Chief Experience Officer of Accenture Interactive, leading our global teams to boldly reimagine experiences across industries and markets.
Chances are you are a sports fan of some sort. Sports lie at the forefront of culture, and aside from matters of family, love and religion, little else raises more passion on a global scale. It is the ultimate uniter, bringing together people of all races, ages and perspectives. Despite the revered position sports has in our lives, the fan experience remains largely unchanged since the times of the gladiators.
As new norms are being created for how we live, work and play, there’s an opportunity to transform the overall sports fan experience. While sports fans remain committed to watching their favorite teams compete on the field — mostly from home — fans desire more than the action happening in play.
The sports obsession has trickled into my workplace, too. Accenture ambitiously partners with many leading sports organizations to help them progressively evolve their fan engagement — from established channel ESPN, which is exploring new ways to engage fans, to startup REVEL Moments, which is attempting to bridge the gap between athletes and fans.
Working with these organizations has uncovered a few challenges with fan experiences that stand out to me:
• Stale sports media formats.
MORE FOR YOU
• Fans as passive observers.
• Tension in the world of sports around the universal challenge of social and environmental sustainability.
Let’s unpack these.
1. There needs to be a better way to connect athletes and fans.
An internal study we did last year revealed that sports fans most desire an opportunity to get to know their favorite teams and athletes — from gaining behind-the-scenes access to their lives and understanding what makes them tick to hearing their untold stories.
ESPN is already doing that, having recognized that meaningful ongoing engagement is the future of fan loyalty. Beyond enhanced live sports broadcasting, ESPN’s recently launched Edge Innovation Center, which Accenture is partnering on, is looking to create high-end consumer-facing products and to develop sports fan experiences tailored to the future. Minute Media, a digital sports media company, is another great example that is powered by social content created by fans for fans.
In speaking to athletes, it turns out they want the same thing: a better way to intimately connect with fans and to be able to share and project their authentic selves beyond the athlete/hero we perceive on TV.
Today, the path to connecting with fans in this way is disparate. In mainstream media, where clicks and views are the ultimate currency, athletes are being pressured like never before to discuss controversial topics regarding their performance, that of their colleagues, and the competition. This “clickbait” focus on performance and competition has made it difficult for athletes to discuss and share with their fans topics that are most important to them and those that transcend the field or court.
A humanizing movement is underway, led by the actions of athletes like Naomi Osaka and Marcus Rashford, to resist traditional approaches and create their own narratives. Athletes like LeBron James are beginning to use their platforms to talk about topics they want to discuss like social justice and racial equality.
2. When it comes to fan engagement, lean on the wisdom of crowds.
There are plenty of other markets that call upon the wisdom of crowds such as Lego, which created a platform and community for fans to share their creations. Lego can choose to turn those ideas into a real Lego set to be sold to the public, and the creators are rewarded. We can take this approach to sports and find ways of engaging fans while creating better and more popular formats as a result.
Every passionate fan has their own view on their team and which players should make the starting lineup. They’re also confident that their picks would lead to success, as anyone who has spent time in a bar or pub pre-game can attest.
Some leagues and teams are already testing this concept. The FCF (Fan Controlled Football) is a professional football league in the U.S. where real games are played in a high-tech studio arena and livestreamed. Fans join a team and can set rules, draft players and call the plays.
Of course, we would need to be mindful about protecting both sporting integrity and the authority of coaches. But perhaps it’s time to democratize some of the decision-making in sports and allow fans to have input into what happens on the field.
3. Live sporting experiences should focus more on sustainability.
While we all love the fun and passion of sport, that doesn’t mean the industry is free from the same responsibilities of other major industries in becoming more sustainable and protecting our planet.
How can we address the waste which typically needs to be sent to landfills after big stadium games? Could more be done to sustainably source biodegradable packaging? It’s not an impossibility. Our agency worked together with other businesses to help develop an initiative for Super Bowl 2020 in Miami, which focused on phasing out 99% of single-use plastic items, replacing them with recyclable aluminum cups. These cups are now used during regular season Miami Dolphins games. Aluminum cups are just one example. What else can we do to make the sport more planet-friendly?
More humanity. More engagement. More joy. A healthier planet. Let’s reimagine fandom!
Sports are important in society because people are passionate about sports. Fan attitudes and behaviors quickly trickle beyond sports and start to affect other domains and industries. As we reimagine the future of fandom, a great opportunity exists to bring more joy, purpose and impact to the world that will have repercussions way beyond the sports industry.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
Go to Source
Author: Olof Schybergson, Forbes Councils Member