For years, rightsholders have agonized over dwindling fan bases – what happened to the fan’s? How do we fill up our stadium like the good ol’ days? Can we offer entertainment to add to the experience?
Let’s spend a moment considering how we got to this point. Did we fall out of love with our favorite sport, or team? Did the game become boring? Have the standards of play dropped? Did we get old? Or have our worlds just changed. What has happened?
Traditionally, we supported our favorite team in a “linear” manner: we grew up watching sport live, we knew the names of the players’, bought a replica jersey, read the team list and match preview in the newspaper, went to home games, queued to park, queued for a ticket, bought a match programme (get a few signatures & collect them!), queued for a beer, queued for a boerie roll, queued for the toilet. It was all accepted, part and parcel of the day out. Watching rugby at Kings Park in Durban was better than religion, sure we watched away games on TV, but it just wasn’t the same. We were that committed.
Over time, modern day life has impacted this approach. When once upon a time we sent a fax on Friday and were comfortable with a response sometime the next week, or dialed a number to have a conversation, or didn’t think about how we wouldn’t talk to anyone but those in the car when we drove to Durbs. We bought the sports memorabilia, a signed jersey framed and proudly displayed in our “man cave”. Our lives have become busier, we have all been captured by that little device in your hand. Yes, the one you just checked. We now like to communicate on instant time, on a number of different devices, on different platforms and all at once. And our attention span has decreased in direct proportion: we can do a lot of things in a short space of time, but just not for too long.
To some degree, certain sporting codes have adapted to our changing world, with shortened versions keeping pace with modern day times. T20 cricket for me is a good example – there is action on and off the field, plenty of runs and wickets, you can still wear your team shirt and shout & scream your support, have a few beers and a boerie roll. All in just over four hours. Short & Sweet. Magic. This is the (R)evolution of the Rightsholder.
And so we see over time the slow erosion of the “linear” manner in which we used to support our favorite team. Looking fondly over our shoulder, and reminiscing with old friends, we miss it, and we wonder why it doesn’t have the same appeal. Truth being that it just doesn’t work anymore. The whole going to the game vibe holds limited appeal, it’s too long. The younger audience wants things now, in their own way, and in their own time.
Social Media has played its part in shifting the goal posts in terms of how we engage with our team, players, and other individuals we look up to. It’s now “non-linear” as we have access to so much more than our favourite team, it’s literally the whole world, and the thoughts and opinions of more than just sports personalities. We can now get much closer to our hero’s by having direct access to them, whilst at the same time allowing them to influence our behavior. So we don’t have to go to the game to access our hero’s, get a glimpse of them, stand around waiting for that elusive (but highly prized) autograph. Now we can “follow” them, make “friends” with them, “chat” with them, get so close to them that it’s almost personal. This is the (R)evolution of the audience.
In this world, access to information is the key: second, third and sometimes fourth screen are standard. Viewing platforms, and patterns, have changed with the likes of YouTube, TikTok and Meme’s now being ubiquitous. It has resulted in the erosion of the value of “linear”, traditional broadcasting, as pay-per-view, OTT and livestream options have become the de facto standard. Why pay for something when you can Google it and livestream it? Once again, the (R)evolution of the traditional audience, and brands that have paid big bucks for access to them via this medium, has shifted. This is the (R)evolution of viewership.
And our connected world has seen the rise, and rise, of eSports. Indeed a whole new category of sports has been spawned: eSports. Once the domain of the stereotypical computer geek (think: nerdy, unhygienic, unpopular, basement dwelling, wasting time playing “computer games”!) now one of the fastest growing sports categories in the world, it’s even being considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games. We see the establishment of Leagues, Clubs, Tournaments, the best players in the world, the largest of which are non-traditional fantasy games: they are not even real! More to it, you can watch on dedicated digital channels like Twitch, listen to the players talk while they are playing, interact with them by sending them in-game messages, show support by following them, make financial contributions by subscribing to their channels & making in-game purchases. Access and support is global. And it’s always on. This is the (R)evolution of the game.
It has taken brands some time to come to grips with the eSport market, think endemic (PC related brands) and non-endemic (mainstream brands) and how non-endemic brands have had to adjust their approach to gain credibility, acceptance & buy-in of the audience.
Cue Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, NFT’s. Born and bred in the digital economy, perfectly aligned to the modern-day consumer, these are the real game changers. As they impact the economics of our daily lives, they shape the way in which we interact. The sooner rightsholders establish an understanding of this segment, and how they operate, the sooner they can augment their “linear” marketing and merchandise and grow and engage their fan base with “non-linear” relevant and appealing digital activities. Sport is perfectly positioned for that. This is the Digital (R)evolution of Sport.
– Richard Van der Schyff, MD of Flash Sponsorship