I have been lucky to sit courtside during an era of huge change in the sports media and marketing industry. It is incredible to see what the trajectory has been and how content producers have had to adapt to fit what fans, rights holders and sponsors want when watching an event.
My son is 18 years old and very rarely does he think about turning on the TV and watching a game the way many traditional sports fans do. A new generation of cord cutters already form a significant section of the market, making traditional broadcast channels more and more irrelevant for that demographic.
If you go back to the 1970s and early 1980s, you saw sponsors attaching their brands to major sporting events for the first time, giving them the kind of exposure that was not previously available. It was a game changer, and was when the likes of FIFA really started to monetise the FIFA World Cup™. For several decades, there was not a lot of change in terms of how brands marketed in sport.
Fast forward to the mid-2000s and it quickly became apparent that the sports industry had to change from the role of a middleman to one of creating meaningful and platform-specific content. Time has shown that the latter provided the most beneficial way to reach fans for both rights holders and sponsors.
The way we watch sports has changed drastically and we are constantly working on how to improve content distribution to consumers across more platforms and devices. Most important these days, is to create content that is relevant for the fan both before and after the event takes place, alongside a distribution strategy across all social platforms. My son's generation may not want to see the whole game live; rather, they might want just clips or highlights. Yes, your digital partner needs to understand your sport and industry, but even more, they need to truly understand your consumers.
We need to understand the things fans care about the most and consistently deliver those experiences to them.
The segmentation of media has given people choices that were previously not available and because of that, audiences are becoming a lot more demanding in what they want as an end product. That means agencies must go beyond traditional measures to help rights holders strengthen the connections between their fans and participants. Whether that is through activations that encourage sharing a sponsor's association with a brand, like Kumho did during the 2015 NBA All-Star weekend, or linking traditional sports to new avenues of interest for younger sports fans, like esports.
By doing that we can help rights holders better know who these fans and participants are and build a valuable and enduring relationship with them. Building upon an in-depth understanding, rights holders and sponsors can connect to consumers in a way like never before.