On Tuesday we attended one of the key events in the sports business calendar; The Sports Performance Data and Fan Engagement Summit in London.
Boasting some of the most influential senior professionals in European sport, #SportsDataLondon included speakers from global sporting brands like the NBA and worldwide broadcasting disruptors Facebook and Twitter. Speakers discussed how data and content can be utilised to engage with one of the most crucial stakeholders in any sporting organisation, the fans.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the first day of presentations:
From identifying new methods of communications with fans, to finding ways of getting fans into your stadium earlier on matchdays, arguably the key recurring theme of the first day of presentations discussed how data can be used to disrupt traditional fan behaviours.
With innovative case studies from the European Tour – where data is used to decide which communication methods are best to engage with families and a younger generation, as well as increase the participation in casual golfers – to Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, who are “using data to break behaviours” in persuading fans who have become accustomed to a set matchday routine to arrive at the stadium earlier.
“We’re moving towards being an entertainment company, with golf as the platform” references Michael Cole, CTO of the European Tour, echoing the sentiments of many of the other speakers. To break the routine of traditional fan behaviour, the use of data in sporting organisations is reflected in the traditional attitude of fans – moving them away from the paper ticket stubs and last-minute rushes through the turnstiles to a more convenient, enjoyable experience where fans want to get to the venue early.
As the NBA’s Senior Director, Marketing, Brianne Ehrenkranz explained that to really engage European fans with what is still a predominately American sport, data has been used to make the off-the-court experience local, albeit on a global scale.
By creating content that demonstrates players engaging with fans, half-time competitions and behind the scenes footage, fans can feel closer to their team and favourite player even if the content is being seen on the other side of the world.
This is a similar strategy to the one adapted by the European Tour, where the content created is moving away from just being about the sport, to focusing more heavily on the athletes and fan-generated content. By introducing humour – for example letting children interview the athlete – and emotion – promoting any charitable initiatives into the athlete’s personality – the European Tour has seen an increase of more than 20% in youth participation.
Blockchain is on the radar for many sports professionals. Will this become a new currency to negotiate broadcasting rights? Will governance be impacted and payments to athletes protected? Can blockchain even be used for ticketing? It’s an interesting debate, and one that right now has no defined answer.
“We need to separate the noise and let the speculators settle down” commented Theo Luke, Director Sports Partnerships at Twitter. Theo has a point. Right now, there isn’t the clarity – and just as importantly, the available data – on how blockchain can be introduced and scaled to the level that sports professionals would need to see before committing to a serious strategy.
Despite the lack of direction, it’s not something to be passed over. Instead, it could be argued that sports organisations simply need to identify the key data to establish how blockchain can impact the long-term future of the sporting industry.