Every month, we're rounding up the best of the digital action in sport. Here's what made the headlines in March.

The rise and rise of esports

eSports, for the unfamiliar, is a form of sport where the primary aspects are facilitated by electronic systems; more often than not in the form an organised multiplayer video game competition. It has swiftly become a multi-million dollar industry and even been called the ‘fastest-growing and most-viewed sport in the US.’

10 years go, live eSports was watched by a few thousand avid fans. Now more than 100 million viewers now watch new video game play each month. The International, the annual world championship of Dota 2, was watched by 20 million people in 2014. The year before, 32 million logged in for the championship of Riot Games’ League of Legends - more than that year’s World Series and NBA Finals combined.

Rising prize money and lucrative sponsorships have helped propel eSport’s reputation and popularity; the sport is now reported to be attracting $325m from brand marketers looking for young audiences.

Several developments in the past month further highlighted the popularity of eSports:

  • Yahoo has joined a handful of media platforms competing to become the premier broadcaster and news source for eSports fans. It announced its new live streaming platform, Yahoo eSports, which will stream the five more popular games, with an accompanying news presence. Yahoo’s competition includes ESPN, whose eSports Vertical has seen it launch into competitive gaming coverage; Twitch, a dedicated and established gamer hub and streamer; and YouTube Gaming, a live on-demand YouTube channel dedicated to eSports.

  • The ‘Grand Final’ of the Fifa Interactive World Cup, (culminating in a final game between an English player and a Danish player) held in New York, took place at the end of March, and was broadcast live on Sky Sports

  • The UK Government announced that it would be backing ‘eGames’, dubbed the ‘Olympics for eSports’; an eSports tournament overseen by the newly established International eGames Committee that will run alongside the Olympics in Rio this year.

Apps in sport

Major League Baseball’s At Bat app emerged last month as the top grossing sports app in the US for the seventh year running. The app’s success lies in how well its highlights, news and statistics integrate with the format of baseball; with its three hour games and 162 game season creating a need for snappy stats and snippets of information..

In Europe, meanwhile, Olympic Lyonnaise is setting a precedent for apps tied in with connected stadiums.  Alongside the construction of its new, fully connected stadium (The Stade des Lumieres), the club is offering an in-stadium app, which will include food ordering and pick-up, additional video content and transport and navigation guides, tickets and a match countdown.

In an entirely different use of apps to assist in sporting events, The Health Ministry of Brazil is set to release an app dedicated to helping visitors to the Olympic Games in Rio this summer to recognise and keep track of the Zika virus. The app will assist in self-diagnosis, give directions to local health facilities and include an Olympic-themed quiz to test user’s knowledge on the disease.

Brand new badges

The US Soccer team has gone down a digital route in the revealing of their new crest. 10,000 mysterious packages were sent to current and former players and fans. The parcel included bespoke Google Cardboard virtual reality glasses, allowing recipients to watch videos containing instructions on how to open another part of the package, which revealed the new crest on a traditional scarf. They were then encouraged to share their experience via social media.

Incorporating digital as part of the unveiling of new badges and brandings could be the way forward for UK clubs and organisations. In creating an air of excitement and positioning the new badge as a treat or present for the fans by presenting it this way, they’ve alleviated some of the pressure of possible leaks, as in the case of Manchester City, whose match-day reveal was thwarted by the new designs getting out earlier.

Meanwhile, our client Aston Villa has announced and unveiled its new badge, created by SomeOne. The club followed in the footsteps of the Premier League by taking audiences through the new design concepts for its branding and the ideas behind them, as well as showcasing different ways it will be used.

For the lighter side of football club badges, check out Southampton’s ’badge announcement’ on April 1 as well as Zenit Saint Petersburg’s response to criticism of its current crest.

Social video in sport

Instagram announced last month the introduction of 60-second videos on its platform. Whilst Instagram had been popular with sports fans in allowing clubs and teams to publish behind-the-scenes snapshots, the previously 15-second video allowance was extremely limiting. Sports organisations can now isolate Instagram away from Snapchat and Vine and use Instagram for a new kind of video content; longer, with analysis and full shots.

In more limiting news (for user-generated content), however; the UK High Court ruled that reproducing eight seconds of a video constitutes a copyright infringement of the original content, as a result of a case brought against sports video sharing site Fanatix by the England and Wales Cricket Board and Sky. It has been called a ‘blow to social video.’

Other digisport developments:

 

Swansea City appoints Rippleffect as digital partner We are proud to confirm that Premier League football club Swansea City has appointed us as its new digital partner.
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DigiSport: February round-up Every month, we’re rounding up the best of the digital action in sport. Here’s what made the headlines in February.