Future of Sports
Chatting Sports Tech

Edition #9 – Smorgasbord

Checking Back On Old Editions For Changes And Updates

I dislike how little traditional media revisits past articles and predictions. Opinions and positions shouldn’t be static. When new information comes to light, we should reconsider old perspectives.

With that in mind, I’m going to periodically revisit old pieces to highlight what’s changed and add new information or tidbits originally left out.

Now you may be asking ‘Why is this edition called Smorgasbord?’ Great question, reader. Well, smorgasbord is defined as a “buffet offering a variety of hot and cold meats, salads, hors d’oeuvres, et.” When I was growing up, anytime my mother needed to clear out the fridge, she would call it ‘Smorgasbord Night.’ Clever marketing to get us excited about week old leftover ham.

Since I’m going to jump across past topics, I’m calling this the smorgasbord edition, in honor of my lovely mother.

Let’s dive in…

Edition 1 Super Bowl Special & Edition 1.5 Super Bowl Post-Mortem

  • NFL Media Rights: When the Super Bowl Post-Mortem was released, I mentioned the NFL was going to quickly sign new media deals and that the dip in Super Bowl viewership would have no impact. Well I’d say $105 billion over 11 years and increases from all existing media partners is a good outcome.
  • Issue with Nielsen Ratings: Ratings for sports are down across the board but could it be caused by the way Nielsen measures audience? Nielsen claimed no, rebuking an audit request but it does beg the question. I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this issue.
  • Correction on LiveLike: I spoke with someone at LiveLike after publishing the piece and realized I made a small mistake categorizing them as a VR company.  The company started in VR but when mass adoption of VR hardware never materialized, it pivoted more to real-time engagement. 
  • Bullish on AR/VR: That said, I’m still very bullish on the long-term potential of AR/VR. One reason? Facebook announced that 15% of its current org chart is working on solutions in the space. Another reason? The ability to simulate in-game action for training purposes. Here’s the NJ Devils using VR training.

Edition 2 Power of Community

  • Superfans: The community edition touched on building social+ companies, offering your customers community instead of a simple rewards program to build loyalty and why you should hone in on super fans per the pareto principle. This billboard article highlights the technologies enabling artists, creators and athletes to interact directly with their super fans as well as the economics behind it. 
  • Brand Love is Built on Emotion: Thought this was a good op ed in sports pro media reiterating many of the points raised in the community edition. Two specific quotes worth highlighting: 1) Brand love is built on emotions, not transactions; and 2) Brands need to understand the zeitgeist to build and grow human connections.
  • Community Thoughts From Twitter: Good notes from podcast guest Zoe Scaman around the idea that in social tribes, we seek a sense of togetherness and aligned passions. Meanwhile, here’s another thread explaining why soccer clubs are great examples of how to build communities at scale since there’s so many entry points to participate (buying merchandise, watching on tv, going to a game, etc.) 

Edition 3 Why Your Organization Should Pay Attention to the Fan Controlled Football League

FCF Updates: At the time Edition 3 was published, the FCF was only two weeks in but I made the argument there was serious staying power given the league didn’t copy the failed AAF and XFL models. With the season completed, we can point to a couple metrics illustrating the first season was a huge success.  Viewership increased from 735K in week 1 to 2.1M in week 5 while over 2K fans collectively invested $1M in team ownership. 

Edition 4 Future of Ticketing & Edition 5 Ten Ticketing Takes

Edition 4 discussed the potential for virtual seating to create new inventory and bring immersive experiences into the living room. No updates here – the technology is still being built by companies like Tru Spot

Some updates on the state of sports ticketing:

  • Rewarding Season Ticket Holders Despite Capacity Constraints: If you are a sports property and have been operating with limited capacity, you’ve probably faced the dilemma of how to prioritize fans when demand outweighs supplies. I thought this blog post had some good ideas but the starting point must be understanding who your fans truly are. And that requires using technology effectively. 
  • NFTs & Tickets: I mentioned how I was bearish on NFTs being attached to tickets except in unique situations. I also never mentioned the current high transaction costs with crypto (gas fees) which need to drastically decline to handle existing ticketing volume. That said, clearly there is an industry focus on bringing this idea to life, with SeatGeek in talks to roll out a prototype with the NFL and NBA. 
  • Breaking Up the Ticketmaster Monopoly?: Developing story worth monitoring – Several members of congress want to investigate Ticketmaster’s standing as a monopoly in the ticketing and live entertainment space, claiming damaging impacts to consumers. More to come.

Edition 6 Gamification

  • Robinhood: I mentioned how the financial services company uses digital confetti to gamify the act of buying stocks. Well, less than a week after publishing my piece, Robinhood made the choice to remove its digital confetti feature. As I hinted by labeling fans as ‘losers’, gamification can cover up actual risks behind a behavior. Sounds like Robinhood recognized the confetti was distracting from the company mission and decided to make significant design changes (that or they spun caving to political pressure).

Edition 7 Five on Fan Engagement

  • Fan Engagement & Sponsors: Since publishing, we spoke with the CEO of a ‘fan engagement’ company that intentionally brands itself as a sponsorship platform. Unprovoked, he echoed many of my concerns around fan engagement, including the definition being fungible and the importance of aligning sponsors with activations to drive fan conversion. His company has had recent success from sponsors bringing them directly into properties even if had previously been unsuccessful pitching that same property. The whole conversation speaks to the shifting balance of power from properties to sponsors.
  • Nike & Social Commerce: I wrote some thoughts here (published under David’s name due to a website quirk) why I love Nike’s decision to roll out an app specifically for women with a lot of fan engagement principles.  

Edition 8 The Gen Z Problem

  • Social Media & Challenges: I forgot to include how teams and leagues can utilize social media channels to engage Gen Z through fan challenges. One example? The NHL using Tik Tok and Instagram for an at-home skills challenge.
  • Millennials Killing Cable: Some more research and insights into how the 18-34 demographic has significantly lowered their live TV consumption, while 65+ remains fairly steady. Along the same lines, Gen Z places watching TV and movies way behind playing video games on a survey of entertainment options from Deloitte’s 2021 Digital Trends Survey. As a result, media networks are in the unenviable position of having to extract value from older consumers while adapting to changing consumption habits by Gen Z and young millennials. 
  • Creative Partnerships & Simulcasts: I used Fortnite NFL skins as an example of a creative partnership to garner Gen Z awareness and mentioned the NFL-Nickelodeon Simulcast for the Saints-Bears as a huge success. The NBA decided to aim higher, announcing a new MarvelCast for an upcoming Warriors – Pelicans game. Tune in on May 3rd. 

Until next time,

– Charles

The next edition will examine the Future In-Venue Experience

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