential audience base.

About 50 invitations were sent out and 25 influencers were chosen. On Saturday they’ll sit in box seats, engage in activities throughout the game and pose for photos with Kings players.

The influencers aren’t required to broadcast their participation in the event but it’s assumed they will. “They’ll buzz on Twitter, Facebook and the other social networks,” Berry said.

Mitch Germann, VP of marketing for the Kings, said the Klout program “will help us reach a new audience. The influencers are active in social media and have large networks so we hope they’ll reach a large group of people who are not following us.”

Germann also said, “The result could be more following us on our social platforms.” The Kings use Facebook and Twitter pages and blogs to reach out to fans.

Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at eMarketer likened the Kings Klout program to the rewards programs companies have directed at bloggers. “There’s no downside for a brand like the Kings to do something like this and it will help them reach people outside of the Sacramento area who will read the influencers’ Twitter and Facebook posts,” she said.

Yes – I’ll be tweeting and posting photos from the game. If you’re not already following me, you can reach me @jameshicks.

You can follow the Sacramento Kings on Twitter on Facebook and on YouTube.

[hat tip http://www.clickz.com]