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Consumer Tech In Sports Marketing

Once again, sports is ahead of the curve

9May

The sports industry has recognized that fans are hungry for new perspectives on their favorite teams. The desire is a result of just how closed off and shrouded the world of sports is to many people; fans of top football, baseball, or soccer clubs will very seldom make it into the stadium, and even fewer will actually have the chance to meet their heroes. So the broadcasting and digital marketing situation in sports is unique, such is the demand for quality, abundant, and in-depth digital content.

The normal engagement rules don’t apply to the sports industry. There’s an age-old cliché in soccer that says ‘you’re only as good as your last game,’ a reference to the transience of sporting success. What the phrase also references is the fact that sport can never sit still. Replays have very little value, a team’s jersey depreciates in value the minute the next season’s is announced, and a team can only trade off former glories for so long. It’ll be interesting to see, for example, if Manchester United’s incredible commercial success is stifled at all by the club’s recent disappointing form (though, in reality, it’s unparalleled wealth will likely pull it out of its slump).

What this means for marketers and broadcasters is that fresh content is at a premium. There’s a reason BT and Sky alone paid out an incredible $6.65 billion in TV rights deals for the three Premier League seasons between 2016 and 2019. Sport has always been an industry of live content. Despite the immense popularity of highlights shows and the modern obsession with post-match analysis that dominates TV listings across the globe, the excitement of sport is that it is live, that anything can happen. As put by Jean Pierre Diernaz, vice president of marketing at Nissan Europe: ’When it comes to sport, Netflix has zero value.’

The next challenge, then, is how best to bring fresh new content to sport’s global audience. It’s here that sports is actually way ahead of the curve up against other industries. Sports teams are - with a great deal of variation, of course - remarkably good at producing and sharing video content on social channels. As consumer tech develops, teams are only becoming more and more proficient. Previously, many rugby and soccer teams published video footage taken from GoPro cameras strapped to players’ chests in training. The vantage point is interesting but isn’t wholly realistic which held the content back. This is where Snapchat’s Spectacles have been a game changer. Being able to share an athlete’s actual perspective is a novelty sports marketers are finding difficult to turn down.

‘I immediately said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, let’s do it,’’ Terry Rodgers, manager of business communications and social media at Pittsburgh Pirates, told SportTechie. ’When a guy throws these glasses on, you get that first person perspective. It’s a really unique piece of content that we could use across all platforms. Getting the feeling of the ball coming right in, top of the glove, hitting the leather — it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. Spectacles still allow the players to go through their routine on the field but help us out with content for social.’

Ultimately, Spectacles offer just another perspective on a sport, albeit a novel and previously unavailable one. What their popularity signals, though, is a move toward more immersive sports viewing. Where fans were once satisfied with a level of distance between their perspective and the action on the pitch, field, or court, broadcasting has become far more intimate, offering close up shots of every tiny piece of action that takes place over the course of a game. Naturally, players won’t be wearing Spectacles during the game at any point soon, but it’s not inconceivable that some form of point-of-view camera angle could become available to sports broadcasters in the future.

Taking this idea even further, virtual reality (VR) is poised to have a significant impact on the way fans consume sports content, particularly as the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible for the masses. The Rugby World Cup as early as 2015 offered VR content, giving fans the opportunity to experience live clips from games in a medium more immersive than has previously been possible. Paid for by tournament sponsor AIG, the VR content brought fans up close and personal with New Zealand’s haka, giving the user an otherwise impossible vantage on one of sport’s most famous rituals. There are already VR companies offering court-side seats at high-profile basketball games, for example, and it’ll be exciting to see just how close to the action viewers will be able to get as technology develops.

For marketers, any fundamental change to the way in which audiences consume content is something they should be acutely aware of. Sponsorship deals in sport are heavily based around television viewing and, should other perspectives become widely available, new opportunities will present themselves to get a brand out there. For now, Spectacles is little more than a fun gimmick for marketers to share inventive video on social. As broadcasters race to find new ways of bringing sports content to their audiences, though, a first-person perspective on the action might just become commonplace. 

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