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Why sports marketing must cater to the new 24/7 sports fan

Sports fans

Sports marketers will have to create more original content around live events if they are to meet the demands of the modern day 24/7 sports fan, according to a new study mapping out the future trends of sports marketing.

Sports fans are increasingly looking for more content on the go, according to the research, meaning brands and rights holders must find new ways to prolong the life of live sports.

In attempting to map out a number of key trends of the future, the study from Performance Communications and behavioural insight agency Canvas8 surveyed 500 sports ‘fans’ across a number of issues and accompanied the findings with in-depth interviews with the rights holders, such as the FA and Sky, as well as sponsors including Nissan and AIG.

By gaining a comprehensive view of all the moving parts involved in sports marketing, the research found that the fast paced evolution of technology and the subsequent rise of the on-demand culture is redefining how sports is consumed.

While on-demand viewing has caused a drop off in television viewing, the excitement around the live nature of sport means it continues to be consumed in real-time. According to the study, content such as drama is now more than four times more likely to be viewed through catch-up services when compared to sports which is still consumed in real-time by 93 per cent of respondents.

On top of this, 73 per cent of those surveyed said it was important to them to access sporting content whenever they want it, meaning rights holders and sponsors must look for ways to extend the lifespan of sports beyond the live action if they are to cater to the increased appetite for sports fans.

Touching on this point, Roel de Vries, global head of marketing at Nissan, said: “One thing we are looking at is creating an ongoing link with sponsorships in the digital world.

“A big part of our investment has been getting things like Player of the Day and Goal of the Week activated online to engage fans on an ongoing basis. With racing, for example, a lot of our activation has not been on the track, but online with the GT Academy. You can get 100,000 people racing your car on Sony PlayStation for a few hours a day. This has far greater reach.

With over two-thirds of ESPN audiences coming exclusively from mobile and 34 per cent of respondents admitting that they use social media to consume sport, it’s little wonder that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have been actively investing in sports broadcast rights. The audience is already on the platforms and they have an appetite for sport which extends far beyond the limited time which a sporting fixture can offer.

On top of this 44 per cent of respondents said they accessed sporting content on their commute. When asked what kind of content they wanted outside of live action, 26 per cent wanted ‘historical sporting moments’ while another 26 looked for content on ‘athletes’ lives beyond sport’.

Phil Barker, head of commercial acquisition for the FA, points out that he has begun to notice that “fans want to know a player and team inside out so that when they're down the pub after work, they can back up their opinion”.

He added: “Gone are the days you could just have a conversation about a player. Now, you need to back it up with facts and data. And with social media, if a player makes a mistake, it comes alive and becomes the most talked-about issue. Every fan now has this ability to become a content developer – that’s something brands are starting to tune into. Sponsorships will continue to become more sophisticated; it’s not just about being the brand on the backdrop or shirt anymore.”

One way in which they are doing this is by catering directly to fans. In the US, the MLB was one of the first to push ahead with this strategy through its, since then many have followed with the likes of the UFC’s Fight Pass serving up insights into athletes lives beyond the sport as well as a library of historical action from the organisation.

Taken together the figures highlight the hunger which has culminated among sports fans as technology has opened up more content on the go, meaning sponsors and rights holders must find ways to offer content outside the short-lived confines of live fixtures.

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