Sports and marketing have always been connected, way more than the average fan would think. Teams are brands, supporters are customers: with match attendance dropping year after year, sports companies need to find new ways to connect with their clients. Add the self-tracking mania to the equation and you will have a picture of how digital and mobile technologies are changing the sports customer experience of millions around the world.
Pay television is the disruptive technology that changed a 40 decades old scenario, born from the ashes of the Second World War. Nazi Germany was the very first to understand the essence of sport as a mass experience, able to shape belief and drive behaviors. Radio and television, in fact, were the real starring characters of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Almost 80 years later we have witnessed a second media revolution for sports. London 2012 will be remembered as the first ‘Social Olympics’: social media and smartphones have been a major part of the experience, both on field and on bleachers. Digital has become part of the Games’ marketing, leading to a widespread fan participation. ‘Sports customer experience’, enhanced by digital, was born.
We can identify two different areas in which DCX technologies have a strong influence: the way we do sports and the way we experience them.
THE WAY WE DO SPORT
Mobile innovation and digital transformation have brought a major side effect: we can now collect and analyze a huge amount of data in real time. Scanning through this neverending well called big data, companies can use analytics dashboards to understand how their customers think and act, and common people can use customer-facing apps to know themselves better. Our daily life can be cut down in a sequence of numbers and statistics: here lies the secret of self-tracking.
If you go out and look at people running, doing sports or even walking, it is more than likely that you will find them looking at their smartphones or synchronizing activity trackers or smartwatches with their fitness apps. The wearables revolution is changing the rules of sports: everybody feels the need to track information like miles, calories, heartbeats, comparing results with the ones of their favorite athletes (yes, there is a specific app for that). Sports teams are also adapting their strategies, using these products to improve performance during training sessions.
There is a very good reason if brands like Google (with Google Fit) and Apple (HealthKit and Health App) are investing in this sector. The wearables market is growing five-times faster than the smartphones revolution: 180 million units of wearable technology are expected to be sold by 2018.
THE WAY WE EXPERIENCE SPORT
Mobile for customers is a big opportunity, but for business can be a major economic threat. Teams and brands are facing one big challenge: customers are no longer restricted to experiencing a match live at the arena or played on TV. Digital media and mobile give you a better in-depth perspective, and that changes the way we live these kind of events. This trend affects both in-stadium and out-of-stadium experience, and companies need to adapt their strategies to use new technologies and connect with empowered customers.
How could they react to the match attendance dropping? Here are few strategies to survive the mobile shift:
- Experiential apps: almost every team has its own app, dedicated to hardcore fans and filled with exclusive content (sometimes accessible only with a premium account, just think about NBA Game Time). Sport is getting personal: social media and apps offer a behind the scenes look that humanize athletes, helping marketers to shape ‘one of us’ campaigns to engage customers.
- Smart broadcast: the era of ‘one-for-all’ content is over. With smart Tv and mobile devices every fan is able to shape a personal experience of the match, while it is happening. Broadcasting has become the front line of innovation, enhancing the viewing experience with new features to bring the fans even closer to the game. 3D screens, video mosaic, immersive devices like Oculus Rift and device interconnection are two examples of this exciting new frontier.
- Gamification: fantasy league is just the basic action for gamification tactics with sport. San Francisco 49ers football team is using one of the first indoor positioning systems in a stadium, to improve participation and trigger specific activities during the game. Thanks to beacons and push notifications, every fan can experience a personal map of the stadium, with different itineraries, discounts and location-based personal content.