In our world of on-demand content, decades’ worth of media is always at our fingertips. With so much entertainment competing for our time, money and attention, our expectations of a ‘viewing experience’ is rapidly changing. Amidst this new landscape, the question that many people in the sports industry are asking themselves is: how can live sports events stay relevant?
The simple answer, according to Sebastian Coe, President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), is innovation. Coe states: “We need brave, bold ideas that engage fans in events and across a range of platforms. The only thing stopping us is our imagination and the courage to try something new.”
Create a ‘spectacle’ with sports events
Sports events are gradually embracing the ‘fan experience’ as more than solely observing sport, and starting to combine sports events with other forms of entertainment. The Super Bowl is a great example of this, and its 2015 halftime show attracted a global audience of 118.5 million viewers. The whole world tuned in, not for the sport alone – which in general is popular mainly in the USA – but for the whole spectacle of the event.
The Super Bowl’s consideration of the spectator experience and strive to create a ‘show’ as well as a sports performance has paid off. Anticipation for this year’s event is already high, with a 30-second television advert during the game reportedly costing at least $5 million.
Benjamin Garot, Event Manager of Sport Plus Conseil, explains the trend: “Entertainment is now a major aspect of sport events and is the key to perfecting the consumer experience. There’s no longer a conflict between entertainment shows and sports competition; they’re merging.”
Engage with sports fans online
Another way sports events can add value for their customers is through digital media and engagement with fans. Publicity and social media activity is now an essential component in managing sports events — a 3-hour long event can trend on social media for three months if community managers are able to keep up engagement. Investment in digital marketing (and community management specifically) can also help sales of tickets, by building anticipation, and keep long term engagement with the sports event.
In December, students of emlyon business school MSc in Sports Industry Management had the opportunity to put these ideas into practice when they worked with Sport Plus Conseil to organise the All Star Game in Paris. The students handled the community management, building a strategy around the event and sharing backstage secrets with followers on social media. After its success, Sports Plus Conseil will be prioritising social media for future events.
However, creating a spectacle around sports events and engaging with fans on social media must not be at the expense of the sport itself. The reason we love sports is because of the camaraderie of supporting a team or athlete, and the primal emotions of triumph and failure. What really matters are the athletes.
Sports events have been part of our history since the early Olympic Games in Ancient Greece. Amy Howe, COO of Ticketmaster North America, thinks there will always be a place for live events: “there’s not another form of entertainment that delivers the [same] experience and joy”.