Not too long ago, the fan experience for a sports enthusiast was relatively simple. You attended a game or watched at home on television or listened on the radio. You rooted for your favorite team and your favorite players. And you escaped the realities of your own life in this larger-than-life world of sports. But now, with rising technology and the obsession with millennials, the sports industry is faced with a number of rising challenges.

“There was once a pretty good formula that worked in sports marketing,” said Jill Gregory, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, NASCAR at the Sports Marketing Symposium in New York City. “We advertised, we sold tickets, and we made sure our drivers were accessible in our case, but that has kind of turned upside down. Now you also need to be digital experts and social experts, you have to hope your athletes build their brands, you have to be aware of social issues and how your fan base feel about that.”

“More importantly, you have to listen to the fans,” she added. “There are some really good ideas and there are things you should probably not do.”

Experiencing the Sporting Event Live

As technology rises, it has become more of a challenge to get fans to experience live sporting events outside of the comfort of their own homes or via their mobile applications.

“For us it is all about how to attract people to Fenway Park,” said Adam Grossman, chief marketing officer, Boston Red Sox. “There is still value in coming there and we believe once you get there you will become a fan, particularly if you are a child.

“But getting people to the facility is much harder than it was in the past. The idea that they can have so much accessibility at the palm of their hands, from the brand side and the team side and the access to getting behind the scenes, makes filling up the stadium more of a challenge.”

Rising Technology

Since many of the fans connect with their fans on social media, playing a professional sport just does not suffice anymore. Now any athlete in any sport must stay current in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to remain attractive to the younger sector.

“One of the challenges I think we all share is how to maintain and deliver against your core fans; the traditionalists and the purists, but you also have to feed the interest of that younger fan,” said Gregory. “And, for us, it is through content and becoming storytellers. Through our digital and social offerings we changed our entire marketing strategy, moving away from the traditional 30-second spots to a more digital and social focus.”

“We still do television, but we must increase our activities in these social and digital initiatives,” she added.

Sports is Becoming More About Social

“Just the way people experience the venue has so dramatically changed that we literally have to double our wi-fi capacity every two years because the data,” said Mike Stevens, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, New York Giants. “These are the young viewers who want to let their friends know what they are doing, that they are at the game, and I don’t think this is the older generation. So, just the experience of watching a game in person is now more of an extension of social media.”

“First and foremost, we must remember that sports is entertainment, an arena where families can spend time together and enjoy their favorite sports instead of focusing on all the negativity that can be out there,” said Katie O’Reilly, chief marketing officer, Philadelphia 76ers. “Even in this more hands-on world, the goal should be to have fun at any age. Unfortunately, though, it is just not that simple anymore.”

[Images courtesy of Marc Berman]


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