Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

The (Sports Marketing) World is Flat: Cultivating Your Audience

In TSMWIF on August 5, 2008 at 10:01 am

Seth Godin brings up an interesting point this morning that is applicable to the world of sports, especially the globally fragmented world of sports. Most sports feature a language all their own, a shorthand or secret code known to fans of the sport. But what if it is your first time watching a cricket match? Will you know the difference between and inning and an over? The result, and this still happens in the States with soccer, is that the announcers explain every little rudimentary detail of the game because they know somebody is watching the sport for the first time.

England's Stuart Broad courtesy of the Press Association

England's Stuart Broad courtesy of the Press Association

The result is that the long-time fans become frustrated because they want the deeper insight, not the top level stuff.  So as a media outlet, how do you satisfy both groups? Well, you aren’t going to be able to do it in the same broadcast, but today there are so many channels that can be used, this really shouldn’t be a problem at all. Here’s what I’d like to see:

1. At the beginning of the telecast, the broadcaster announces that fans tuning in for the first time should go to the broadcasters website where they have a comprehensive glossary of all the terminology of the sport. Repeat that announcement a couple of times during the telecast, or even run a crawl during halftime when your studio crew is doing analysis (don’t do it during the action, that will annoy the hardcore).

2. Have the announcers set up Twitter, Facebook or other social media accounts so that fans can learn or ask questions throughout the week.

3. If you have rights to a sport that features dozens (hundreds?) of games over a season, rebroadcast one during a non-peak time with enhanced graphics. For instance, have the action pause in the middle of a play and have a pop up box explain what happened or is about to happen.

4. The big events (Super Bowl, Champions League Final, Olympics, F1 races) are usually shown by broadcasters that have multiple channels (ESPN, Eurosport, etc.). Broadcast the event on two channels, giving fans a chance to watch an “advanced” broadcast for the experienced fan and a “basic” broadcast for the new fan. With a targeted outreach program to niche audiences (foreign fans, young fans, female fans, etc.) you could draw a sizeable audience for the “basic” broadcast who might not normally stick with the event otherwise. Eventually you’ll look to “sell up” these fans to your “advanced” broadcast. I could see where you might even get a different type of advertising partner for the different broadcasts.

Broadcasters pay a lot of money to become rights holders for these type of events. They should be doing more to cultivate their audiences and grow them, especially for niche sports. The sports should help with this, offering talent, increased access or other enhancements that will make following the sport easier for new fans. Working together the broadcaster and their content partners have a wealth of opportunity by using a variety of non-traditional means.

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