The health emergency caused by the pandemic, has challenged everyone and has involved the sports industry as well. The impact of postponing sporting events first and then playing them behind closed doors has been upsetting not only for supporters but also for clubs in terms of lost income as well as in contracts negotiation for sponsors, affected in turn by the crisis.
However, clubs have tried to not lose contact with fans enhancing their digital innovation strategies and the synergies with the stakeholders. Filling the gap caused by the absence of live events has been fundamental more than ever to develop creative and effective digital contents. A great engagement growth on social media has been reported, indeed, increasing views on streaming platforms, website and tv.
A significant demonstration comes from FIBA (International Basket Federation) which tells us its numbers relating to the latest FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2021 qualifier and comparing them with the 2019 edition (before the pandemic).
In comparison with the previous qualifiers, the number of broadcasters rise to 29 and a more consistent community of fans followed the action through the YouTube channel that this year reached 1.5M total views. The digital growth on social media channels is consistent too: among Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account they achieve a combined total of 124k followers in comparison to 14k of 2019. Meanwhile, fan engagement improves as well, which goes from 144k to 737k. The official Qualifiers’ website has recorded an extraordinary increment with a 1.1M page view, up from 708K in 2019 and double the traffic on features and other editorial content aimed at fans.
Tools that allow fans to live the sporting events remotely represent even more a crucial asset, especially during this particular historical moment we are all living. As a consequence, is essential to plan an innovative digital communication strategy and to generate engaging contents for fans.
The trend of “snackable contents” is growing. We are talking about short and effective contents, to enjoy in a short period and creating an emotional or a funny reaction. This to reply to the youngest generations which prefer fast and easily accessible contents. Even more often Generation Z doesn’t stop and stare to watch the whole match, but just the highlights.
Therefore, which are the most efficient tools? TikTok for sure, with a maximum of 60 seconds’ videos, or Instagram Reels similar to the previous example. Then, we can add to these images, meme and tweet. In general, it appears that the most used device to enjoy this kind of contents is the smartphone: while drinking a coffee, in the elevator, in the queue or during lunch break. The snackable content goals are to catch the user attention in the short time available, to be easily sharable and to become viral.
In the last year, the absence of sport played and fans at the stadium have accelerated the digital integration process. In this regard, the eSports phenomenon is evolving. Sports clubs are entering even more in the eSports world and the trend has grown exponentially during the first lockdown, this to fill the gap caused by the stop of the competitions. Also, many are the sports athletes that have joined the eSports athletes’ team to engage and entertain users.
Therefore, the trend will be more and more direct to combine traditional sports with eSports to grab the attention of the new generations. In which way? Involving the audience from home with activities carried out on gaming platforms and social media. This guarantees the supporters a 360° experience before, during and after the competition.
An activation example in line with these goals was the partnership between Lega Serie A and Playstation 5 which became Title Sponsor of the Italian Napoli-Juventus Supercup match played in January 2021, then actually called PS5 Supercup.
Before the start of the match, a FIFA 21 PlayStation competition has been played by the rapper Anastasio from Naples and the rapper Shade from Turin, each one representing their favourite team, to predict the game. During the event an innovative camera state-of-the-heart has been installed, which has been used also in Formula and which allows watching replays in a more dynamic and immersive way, giving an exclusive view, similar to one of the videogames.
In addition, at the end of the event, Sony Interactive Entertainment Italia has announced, with the collaboration of the famous Italian commentator Bruno Pizzul, the contest “PS5 Supercup Telecronaca da Fuoriclasse” and thanks to this one the players were able to improvise themselves commentators of their performances on the console to win the new PlayStation5.
Thanks to all the initiatives we have talked about the goal is to be always closer to the fans and to integrate the entertainment concept during a live event with the digital engagement, remotely. Concerning this, the platform Twitch, leader in the video games live-streaming and in the eSport competitions sector, plays a fundamental role. Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City, PSG, Milan and Juventus are among the first clubs to open a dedicated channel.
Curious is the way the bianconeri landed officially on the new streaming channel launching the contest Pitch for Twitch: “a contest aimed at fans, who will compete in a series of knockout tests, from quizzes to match commentary, culminating in a final head-to-head moderated debate. The winner will have the extraordinary opportunity to present an episode of a new show on the Official Juventus Twitch channel, in what will be a truly starring role! A highly coveted goal and, who knows, perhaps the starting point for a new dazzling career?”
Besides being a digital integrated project, the platform Twitch represents a strategic connecting channel with the new generations which the club will aim to entertain generating new dedicated contents that will be broadcasted on its channel. Twitch is, indeed, the perfect partner for sports and soccer in particular, especially if the goal is to boost and reach an even more global fanbase exploring at the same time new formats. Twitch’s community boast an average of 26.5 million spectators per day and 2 million people connected to interact live in every moment. The live streaming platform, to respond to the expanding trend coming from the sports industry, has decided to add a completely dedicated category for sports broadcasting: Twitchsports. This space, besides including contents coming from the most famous football clubs from all around the world, will show contents from NBA, NHL, Rugby, from the UFC circuit of mixed martial arts and the American national women’s soccer league NWSL.
We have already learned to understand how fast the digital world can evolve and how sports business as well is involved within this process, along with many other industries. It’s essential for companies, which are working in sports, to be structured on digital culture and be surrounded by personalities with new skills which will lead to a successful digital transformation. Having teams of people with skills based on innovation and new technologies is crucial for the development of new business and sustainability models.
Covid-19 has been the demonstration that digital transformation is the priority if we want to stay in touch with our audience. In addition, all companies that before the pandemic didn’t have a well-structured digitalization process, found themselves facing many difficulties in meeting new consumer’s needs. From now on, digital will be always an integral part of the communication process and, therefore, is necessary that who operates in the sports business will adapt his mindset.
The pandemic has brought to reconsider the whole fan experience and the touchpoints with the supporters. In this way, digital is generating lots of new opportunities and this evolution is for sure to be faced with a cutting-edge strategy, with flexibility and method. There’s an audience directly reachable thanks to technology and for this reason, the digital transformation will be crucial to catching the benefits that the web offers.