Since the beginning of time, humans have been enthralled with sports. As athletics continuously evolve, so does the overall image and appeal to audiences.
However, what happens 20 years from now when the digital age has inevitably dominated every inch of society? Sports and all their glory won’t go away, but how will people get excited about them? How will organizations keep people in their stadiums? Marketers are now paying attention to how today’s technology is shifting the way people enjoy sports.
Fan-Generated Sports Content
Marketers are beginning to see a decline in younger audiences watching live televised sports. Why? It’s too slow. Younger audiences want the ability to skip through the commercials, boring plays, bogus calls, and get right to the good stuff. This is where fan-generated content comes into play. Some might call this user-generated content where consumers or “end-users” create content available to other users, and this is where terms like “going viral” comes into play. Word-of-mouth and frequent sharing of content can quickly create noteworthiness for any brand.
Younger generations (and now some older ones, too) share photos constantly, so any skilled sports marketer knows that images and videos are key to pulling audiences back in. Many brands like Nike and Adidas actively try to engage their audience by encouraging involvement in showcasing the product. It can be as simple as a creatively-crafted picture of the product with a unique hashtag. If a sports brand or team is looking for more support, they need to channelize this concept into their marketing scheme. The more an audience is encouraged to participate in marketing the product, the less work the company has to do. Having trouble getting people involved in sharing images and videos of the product? Create a loyalty program to incentivize people who have a history of writing good reviews about the brand; discounts, contests, and individual messages come a long way in giving back to customers.
Fan Engagement Through Social Media
While younger sports fans may not be as interested in watching live sports on TV, their social media platforms are checked instead. An article in Forbes magazine says, “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.” Fans are looking to be as connected to players and coaches as possible, and social media allows these two worlds to connect conversationally. These platforms provide quick, direct snippets of what’s happening. This type of interaction can take place during any game in real-time.
Having a “fan moment of the day” or a contest where fans are encouraged to reach out to a specific player truly enhances fan engagement and a more enjoyable game day experienced. Forbes states,” According to a recent survey, 98% of sports marketers chose social media as the number one way to fully leverage sponsorships.” With current reliance on fast, instant communication, social media influence in the sports community probably won’t change in the near future. As a result, sports marketers will need to keep content streaming throughout all media outlets to keep their audience’s attention.
Virtual Reality for Fans and Players
A recent trend of augmented reality may continue to be a popular way to hook viewers. Audience members can virtually be on the field with the players during a game through group viewings. Not long ago, Wendy’s joined Fox Sports to create a virtual reality experience where fans could watch games together and check out the action on the field from various angles and use instant replay. This is still a very new technology, so not every sports marketing agency or organization has the resources for it. However, smaller versions of this can be done such as developing a custom Snapchat filter for a team or using an AR marker in printed materials that fans can hover their phones over to gain more information on an event.
In the future, AR is predicted to become a game-changing marketing tool that will allow viewers at home to zero in on the action happening on the field during any given game. As technology is constantly evolving and evolving at a much faster rate today, AR could possibly morph into more intelligent technology that could allow fans way more interaction than ever before, and any brand should always be looking out for opportunities to try new strategies.
Overall, more and more people are realizing the importance of social media, fan engagement, and technology when it comes to Sports Marketing. In the future, Sports Marketing may take a completely different form based on the sports themselves, fans, etc. Individuals may become more involved in the lives of players and be more a part of team decisions, and fans may get to be on the field with the players during a virtual reality experience. One thing will never change, though: consumers will always respond to original and true content. Any brand, big or small, should focus on their own unique qualities and how they can advertise that in the new digital age.