Lessons learned: How teams are engaging fans during the lockdown
Last week I co-hosted the LSTN webinar series featuring Hannah Martin and Lenka Istvanova. Hannah is an England and GB Hockey player who will be competing in Tokyo 2021 and Lenka Istvanova is a digital sports consultant with Seven League where she works with brands such as FIFA, the ATP Tour and Sport England just to name a few.
Both have been busy during lockdown with Hannah launching her own Website and Lenka officially launching Upswing, a newsletter specifically created for women in the digital sport sector, by those working in it. You can sign up for Upswing here
The session was aimed around hearing the Athlete and Front Office point of view over how athletes are engaging their fans and maintaining their focus during the lockdown. If you weren’t able to attend I have expanded on the learnings I gained and hope to catch you live at our next session otherwise I hope to hear from you in the comments or on socials
Teams are in Retention, not Acquisition mode
Lenka kicked us off diving into the rapid shift sporting teams are undertaking as they focus on Retention, not Acquisition. Traditionally sporting clubs are looking to grow their existing fan base through acquiring a larger audience but since COVID19 many organisations are instead opting to strengthen their ties to existing fan bases. Simply put, consolidation is on the cards as teams recognise their core offering has fallen to the wayside.
“This isn’t an offseason; fans are still hungry and have an expectation to be served”
There’s a dramatic difference between the off-season and the situation we’re experiencing today. There’s a lot to look forward to at the end of a traditional season; even if built around the hope next season will be better. Many leagues will even have off-season transfers underway before all competitions have concluded.
COVID19 has robbed fans of the hopes and dreams of the next match, the next transfer, and the next what-if scenario that leads your team to the promised land, and now it's up to organisations to find a way to bridge the gap until players are on the pitch and fans return to the stands again.
What's Changed? Competition
Sports content has always been in direct competition with gaming as well as written, audio and video streaming services, but each of these industries has benefitted in the short term from COVID19. Twitch saw its hours watched jump 50% between March and April and a full 101% YOY. This is not to say these industries won’t have their own challenges with COVID19 but they haven’t faced the shift seen in traditional sports.
(Side Note: Great Article diving deep into Gaming’s advantages over sport and traditional media)
What's Been Tried so Far?
Legacy Content: One area rights holders have been exploring is the use of legacy content, something validated by the success of Michael Jordan’s Last Dance Documentary.
The 10 part documentary averaged 5.6 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN2, figures which compare to live NBA games on the network. Live Sport is clearly the most valuable product sports has on offer but the potential value of legacy content remains to be seen.
The Virtual Playing Field
The Premier League was quick to leverage other competitive playgrounds, rolling out the EPL Invitational in a matter of weeks. The tournament featured a player from each club playing in a FIFA20 tournament representing their club. The matches were shown on the premier league social channels with some matches even shown on Sky Sports and the BBC Website in the UK.
Since then we have seen even larger exhibition type events taking place with the recently announced “Battle of the Brits” taking place in the form of a six-day tennis tournament in London featuring the country’s top-ranked players. The event has been pulled together by Jamie Murray, Schroders and Amazon Prime Video and will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and live on Eurosport in Europe.
No one knows how the COVID19 situation will continue to unfold and if the proposed restart dates will be successful. But if play does stop again exhibition events will go a long way to keep fans fed until Sport returns fully.
As always thanks for reading and I’d love to discuss any of these points further. Just reach out to me on here or Twitter!
What engagement plays have you seen teams or leagues take on during the extended COVID19 break?