The Power of the Fan
A Panel on Sports & eSports, Fandom, Media & Data
by Alvaro Marquez, Executive Creative Director
Connecting perspectives to enrich engagement
Historically it’s been the teams who have rallied and unified fandom, crystallizing a sense of identity and belonging that spanned across generations –embodying pride, passion and authenticity into a single idea, a football team, a neighborhood, a family.
As traditional sports increasingly become more and more digital (players wearing sensors and generating rich performance data driving the outcomes of the business, optimizing their game and training routines) eSports are at the same time steadily gaining bigger audiences and driving fans to substantial events in large stadiums in the real world –especially in China, Malaysia and Singapore. The digital and the physical realms seem destined to meet, merge, diverge and converge once again. What’s physical is digital is physical.
In such a shifting landscape and splintered ecosystem; do media broadcasters and traditional sports right-owners still have a say when mediating such relationships, or does that dynamic now sit in Silicon Valley?
Similar motivations, different ways of interacting
To unpick such interesting industry dynamics, identify dependencies and opportunities for innovation we require a multidimensional approach. That’s why we invited some friends and family (and clients and peers) to exchange points of view and experiences in an open roundtable discussion at our Method studio in Shoreditch.
Robert Bound, Culture editor and radio host at Monocle magazine and Monocle 24 Radio, guided us through a passionate panel discussion and provocative set of questions that laid bare our panelists different approaches to customer engagement and contrasting understanding about who the fan really is, what they care about and how to be relevant for them.
Our panel consisted of Juan Barón, Chief Digital Officer of the Ringier Group (publisher of the iconic Swiss tabloid Blick newspaper) Benoit Pagotto, Head of Marketing at Fnatic (the world’s largest eSports organisation) Simon Farrant, VP of Marketing for Perform group (DAZN, also known as the Netflix for live sports) and of course myself, Alvaro Marquez representing Method.
Platform Thinking, Personal Data, and Open Relationships
After a passionate panel discussion, everybody seemed to reach a similar conclusion; it’s ultimately because of the fans that this industry exists and thrives — whatever the team, whatever the sport (or eSport), whatever the platform or distribution channel, online, offline or broadcast — authenticity and passion are still at the core and will not get old, no matter how technologically advanced we seem to think we are.
Ultimately, people spot fake fast and are quick to keep teams and players honest. To briefly highlight the salient points of the panel and by way of summary, here’s a short edit for your reference:
It’s a game of thrones (and audiences) and winter is coming
The ever-increasing presence of Amazon, Google and Facebook as content delivery channels in their own right mean that traditional media brands must quickly review their digital strategies and adapt to an equivalent platform approach to establish new positions of relevance for their audiences. Obviously the revenue models also need to be evolved fast while accepting that advertising, in the traditional sense of digital impressions, banner placement and viral videos on social media, is pretty much dead.
eSports star killed the football star
Forget ivory towers and convoluted PR relationships. Nowadays having direct and unmediated 1:1 connection between players and their fans is where it’s at. Athletes are their own representatives and Snapchat and Instagram have become the new TV.
An interesting thing happens nowadays when fans are becoming the new eSports team players and stars scouted from around the world, whatever the age or geographical location given. Compared to old times when it was rather impossible to play for Real Madrid if you were a little fan in Jakarta, nowadays such examples are commonplace, driving an even stronger relationship with teams and stars alike.
Expect all experiences to be hyper-tailored within the next 10 years
It will be literally impossible not to have a bespoke, unique and personalized product or service experience working for us. Filter bubble, you say? You haven’t seen anything yet. Compared to today, where we’re going looks like the whole world was made to meet our individual needs and thought through to suit our convenience. Also, don’t expect younger digitally-native audiences to ‘grow-up’ and become traditional media consumers. The expectation today is to have the same level of connection and interaction as users get on Twitch.TV as a basic benchmark. Media brands have to engage on their terms or be rendered irrelevant. As Benoit from Fnatic said: “Dinosaurs are dying, and we don’t care”… In contrast to such an evolutionary hard stop, our own Matt Millington put it nicely in another post related to Retail and Commerce : “Not all dinosaurs died: some evolved, grew wings, and learned to fly.”
Got thoughts or ideas to discuss? Connect with Alvaro here
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