Modern sports teams are digital sports teams. Just like how modern sports fans are digital sports fans too. The sports industry is an industry that constantly changes and adapts to society's surroundings. Whether it’s social trends with memes, media, or platforms, technology for athletes or fans, it is always eager, and usually first, to evolve its practices.
The last few years, and the last 12 months especially, have brought about them a boom in technology trends. With TikTok getting over 315 million downloads in Q1 of 2020, making it the best quarter for any app, to smart workouts powered by your mirror, the rise and change of gaming and viewing within Esports, the ability to now identify digital fans, virtual stadiums- there’s really no slowing down.
And when you look at it from an industry perspective not only is the environment itself fast-paced, but so is its growth. Take Twitch for example, the video live streaming service now owned by Amazon. It has seen immense growth and amassed over 41.5 million viewers- a 26% increase year over year. At any given point, there are over 1.3 million people on Twitch on average. Twitch hasn’t just seen growth in viewership but also in who is using the platform- the streamers.
In 2019, Twitch became the official streaming partner for the NBA. In April 2020, the NFL agreed to exclusively stream one regular season globally on both Twitch and Prime Video. Twitch has co-streaming rights with the WWE, MLS, UEFA and others. More and more leagues and teams are recognizing the value that a streaming service like Twitch can provide to its fans, such as a community of engaged fans and viewers all with shared interests. Something 2020 desperately needed. So they jump on the trend to not only be in the “know” and the “now”, but also in a way, onboard the next or new generation of fans.
These giant sport leagues and leaders bring with them a following. In August 2020, the NBA saw an average of 416,865 unique viewers per game with around 1.1 million unique viewers watching the championship game. The NFL saw that between September and December there was an average of 28,000 - 43,000 viewers per game- a 4.3% bump in US viewership for the platform.
So what’s being done to maintain that digital audience and engage them so that they return? At the end of the day - or stream we should say - those unique views are all that they are. Views. While impressive, and typically above average, they’re essentially anonymous views. And that can be said for any platform where followers, users, viewers, participants are anonymous. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch - these platforms own the data on your fans and use it for their own monetary gain.
So yes, these platforms and digital trends are great for any industry with a large and engaged following/audience. But what else? The content you’re creating, streaming, publishing- what is it doing for your organization and your internal team's goals besides generating engagement and/or followers? Those views, those likes, those comments - they are all extremely valuable, but only if they can be monetized for your benefit.
More often than not, boils down to whether they’re identified fans or if they are just digital fans. The challenge here is not to make more engaging content- you are already doing a great job at that. The challenge here is to find ways to utilize your content and platform in a way that actually lets you learn about the fans engaging with you. In 2021, don’t settle for anonymous engagement. Utilize and access your fan data to influence smarter marketing decisions.