Sports fan behaviour has already changed

Fan behaviour has already changed – it’s only now that sports media is catching up

How can brands take greater ownership of sports fan relationships?

At the Festival of Media Global in Rome, our CEO Louise Johnson was joined by Intel Sports’ Head of Strategy, Paul Kandel where they discussed how brands should be future-proofing themselves to take greater ownership of sports fan relationships and unlock revenue opportunities.

Since we published Merge Sport last year, technological developments have taken us closer to the predictions we made becoming a reality. Here are some of the key takeaways from Louise and Paul’s session:

Fan behaviour has already changed, sports media is catching up.

Brands have to know when to lean in and when to lean back: sports are about sports, fans don’t want to be distracted. Every sports league is seeing generational changes in consumers. New sports fans have grown up with smartphones and to them esports is media – it’s nothing new.

The Chief Communications Officer of LaLiga, Joris Evers, has previously said, “When I was growing up, video games tried to imitate live games, now La Liga is trying to imitate video games.” We’re going to see the convergence of the physical space and immersive experience where fans will be able to watch the game but have additional virtual engagement, whether that’s standing with the referee, running down the pitch next to Messi or even playing as a defender and seeing if you can do a better job! Bringing concepts from eSports into sports is imperative for engaging young and international fan bases.

Fans should be given a new way to engage, in a way that they’ll love. Brands shouldn’t replace anything about the experience fans already have, but add to it.

Sports leagues are seeing a change in both international and younger fan bases

International sports fans are more likely to be a fan of the sport itself and multiple teams within that sport, rather than subscribing to ‘identity fandom’ with a single team. This is also true of young fans, especially as they’ve grown up with enormous choice, they are as likely to connect with individual players on social media as their local team.

Additionally, young fans have grown up playing video games, watching esports, and generally consuming media through mobile devices—all of which are highly individualised and interactive experiences. To engage new fans, sport must meet them where they are.

How to reach fans that are cutting the chord with Pay TV?

A key consideration for sports leagues is the way they engage with their younger fans. For the past three decades, more and more premium sports content has moved to pay TV. This means that potential fans below the age of 30 have come to associate premium sports with pay TV. But this demographic is not subscribing to pay TV!

Live sports are naturally live, and has therefore remained largely tied to the live linear TV model. In fact, live sports have come to anchor entire triple-play and quadruple-play bundles in many parts of the world, and at least pay TV packages everywhere. The industry is about to go through a wave of re-bundling: figuring out the right things to bundle together with live sports to build attractive packages for fans.

We will see new entrants into the live sports rights from a variety of players. Of course, the broadcasters and a few digital sports pure-plays are there, but you can also expect to see more and more efforts by companies from tangential domains such as betting, fantasy, or video gaming building out new concepts. There certainly will be experimentation, and there will be failures on the way to figuring it out.

How can brands make the most out of sports partnerships?

Brands that are trying to reach specific and multiple demographics should think about their sponsorship portfolio across both sports and esports in a very intentional manner. Brands have to ask what their role is within the sports experience, be brave and ask where they can add value in sports. Think about the innovation they can bring and the innovation they want to associate their brand with.

Fan behaviour has already changed – it’s only now that sports media is catching up

How can brands take greater ownership of sports fan relationships?

At the Festival of Media Global in Rome, our CEO Louise Johnson was joined by Intel Sports’ Head of Strategy, Paul Kandel where they discussed how brands should be future-proofing themselves to take greater ownership of sports fan relationships and unlock revenue opportunities.

Since we published Merge Sport last year, technological developments have taken us closer to the predictions we made becoming a reality. Here are some of the key takeaways from Louise and Paul’s session:

Fan behaviour has already changed, sports media is catching up.

Brands have to know when to lean in and when to lean back: sports are about sports, fans don’t want to be distracted. Every sports league is seeing generational changes in consumers. New sports fans have grown up with smartphones and to them esports is media – it’s nothing new.

The Chief Communications Officer of LaLiga, Joris Evers, has previously said, “When I was growing up, video games tried to imitate live games, now La Liga is trying to imitate video games.” We’re going to see the convergence of the physical space and immersive experience where fans will be able to watch the game but have additional virtual engagement, whether that’s standing with the referee, running down the pitch next to Messi or even playing as a defender and seeing if you can do a better job! Bringing concepts from eSports into sports is imperative for engaging young and international fan bases.

Fans should be given a new way to engage, in a way that they’ll love. Brands shouldn’t replace anything about the experience fans already have, but add to it.

Sports leagues are seeing a change in both international and younger fan bases

International sports fans are more likely to be a fan of the sport itself and multiple teams within that sport, rather than subscribing to ‘identity fandom’ with a single team. This is also true of young fans, especially as they’ve grown up with enormous choice, they are as likely to connect with individual players on social media as their local team.

Additionally, young fans have grown up playing video games, watching esports, and generally consuming media through mobile devices—all of which are highly individualised and interactive experiences. To engage new fans, sport must meet them where they are.

How to reach fans that are cutting the chord with Pay TV?

A key consideration for sports leagues is the way they engage with their younger fans. For the past three decades, more and more premium sports content has moved to pay TV. This means that potential fans below the age of 30 have come to associate premium sports with pay TV. But this demographic is not subscribing to pay TV!

Live sports are naturally live, and has therefore remained largely tied to the live linear TV model. In fact, live sports have come to anchor entire triple-play and quadruple-play bundles in many parts of the world, and at least pay TV packages everywhere. The industry is about to go through a wave of re-bundling: figuring out the right things to bundle together with live sports to build attractive packages for fans.

We will see new entrants into the live sports rights from a variety of players. Of course, the broadcasters and a few digital sports pure-plays are there, but you can also expect to see more and more efforts by companies from tangential domains such as betting, fantasy, or video gaming building out new concepts. There certainly will be experimentation, and there will be failures on the way to figuring it out.

How can brands make the most out of sports partnerships?

Brands that are trying to reach specific and multiple demographics should think about their sponsorship portfolio across both sports and esports in a very intentional manner. Brands have to ask what their role is within the sports experience, be brave and ask where they can add value in sports. Think about the innovation they can bring and the innovation they want to associate their brand with.