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Volume 24 No. 176
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Digital Sports Companies Drawing Younger Audiences By Embracing Non-Traditional Media

Utilizing platforms on the internet, digital sports companies have been able to attract younger audiences that have been straying away from traditional media. Speaking on Day 1 of ’17 Stadium Sports Marketing Symposium, Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini said, “I’m not spending much time thinking about things that are traditional. I think it’s partly because we are from a very nontraditional place. We love the internet. The internet is undefeated. I do think that platforms that maintain a long distance from their audience are in trouble because if you cannot have conversations simultaneously around content a young viewer is not going to engage or care about it the way they want to and are predisposed to.” Stadium CEO Jason Coyle said, “Our demos are younger but they’re not intentionally younger. We do speak with a younger voice, but we’re not chasing that hard to reach millennials per se. We are a general market offering. Just the way that we’re distributed, the way that our talent speaks and the way that we engage in real time, it tends to pull us toward a younger demographic.” When it comes to The Players’ Tribune, President Jaymee Messler said, “We want to cater to our younger audience. Right now, our biggest audiences are in underserved markets that have a loyal fanbase. We also probably have one of the largest female audiences when it comes to sports sites because we are bringing the humanity from a lot of athletes. We’re connecting audiences that aren’t necessarily looking for X’s and O’s. They’re coming to understand the story behind the story.”

REACHING BRANDS: The fact that digital sports media takes a nontraditional route on delivering sports content means that the companies must also approach sponsors in the same way. Messler: “When it comes down to branded content, because we’re not doing a transactional spend because everything we’re doing is authentic and true to the brand or content we would be doing anyway, the engagement is just as high and that’s successful for us. Because we have so many athletes that are organically sharing the stories I think the brands are able to over deliver with a lot of what we are doing.” Nardini said, “We’re a unique animal in that we have a very deep loyal audience that is growing very quickly. That audience is different on different platforms and reaches different audiences and age groups. Because we think that we understand how to talk to our audience and relate to our audience in a way that is very different, we want brands to benefit from that. So, preference, affinity and purchase are the three biggest things that we look for.”

PULL UP A STOOL: Nardini is looking at ways that Barstool Sports can continue to grow and evolve in the digital sports market. She said, “I’m looking a lot at nontraditional sports. I think that a younger viewer doesn’t care about traditional sports perhaps the way we do, or our generation does.” She added, “Digital platforms will want them because while they will compete for rights they’re going to want rights-free content. There’s going to be movement outside of what we think of as major and traditional sports content.” Nardini also believes there will be a change in the way commentary is done for live sporting events. “Amazon and Facebook are here to win and they will not do things the way that they have been done before,” Nardini said. “They will look for new types of broadcasters and they will look for new types of commentators and they will look for new types of creators.” On what lies ahead for Barstool Sports, Nardini said, “I think you will see us create our own sports. I think you will see us comment on traditional sports in partnership with third party rights holders. I think you’ll see us create the type of shoulder programing that hasn’t been done before.”