With Autumn truly setting in, we've taken a look at the digital, social and marketing innovations surrounding key sporting events this September.
Ryder Cup review
The 41st Ryder Cup has dominated the sporting headlines for much of the latter half of September, with Europe and the USA going head-to-head in Minnesota. When compared with the award-winning digital practices of the likes of Wimbledon, however, Ryder Cup’s shortcomings are clear.
Ryder Cup organisers backtracked on a bizarre social media ban for both players and spectators at their last competition, and this year still refuse to embrace social to engage with fans - the official Ryder Cup Twitter account astoundingly tweeted only once during the entire duration of the tournament (and retweeted other accounts three times).
Putting social aside, there is some evidence of Ryder Cup organisers innovating digitally. A newly optimised site brought in 6m unique visitors, and a redesigned app led to a record 3.3m live video views, up 250% from 2014 (this massive percentage increase may point to the poor online coverage in 2014 as much as the strengths of 2014’s efforts).
Meanwhile, Turner Sports and Google Street View teamed up to create the Hazeltine Explorer, an explorable 360-degree interactive tour of the Hazeltine golf course, with relevant data, custom elevation graphs, course-specific historical moments and integrated video highlights.
Manchester City have debuted their virtual reality CityVR app for Oculus, which allows fans to view highlights and watch from different corners of the pitch, as well as access to player information and statistics to complement the experience. The top-flight club have also invested in robotics, partnering with Chinese humanoid robotics firm UBTECH to bring “never before seen content and experiences to fans”. Whilst it’s unclear exactly how this will manifest, this is definitely one to watch.
The different ways that all 20 of the current Premier League clubs have celebrated on Twitter when their teams score a goal has been looked into by The Online Rule. The use of ready-made gifs to announce goals are notably common with 12 clubs using them, and another four using images. /missing out the official Premier League hashtags and exact time of the goal, however, are pointed to as common failures. Ranger’s Robert Boyle has also (separately) looked into how teams announce their starting line-ups.
Manchester United’s Twitter account has risen to prominence with the biggest growth in followers and now sits as the most-followed club in the Premier League, according to Digital-Football.com. Result Future Sport’s analysis of the Football League, meanwhile, reveals Bolton Wanderers to have the strongest digital reach, with Charlton Athletic and Millwall FC in silver and bronze positions.
On a lighter social media note, Tottenham Hotspur have been praised for their quick, humorous response to a fan asking them to sign him, showing that sometimes the spontaneous content is met with the most enthusiasm from fans.
Can the NFL utilise digital?
The NFL season kicked off last month, amidst concerns that the games, typically over three hours long, are too lengthy to keep TV ratings up in a world where fans can simply check the score and watch key points via social media or mobile without having to sit in front of a television for so long.
Twitter beating out Facebook and Amazon to the rights to live stream NFL was much-publicised last year, and an impressive over two million people watched the first Thursday Night Football game on the social network. The live stream was widely hailed as a success (Twitter stock was up four percent following the stream) and praised for being a high-quality feed, and it has been pointed out that this could be an experimental step into digital for the NFL, before it produces a wider digital plan.
College-level football, meanwhile, is taking a step into virtual reality, with Fox Sports and LiveLike live-streaming the game between Ohio State and Oklahoma in VR. Viewers were able to switch between camera perspective from five different cameras placed around the stadium.
Pro Evolution Soccer v Fifa
The two reigning champions in football video games, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) and EA Sports’ Fifa have long been rivals in the sports video game market. This battle for the top spot is only heating up, with the increasing popularity and financial backing of eSports leading to more and more professional gamers.
PES, traditionally the challenger brand, recently secured deals with a number of top-flight clubs as well as the rights to Euro 2016, making it more of a contender where Fifa has traditionally had a much larger marketing budget spurring on its loyal fanbase, many of whom purchase the updated Fifa every year (the game sold over 2.5 million copies last year, matched only by Adele’s most recent album in the ERA Entertainment Charts). Fifa have responded by upping their marketing once again, with a three-year sponsorship deal with the Premier League and giving fans the choice of whom should replace the traditional cover star of the game, Lionel Messi (now used by PES).
A million stream Andy Murray
Over a million tennis fans watched Facebook’s live stream of Andy Murray’s charity event, Andy Murray Live. Managed by online video platform Grabyo, Murray played a three-set match against Grigor Dimitrov, followed by a doubles match with his brother Jamie against Dimitrov and Tim Henman. This sets a precedent for streaming not just official sports games, but a multitude of charity and entertainment sporting events. Grabyo’s CEO stated: “Global sports stars have a direct connection with their audience on Facebook, which makes them a valuable channel for content distribution.”
Other September DigiSport developments: