Written by Paul Whybrow
As Aussies, we have a reputation of being passionate sports fans, with a love of diverse sports and a homegrown trust that success is the natural path, whatever we get involved in. It is not surprising then that the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summitwould attract a range of fascinating subjects and insights on communicating and engaging with sports fans.
Much ground was covered including the rebranding of an Aussie icon; why you would sign a football star who doesn’t kick a ball; and that there is nothing more boring than data!
My small part in the proceedings was to moderate the panel on the highly topical subject of The Challenge and Opportunity of Delivering High Value Live Sports at Scale. With the growing fan assumption that they can watch their live sport anywhere they want to on any device they happen to have at hand, there are hurdles in creating a seamless experience that won’t miss any second of the action and add to the engagement and access to the game.
My panel included Adam Rileyfrom Akaimai(who provide streaming technology services), Ramesh De Silvafrom Telstra Broadcast Services(who provide the video connectivity) and Alex Aldersonfrom the NRL(who want to reach as many of their fans as they can).
From the discussion it is clear that the delivery of live sports via OTT (Internet TV) is continuing to grow rapidly and consumption via mobile streaming or via additional second screen apps is increasingly becoming a benchmark starter for sports coverage. The continued growth of streaming is making niche content more available to audiences.
The recent Women’s State of Originmatch is an example of extending a strong franchise and getting a much stronger audience than may have initially been expected. The message for marketers was that streaming gives promotional access for more brands. For fans, as long as it is free from any technical issues, they will certainly embrace far more of it
With an eye on the millennial audiences that are so attractive to marketers, there was a fascinating panel on the growth of esports. Here the plea to the marketing community was to take the segment seriously. The biggest faux pas is that people are failing to understand that esport professionals are not simply gamers who are getting paid, a common mistake that is made. The point was made several times that for esports, the business and player framework is no different to any other sport. Players have coaches, they train, they compete, and they have very public profiles in their fan base. Some may still need some media training on how to interact smartly with fans but otherwise they are professional players. If they are not treated as such by marketers, then they feel they are seen as a centre of a revenue grab and not as a serious opportunity to engage creatively and empathetically with fans. The key difference is where fans watch, with YouTube and Twitch the platforms that service the fans rather than TV as the core. Data is showing that both of these platforms are growing massively in percentage terms too.
This link between traditional sports and digital sports is highlighted with the FIFA esport leagueand the recruitment of players such as Marcus Gomes, the 20 year old signing to Melbourne City as an esports football player with a personal profilethat rivals any other football signing. FIFA esport competitionis aiming to connect the sports with fixtures that match with the on-field schedule and competitive teams.
For traditional sports, when you are losing participants and brand value, how do you reinvent yourself?
That is the challenge Rugby Union undertook with their rebrand and reposition to become Rugby AU. Interestingly, the new branding was developed with a far greater focus on the players and fans of rugby rather than the perception of the more elite player focus that existed before. The image of the wallaby has gone from the logo and now there is a focus on the ’U’ of Rugby and AU. The letter ‘U’ is being used as a symbol of the link between the followers and participants in rugby and the professional teams.
There was an admission that rugby has got a long way to go to re-establish itself as a really dominant participative sport with stronger and wider community involvement. A number of emotional videos have been created to tell this new brand story under the campaign #partofmorewhich included the very personal story of Amy from Jindabyne. Worth a viewing.
One way in which sporting codes are getting fans involved is with access to more and more team and player stats.
The global leader is often seen as Catapult Sports, the worldwide sports performance provider nurtured from an original partnership with the AIS (Australian Institute of Sports) back in 2006. Adir Shiffmantheir Executive Chairman put it very directly “there is nothing more boring than data”. What really makes data come alive is when “you are using data for storytelling”.
He gave a very informative insight into how the data that is being collected to help sports people learn and develop, can also be directed to tell fantastic sports stories. With far greater data being collected from players, this could dramatically add to the live game event. This type of storytelling will become far more practical to produce and sits really well with the use of second screen for sports watching and driving even more emotional connection to the stars on the field.
Personally, it was a great day for me to learn what the innovations are that can help you succeed in sports marketing, and where the future looks good for fans: more live events on more devices. The ability to watch wherever we are in the world and enjoy more immersive story telling – it all seems pretty good to me!
Written by Paul Whybrow