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Understanding the new social sports fan

Marketing Leader, Media & Entertainment Industry, Analytics, IBM

From armchair sports fans to diehard fans in stadium seats, sports aficionados everywhere are going through a metamorphosis. They no longer stare at television screens or sit in the bleachers transfixed on the live action. Instead, they now experience the game simultaneously through their mobile devices, creating new opportunities for sports teams, sports broadcasters and marketers to engage directly with these actively involved consumers.

http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/sites/default/files/social-sports-blog.jpgSocial participation in sporting events

Mobile devices provide the means to connect socially with fellow fans, friends and colleagues. Bad-mouthing the opposing team and debating strategies and game plans by favored teams can build social connections. Whether you’re making a statement on Facebook or quoting player stats at a sports bar among your friends, the second screen is where you do your homework. And, fans are not only searching more on mobile devices, but they are also doing real-time searches during the game.

Along with this uptick in fan engagement through social networking and mobile devices comes increased advertising opportunities. A recent article in The New York Times highlights how Bud Light is upping its focus on real-time digital advertising during sporting events by partnering with Google to market premium content to fans through its Full Season Football program. The goal is to reach fans at relevant moments. And major social networks, such as Facebook, are offering similar programs such as its Social Clusters.

Firmly connected to their social networks during the game, many fans strive to be the first to broadcast cool content and have their voice heard. But many would prefer a social network that is exclusively for fans versus ranting and raving about the ups and downs of the game on Facebook, where the audience is mixed.

Access to a captive market

These behavior changes create abundant moments to reach fans, right when they’re most engaged. For example, Globo, the largest Latin American television broadcaster, enriched the World Cup experience for 200 million soccer fans across Brazil. Globo achieved a 71 percent rise in fan engagement, gave fans a way to engage with each other and even provided commentators live insights on what fans were talking about. Game commentators used those insights to incorporate fan sentiment into what they were saying about the game at that moment. The social app was so successful, Globo now uses it to engage fans in everything it broadcasts—they’ve even found soap opera fans to be especially engaged.

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