The last two years have brought change at an unprecedented pace for the sports industry, with digital development accelerating faster than perhaps at any point since the dot com boom.
When live events returned midway through last year it was a cause for celebration for all, but also a moment of reckoning as sport rights holders and organisers had to decide what innovations would remain and what would return to pre-Covid ways of operating.
At Joymo, we saw this first hand as teams, clubs and event organisers scrambled for high-quality streaming services to ensure events that would previously have been in-person only could still be viewed by passionate fans.
The world remains disrupted and sports rights remain fragmented but the scale of change has left its imprint on consumers and fans for the long-term. The societal shifts and increasingly digitised world have reinforced the importance of consumers/fans as the primary focus to ensure sustainability and future growth.
Consumption is shifting from large physical audiences to more remote, niche networks that are more engaged. When attendance at live events was impossible, fans looked online and developed digital communities to drive connections around their favourite teams and athletes.
The continued adoption of over-the-top (OTT) streaming options among consumers has fueled a dramatic rise in the number of platforms by which to consume sports content, at all levels of the sporting pyramid.
So, how can OTT streaming solutions help develop a passionate and engaged fanbase?
According to Nielsen’s recent global sports marketing report, across audiences, the general population has increased its multi-screen viewing activities (social media, texting, playing games, ordering food) by an average of 5% over the last year, with this percentage doubling to 10% among Gen Z. In total, 47% of the people who watch sports on TV or digital platforms simultaneously watch other live content, much higher than the general population (33%).
For rights holders this proves a number of things. Firstly, there have never been so many activities and pastimes competing for fans' attention.
Secondly, the growth of direct-to-fan streaming is inevitable and a strategy is essential. And, thirdly, you shouldn't expect that watching your live event is all that your fans want to do so you need to shape the product accordingly.
Key within any OTT roll-out is identifying and maintaining a dedicated first-party data strategy. This provides sports properties and media owners with the foundation they need to make authentic fan connections with timely and nuanced messaging.
This is a key part of Joymo’s approach. We give content creators full control of their content. You own the data and can utilise it as you wish. We will never profit from your data as some social media companies do.
That is not to say that utilising free social media platforms should not be part of a broader digital and marketing strategy that drives fans back to a paid-for owned and operated services as it's clear that video-based social media complements the live experience.
Engagement with video-based social media channels has grown as fans are eager to play a role in content creation. TikTok and Twitch are gaining on the traditional platforms (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram), posting respective usage gains of 30% and 21% between April 2020 and August 2021.
The increases continue to position these platforms as progressively strengthening outlets for both user-generated content and multi-screen interaction.
From a fan perspective, athletes have a higher potential of being able to establish human connections with fans than leagues, teams and venues and often have more followers.
According to the 2021 Nielsen Annual Marketing Report, 26% of avid sports fans who look to social media for sports news say that athletes are a great way to connect with brands and sponsors.
Read more on that here.
For sports rights holders, investment in both live and non-live content distribution will be a crucial step in meeting Gen Z fans where they want to consume content. The inclusion of athletes in the content marketing strategy creates a virtuous cycle that keeps both advertising partners and fans satisfied - maintaining revenues and reducing churn.