How Live Social Content Is Changing The Future Of Sports Marketing
Live sports have forever connected fans around a passionate shared experience. And yet how we engage with our favorite players, share our passion for the game and interact with sports has changed dramatically over the past 25 years.
When I was growing up in the early 90s, most of the sports experience was centered around broadcast TV, watching the game at home with friends, or going to the game itself. Sure, you could listen to the radio pregame, watch highlights on TV and read stories, but the only way you could really connect with your favorite players was to go to the game and fight the crowd just to try to get an autograph.
Fast forward 20 years later to 2013, and I was working in marketing at T-Mobile where we hosted the first ever Tweetup as part of the MLB All-Star game in NYC with 2013 MLB Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper. Fans were beyond excited to tweet to Bryce to ask questions and engage with him in real time. Most of the fans who tweeted in that day would never have a chance to meet Bryce in person, but they felt an incredible connection that would not have been possible before the rise of social media.
Four short years later, we’re living in the age of the live stream. With live content platforms such as Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Snapchat, the conversation and connection between fans, players and teams is richer and more immediate than ever before. With one push of a button, players and teams can go live with their own content from the locker room, the gym or even from home, giving fans a closer connection than ever to their lives on and off the field.
Sports leagues and teams are capitalizing on this trend. Earlier this fall, the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Sounders and San Francisco Giants became the first professional sports teams ever to promote Instagram Stories content live in stadium through a partnership with my company.
Today, live social content across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter has become interwoven with the in-game experience, and sports teams and brands are seeing the conversational volume with fans go up as a result. In fact, when live social content goes up on the giant video displays in stadiums, pro teams are seeing social engagement with fans increase within the hour on game days.
I recently had a chance to chat with Eric Long, director of production with the Philadelphia Eagles, about how they’re using live content during games. “Our content team puts a lot of resources into providing fans with unique experiences on game day through live social content,” said Long. “Showcasing that work to more than 65,000 people in the stadium is a great opportunity to continue to grow our audience and provide value.”
While traditional media platforms continue to see a negative dip in revenue growth, sponsorship of live sports content is booming. According to a recent survey, 98% of sports marketers chose social media as the number one way to fully leverage sponsorships. Sports sponsorships also increased 4.3% in 2017 — representing $16.37 billion of the total North American sponsorship spend.
From watching games on demand to consuming shorter, snackable content on platforms like Snapchat, the way fans consume sports is rapidly changing. This season Facebook will live stream college sports, while also featuring NFL game recaps and highlights through a deal with the NFL. Amazon is streaming Thursday Night NFL games for Prime members, while Twitter now broadcasts college sports 24/7, along with MLB games on Friday nights.
Trends such as augmented reality and virtual reality are also reshaping the way fans interact — from VR experiences at the stadium to new apps that allow for VR group viewings similar to multiplayer video games. Wendy’s just teamed up with Fox Sports to create a VR experience where fans can not only watch games together but also check out the action on the field from multiple angles with user-controlled instant replays.
The smartest sports marketers are pivoting as fast as they can to not only sponsor on-demand and VR content, but also tap into live content and storytelling in a bigger way. During this year’s finals, the NBA produced content exclusively for Snapchat, while the NHL created a playoff beard filter to help bring fans closer to the Stanley Cup.
The rise of live stream will continue to redefine how we consume sports. With platforms and content strategies rapidly evolving, traditional media is becoming less relevant. Everyone from individual athletes and teams to brands is going live with content to bring their fans closer to the game while creating new experiences in partnership with tech players.
It’s not inconceivable that some day we’ll see a sports star create a 24/7 live stream of their life a la The Truman Showor a VR experience where you can to pop on your headset and join them live on the field.
My son’s generation isn’t going to understand fighting for autographs. His favorite teams and players will interact with him in totally different ways that we haven’t even imagined yet. For fans in the future, connecting with your favorite players will no longer just be a dream.
Article written by: Nathan Peterson