The Changing Habits of the Sports Superfan
One of the most pressing challenges currently facing sports properties is finding the best way to build a community of fans whose allegiance extends beyond the final buzzer.
As anyone in the business knows, today’s sports fans (and especially tomorrow’s) want to feed their hunger for content before, after and even during the game. More than play by play, they crave a 24/7 relationship with their heroes – personal stories, candid interviews, bloopers, press conferences, behind-the scenes glimpses, and potentially viral moments. And of course, fans also want a platform on which to post their own contributions. Leagues, teams and brands need to exploit every opportunity for this kind of enhanced engagement.
Big Engagement for The Big Game
The Super Bowl, whose storylines and controversies consume bandwagon viewers as much as diehard superfans, offers the most dramatic illustration of this growing passion. Athletes’ personalities flaunted in ads, players hyping fans through social media, long-form gossip during pre-shows – it all gets woven into the fabric of how fans consume content before, during and after the game.
With the Super Bowl and burgeoning overseas following top of mind, the NFL believes that feeding its fans’ changing appetite is a key to future profitability.
“Today’s sports fans crave 24/7 coverage that goes beyond the game and off the field, and video plays a crucial role,” says Steve Scebelo, interim president of NFL Players Inc. “Our business is driven by athletes who are naturally and regularly creating and sharing unique video content with their fans, which entices more personal and authentic engagement across platforms.”
A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult for the NFLPA found that almost 50% of adults following NFL players on social media are likely to watch players’ live videos and share them across their own social pages.
“That’s significant,” says Scebelo. “Consequently, a smart video content strategy is one that connects fans with athlete-driven content that takes them behind the scenes and allows them to engage with athletes far beyond the action on the field.”
The Importance of The Right Video Management System
Whatever the sport, a smart video content strategy is imperative. It’s not enough to boast an unwieldy storehouse of raw images, audio and video footage spanning generations. To serve its purpose of truly engaging fans, it must be sliced and diced into instantly viewable form. It’s vital that this highly valuable content is stored securely, labelled and made available for quick distribution, so it can be utilized to connect with fans across platforms, at any time.
Ryan Rolf is Chief Revenue Officer for the Americas at leading SaaS video management platform business Imagen. As he puts it, “Sports fans, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, are craving a more personalized experience when engaging with their favorite sports. They have much higher expectations when it comes to team and league output. They want to consume more video, of a higher quality and on their terms.
They’re also taking matters into their own hands, producing, curating and sharing their content at a speed to market which often exceeds professional output. It’s up to the leagues, teams and players to embrace this content consumption shift.”
Imagen was launched in 1996 in Cambridge, a major technology hub in the UK, and since then it has made a name for itself within the sports industry. The company does not work on live production, rather its software is designed to store, manage, and enrich video content to increase its value.
Those clients include the English Premier League and International Tennis Federation, among others. In the United States, Imagen was selected by Major League Baseball in April 2019 to manage and distribute its library of game highlights. The system contains more than 10,000 MLB media assets, including player-specific packages and “Top Five Moments” clips. On the college level, Auburn University chose Imagen to help them update a media library that was in disarray. Now, says director of video services Weston Carter, the school can meet deadlines uploading and delivering content to media, and pinpoint who is checking out their content, and from where.
Capturing — and Sharing — The Big Moments
Whether it’s a behemoth like the NFL or an upstart league in a lower profile sport, the strategic imperative facing sports entities is keeping fans engaged when they’re away from the game—especially competing with so many other forms of entertainment. Utilizing the right video management system is key.
Consider the Washington Nationals baseball fan who kept his two Bud Lights afloat as he got whacked by a home run ball in the World Series.
That 15-second spot will be visited as long as there are sports fans (and beer-drinkers).
Now imagine that every club is in possession of thousands of micro versions of that memorable moment, from funny clips, to fan celebrations to classic interviews. When effectively utilized they become far more than the sum of their parts, allowing followers and fans to connect to the club on a multitude of levels, opening up revenue streams, and creating new supporters.
Superfan Habits by The Numbers
Imagen recently commissioned research in association with Turnkey Intelligence to gauge the changing viewing habits of the sports superfan.
Among the highlights of what they found:
- There is a seismic generational difference in the amount of non-game content fans consume. Younger fans consume on average 4-5x more content than Baby Boomers.
- MLS fans are out in front when it comes to hours watched. 26 % saying they watch at least three hours of non-game content each week, compared to 13 percent of NFL fans.
- Online influencers are starting to have a major commercial impact. More than 50% of fans who watch influencer content stated that they impact merchandise purchasing decisions.
Read the full report for further insight into what the newest generation of fans want to watch and discover proven strategies for building digital engagement.