Sports Technology

Creating a Fan Experience that Goes Beyond the Game

Overview In a year where stadiums and arenas were fan-free, viewers at home craved more of connection to the sports they love. Leaders from the NHL, WNBA and WWE joined us at the all-digital CES 2021 to explain how their respective leagues are leveraging technology to connect with fans outside of games and events.

In a year where making personal connections was harder than ever, the sports world adapted content and engagement strategies to break through screens and reach their fans.
Esports and gaming offered a platform where sports enthusiasts could be part of the action. But for live sports, it also was not the end. Technology advancements allowed teams and sports organizations to not just keep current fans entertained and involved but also encourage new sports fans to participate and enjoy the world of sports.

 

Expanding to the Second Screen

Playing in the Summer meant that in 2020, the WNBA was at risk of losing an entire season. Instead, the league adapted a bubble system where they not only successfully played out their season, but also saw a 68% year over year increase in viewership. In addition to traditional tv hosted games, Twitter and Facebook also streamed select games, providing a new channel for fans.

But this season, engaging fans had to go beyond just getting the game to them. For the WNBA, this meant securing the second screen of the viewer. The WNBA app encourages the user to engage with game by tapping to cheer. This season, there were 140 million recorded taps and an 85% year-over-year increase in average weekly downloads. The app has real time data integration and creates awareness around the game and a competitive atmosphere.

Cathy Engelbert, WNBA Commissioner, sees this engagement method expanding, saying, “second screen experience is going to be something we all are going to have to live with going forward and innovate around.”

To connect with our fans, we made sure that when we weren’t playing, we were putting out tons of content on every digital platform imaginable, creating new content and engaging fans.

Gary Bettman
Commissioner, NHL

Data, Data and More Data

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman knows that new and younger fans of the sport are interested in connecting with players on and off the ice.

Bettman explained, “They also want to know about the players, they want to know more about what life is like, they want to know more about what leads you to the point of putting on your game or event, so we strive very hard to give them new touchpoints.”

Striving to stay authentic, the league had to find a way to adapt the technology without changing the sport to fit the tech. One of the ways the NHL is quenching this thirst for information is investing in new puck and player tracking technology and increasing the number of viewpoints that the viewer can access.

When the NHL adopted a two-bubble system in 2020, they had to turn the stands into televisions, and bring in the viewers at home. This was accomplished by bringing in more camera angles then ever before and tracking player and puck movements throughout the game.

These new data touchpoints and game footage were able to be broken down in real time, making the game more accessible to casual and new fans. While attending games live provides an emotional connection like no other, this ability to take in more and more data to share with fans has allowed the NHL to bring fans further into the fold at a time when they had to stay away.  

 

Access Content Anytime, Anywhere

Unlike most sports leagues, the WWE is doesn’t have a season or set schedule, they are 365-day-a-year source of entertainment. Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer, WWE, credits a multi-platform approach for the WWE’s success in staying connected with fans.

“for WWE our content strategy is critical,” she said.

Going beyond the linear paid television content, which is still a major pillar in their strategy, the WWE has a huge presence on streaming and social platforms. The league is the 5th most viewed channel on YouTube and the 2nd most followed sports channel on TikTok. Throughout the pandemic, the WWE continued to create content and used their wide range of platforms to deliver them to the fans.

“I think it’s really important from our perspective to reach fans whenever, wherever, however, they want to consumer content,” McMahon said.

This included investing more documentary type content for their streaming platforms, sharing historical and long form clips via social media, and increasing the type of content provided to their partners. The multi-platform approach allows fans to consume content using their preferred platform and supports constant connectivity.

 

Even as live sports even come back, these technology tools may still be in play to keep fans connected and bring new life to the sports fan experience.

 

On-demand programming from the all-digital CES 2021, including Trends Shaping the Future of The Fan Experience, is now available for all to view. The industry-changing insights and announcements shared by tech visionaries at CES 2021 are key to the continued growth and advancement of your business and our tech ecosystem. With that in mind, we’ve opened the CES sessions to everyone.

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