When the general public universally accepted smartphones and 4G between 2010 and 2015, the sports industry was the first to take advantage of it in order to grow its fanbase. Nowadays, analysts claim that digital transformation brought about by the pandemic has definitely consolidated this trend. Fans who used online platforms to remain connected with the competition after the closure of stadiums, do not want these new channels to be closed. To maintain connected 24/7, choosing what to consume, when and how, and reimagining the classic offer on match-days and that of broadcasters.
Especially generation Z, for whom this form of consumption is natural. Even before 2020, it was difficult to find someone who watched an entire game among all these young fans. They prefer to watch the highlights, which are the most memorable moments of a game, on any website on the Internet. They occasionally pack into a stadium or watch an entire broadcast of the game. Due to the fact that older fans have also tried this new model and have adopted it as their own, new ways for its commercialisation is being implemented.
The most obvious can be seen on the five-minute videos broadcast by the NBA’s social media. Aimed at satisfying their fans’ demand for highlights, they facilitated the development of sports trading cards, the NBA Top Shot. They are encrypted digital assets, NFTs, which contain video footage of the best plays of their stars. Exclusive sales on its official website have generated millions in revenue. The consumption of these highlights has also led to the creation of a new ticket which allows fans to pack into the stadium only during the last quarter of the game—the ending. Finding great acceptance, it adapts to this new form of consumption, offers a wide range of prices, and reaches a peak audience in the last quarter of the game.
The new way of purchasing goods and services directly from the brands, without distributors and retailers, has been something normal to millennials. Known as D2C relationship, it includes the personal design of the offer itself and a more direct and closer relationship with the brand. In regard to sports, it encourages greater engagement with the fans. This may be the reason why 70% of US sports rights holders (leagues, teams, platforms, and TVs) are implementing a subscription model for D2C.
The difference with the classic subscription model is the freedom of choice for the user. There are formulas to create a mix of different sports and competitions, and they can be monthly or annual subscriptions. They can be modified at any moment, and many partial plans for only one game are being launched such as the one announced by the NBA, which allowed fans to watch the last quarter of a game.
Nike, one of the biggest sports sponsors, has also implemented an accelerated D2C strategy. During lockdown, the search online for the brand increased by 106%. For the first time, they replaced fashion brands which are usually the leaders in the market. Nowadays, the brand’s executives claim that their consumers no longer have the need to go to their shops, and if they have to, it will be occasionally or never again. Nike has turned the purchase into only one part of the relationship, including services such as the Nike Run app, where the users receive recorded advice from professional trainers. The app also designs their personal training plans and gives the users objectives in stages according to their personal goals. Nike also opens up a channel where its fans and running fans meet in a virtual space and share experiences.
It should not be any different for sports fans, especially if they live hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the stadium or even in another country. Or just because they want to enjoy the competition online. Coronavirus has changed the way they do it. The majority of sports experts come to the same conclusion: they will buy a virtual ticket. In order to attend the meeting remotely but with services that make fans sense the atmosphere in a similar way as in the stadium stands.
One example of how that can become real is the Virtual NFL Draft, which was organised in 2020 by the football league. In total, there were 660 cameras under control in the houses of the recruiters, coaches, team managers, fans, and college student coaches. In three days, despite the closures of stadiums, they managed to catch the interest of 55 million spectators who felt a connection with the game and their teams.
In spite of the challenge presented, this was taken up as a business opportunity. This year, the NFL reorganised a meeting in a modest way—with 45 cameras in the houses of active and retired players. And they are planning to create a possible fan zone with giant screens in the stadium tunnel leading to the pitch so that virtual ticket buyers can interact with players.
En un futuro ideal, los aficionados “físicos” y los que ven retransmisiones televisivas se sumarán a los digitales, con una variedad de ofertas para hacerles disfrutar de la experiencia satisfaciendo sus necesidades y demandas. Este nuevo modelo va en aumento, y los estadios inteligentes y el 5G pueden ayudar a desarrollarlo. Sin embargo, en este caso, la tecnología es solo un recurso, pero no el medio en sí. Los equipos y las ligas deben presentar innovaciones para abordar rápidamente las necesidades. Después de todo, los estadios volverán a abrir algún día, pero no sabemos cómo será.
CATEGORY: MARKETING, COMMUNICATION AND MANAGEMENT
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