The pandemic has robbed us of so many things we hold sacred, not the least of which is the magic of live sport.
We’ve all felt it: that feeling of anticipation and excitement when you cross the threshold and enter a competitive arena, when you hear and Feel the crowd rises and applauds – that moment when a crowded stadium holds its collective breath in unison. We saw the lights and displays and witnessed the raw power of world class athletes.
Live sports are more than just sporting competitions – they are pure entertainment.
In the midst of this pandemic, however, sports properties have been challenged to replicate that same level of entertainment and engagement.
In the absence of live sporting events, cheaper and more convenient forms of entertainment are replacing sport. Despite this, incredible creativity and innovation is happening in the sports industry to engage and entertain today’s sports fans. I would like to highlight recent developments and outstanding examples that show the way forward in giving fans what they want.
With all of the different OTT and social media platforms battling for the attention of today’s “flowing fans” as my organization calls them. Properties that can go to where fans are and provide them with content that they can relate to will inevitably win those smooth fans and ultimately win in the market.
Boxing legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. returned to the ring for an exhibition boxing match, where the outcome of the fight was likely the afterthought of the evening. The game ended in a draw at Staples Center in Los Angeles, but the main takeaway was the fight’s promotion from the social media platform Triller. Triller was the primary broadcaster for the fight card featured by Tyson and Jones. Not only was the fight streamed on the mobile app, it was also available on a computer or tablet and through several OTT providers and pay-per-view cable providers. If you’re unfamiliar with Triller, it’s very similar to TikTok, attracting a lot of the same audience and demographic.
The younger generation of fans using the Trilller app haven’t seen any of these fighters perform at their peak. So why would Triller want to promote a fight like this? Well, it’s more about going where the fans are and creating content for that audience.
The main event between Tyson and Jones was completed with a fight between a YouTube star and a former NBA player, as well as various performances by rappers Snoop Dogg, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa, Saint Jhn and YG. Triller took the opportunity to showcase his platform by bringing in artists and celebrities their young audiences would know as a form of promotion rather than focusing on the two boxers over 50 who were to be the attraction. main.
While this example stood out and garnered national attention, it’s not the first time we’ve seen leagues around the world implementing similar strategies to attract younger audiences to the sport.
Recently the NHL launched a web series featuring Snoop Dogg called “Hockey 101”. (Full disclosure: Sports Innovation Lab is in partnership with the NHL.) Snoop was also featured in the popular NHL 20 video game, and he even joined a show for the Los Angeles Kings to help announce a game live, that I was able to find out more. during a recent conversation with my good friend, Heidi Browing, CMO of the NHL, on my company podcast.
The NFL and Epic Games’ popular battle royale game Fortnite have partnered up on several occasions. (Full disclosure: Sports Innovation Lab is in partnership with the NFL.) The NFL jerseys and logos have been available for purchase as digital in-game skins through the Epic Games Store. The league also hosted a Fortnite tournament around the Super Bowl in January 2020 called Twitch Rivals: Streamer Bowl, where NFL athletes teamed up with popular Twitch streamers. The NFL used this event to target younger fans, and it’s no coincidence that it coincided with the league’s biggest game of the year. The Leagues know they are fighting in the attention economy and that the smartest properties will go where these young, new age fans are.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the NBA launched its NBA Together social media campaign. Once a week, an NBA star was interviewed by an NBA broadcast talent and answered questions from fans on Instagram Live. The campaign also included a content series called Jr. NBA at Home, where players and league coaches conducted virtual practice and practice sessions for younger fans to do at home. The program has also been integrated with the HomeCourt youth training app so that young athletes can track their progress. This campaign allowed NBA players to connect with fans and interact with the younger generation on social media, and it gave fans a way to train and be more like the athletes they admire. Creating a connected network and using technology to interact and interact with young fans is essential today when fans are stuck consuming sports at home.
As an entrepreneur and innovator, I am fascinated and inspired by all these examples. And as a business leader, I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made and our collective work to stay at the forefront of the industry’s efforts to make it easier for fans to play sports. When more fans watch and engage, we make sure the next generation of fans feel the power of community and sport and we all win.