Sports, across borders, has been about passion that the fans display. The ability of sport to connect with fans has been the cornerstone for brands to associate with them. Across various sports and borders, tech is now taking it to levels not seen before.
Making the sport watching experience more personal, data more available and ‘snackable content’ from and around the sport is now the strategy to grow on digital platforms.
Last week, TikTok decided to partner with the New York Yankees to reach out to the younger baseball fans. The multi-year association will extend to YES Network, the television channel for the Yankees and hopes to reach out to more teenagers and youngsters to expand its reach.
It could be a big move since the 162-games Major League Baseball season has been cut down to 60 games and YES Network has fewer games to reach out to new fans. The NBA can reach out to a generation of fans that hardly watches the sport on television. TikTok is going ahead with the deal despite facing political heat in the U.S. due to its Chinese ownership.
While it expands the reach to a new audience, TikTok partnership will also help customise the league’s offering to different geographies.
Tech is helping change the flavour of the traditional sports followers too. Fans who love their basketball in the US have always been known to be loyal to pay television broadcasts, driving its viewership. It spawned a fan culture that has made many a star in the sports and teams have become legendary in their own right.
GROWING A NEW FAN BASE
A study carried out three years ago found that the average age for the basketball viewer was in the fifties, hardly something that would entice brand association. The younger viewers for the sport were moving to digital platforms.
A few months ago, Microsoft signed up a multi-year deal with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to personalise the sport for younger fans who are savvier and more reachable on the digital platform. It could be a masterstroke to develop a platform that reaches out to its global fan base as the NBA looks to expand to new locations. It will seek to leverage the 1.8 billion followers on social media across all teams, leagues and players to leverage.
The key to the partnership is customised offering for the fans.
“Our goal, working with Microsoft, is to create customized content that allows fans — whether they are in an NBA arena or watching from anywhere around the world — to immerse themselves in all aspects of the game and engage directly with our teams and players,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
As the Indian Premier League (IPL), the biggest and richest professional cricket league in the world, expands its influence, digital has been the way to go. The major teams have a very strong video channel that drives engagement with the fans. With a loyal fan base in place, it is time to drive higher engagement with the fans, something that other leagues – hockey, football, kabaddi, wrestling, badminton and others – could emulate.
‘Catch them young’ is the mantra for every brand.
ONLINE GAMING TO GO MAINSTREAM?
A small, but significant move, by Amazon could drive engagement for its online gaming fans like never before. The e-commerce giant had spent a billion dollars to buy the gaming platform Twitch. Now it is merging the platform for Amazon Prime customers as a free video games and rewards programme.
With the addition of Prime Gaming, Amazon is trying to make its premium annual paid service even more enticing for everyone in the family. While shopping is great to have, more gaming on the platform will make it a compelling option for the younger audience. If others in the family want to join in, more the merrier. Now that is a customisation of a different kind!
If tech companies can take a centre stage into the gaming world, they will be able to drive fans and the sport. More teenagers and youngsters are hooked on around the world. According to Statista, YouTube had seven online gaming channels that had at least 20 million subscribers during July 2020. Twitch will need some catching up to do and the pandemic has given it an opportunity.
With stadiums around the world empty, gyms not seeing visitors even if opened, big tech has an opportunity to reach out to the fans like never before.
‘Tech’ that, if you will!
- Ashutosh Sinha is the founder of WordWiseWeb Media. Read his weekly column on the business of sport here. He can be connected on Twitter at ashutoshsinha00