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Sports & The Second Screen

Social media was created for sports fans.

Watching games doesn’t feel complete without interacting digitally with friends and other fans, checking other game scores, and getting real-time updates. With 83% of sports fans claiming to use social media during games, Twitter has become the new corner bar. Unfortunately, as a result, the second screen revolution is killing attendance at stadiums, arenas, and ballparks.

Over the past decade, fans at home have enjoyed technological improvements—bigger TVs, dedicated channels (ex. NFL RedZone) smart phones, tablets, and better camera angles—that make the game experience second-to-none from the comfort of your couch. The digital experience for fans not attending is starting to become the preferred experience, and teams have not been taking the time to focus more on the people who want to attend games in person by giving them the access and entertainment they want. If teams took the effort to provide the digital experience, and updates, while fans are at the game, they could provide fans the ultimate experience. While fans gain a better experience, teams can bring in audiences and drive sales and fan engagement to build loyalty.

Above all, teams must embrace the ubiquity of social media and encourage game attendees to use it. A ‘digital center’ in a stadium could feature large screens displaying prominent tweets, Facebook conversations, and pictures from other fans discussing the game or team. Luxury suites could truly live up to their name by including tablets on which fans could track their fantasy teams or stay in the loop with relevant social conversations. Stadiums could even consider maintaining interest during stoppages of play by displaying influential, humorous, or helpful content on the Jumbotron.

A team’s goal should be not merely to get people to the game, but also to encourage them to engage digitally—both to keep them happy and to push conversations about the team. Fans would be thrilled with the chance to have an insightful tweet or post of theirs reach the Jumbotron later in the game. They would love the ability to follow other games being played simultaneously.  Instead of being bored during timeouts, they would relish the chance to share their experiences—and teams would relish the additional chatter about them.

The NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars have taken a step in this direction with the recent launch of a ‘Fan Cave’ in their stadium. This center showcases big-screen TVs showing other concurrent games, recliners, state-of-the-art Wi-Fi service, and 12 tablets that enable fans to surf the net. Unfortunately, the Jags—and all other teams—are still overlooking critical factors. This center would be improved by encouraging fans to engage digitally in ways that would promote conversations about their game and make fans feel closer to each other.

Essentially, teams should strive for a seamless integration between the digital and physical fan experiences. Fortunately, sports fans have enthusiasm that most brands wish their consumers had. Fandom is frequently a 24/7 experience that doesn’t respect boundaries. That’s good news for everyone.

Image: Flickr

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