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BLOG: New technologies have not been applied to tackle the racism epidemic in sport, but have the potential to make big impact

how can technology be used to drive positive change? By using technology to develop relationships with fanbases, sports organisations can hold themselves to higher standards of inclusivity and try to effect positive behavioural change amongst their devoted supporters. Technology could also help surface and deter the problems by making the process of reporting incidents far easier and perhaps more significantly, enable the ability to pinpoint and deal with the problem more efficiently and effectively. 

BLOG: Will the Pandemic accelerate the growth in larger sports clubs and leagues at the expense of the smaller ones?

I have read with interest various interpretations of how the Covid Pandemic will impact the sports industry. The general consensus is that it will accelerate the already rapid changes taking place as a result of consumption (how we follow, watch and attend sports events) driven by the smartphone and the rise of web 2.0 which will, in turn, accelerate the gaps between the richest and poorest sports federations, leagues and clubs, affirming a new world order. 

There is no question that changes in consumption have been driving a greater gap between rich and poor in the last few years and this has shown in the numbers. 

The biggest events increasingly command a greater share of fan attention, resulting in the bigger sports growing at the expense of smaller sports where audiences are falling.

There are lots of reasons for this including social followings increasing the importance of celebrity, meaning the biggest stars with the biggest followings drive interest in the team they play for and this drives the overall following and viewing of the league and sport overall. Witness the impact of Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing on the Juventus share price. However, whilst the Pandemic has certainly accelerated some consumer trends, I actually think that it will shake things up rather than simply follow the same path.

First of all bigger doesn’t necessarily mean less vulnerable. Larger event organisers, venues and clubs have larger balance sheets, but also far greater operational expenses which leave them exposed when there is no income coming in from live matches. It is well documented that Premier League clubs lose money when times are good. As a result of the Pandemic, the Premier League is having to offer rebates to its broadcast partners and 20% of the average club income is from matchday, which may not return for several months. 

Secondly, bigger businesses are often less nimble or adaptable to change and this could be a problem. As McKinsey research shows, organisations with an agile operating model are far more likely to show improvements in both execution pace and productivity. The break in the sports calendar has offered them a chance to focus on adapting products and business models to the new norm and the price for not doing so may be very high. 

Many sports in Europe are not centrally organised, which creates a fractured decision-making structure that can be an additional barrier to adapting to the current situation.

By contrast, smaller leagues and federations may be forced to work together to invest and adapt and this could be a big factor in growth, particularly in digital audiences and resulting revenue mixes. More McKinsey research shows that as much as five years of consumer and business digital adoption has happened in the last eight weeks. 

However, this accelerated change does not necessarily mean that change has followed the same path that it would have without the Pandemic. Covid has changed the way we think about hygiene, the way we interact and the way we work and this will have a lasting impact. 

The accepted norm in sport that the big will get bigger and the smaller will struggle to survive is hugely over-simplifying matters.

Many smaller sports have been dealing with the reality of not being one of the chosen ones scheduled on linear broadcasters for some time and have adapted their business models accordingly.  The Americas Cup and the World Surf League have pioneered this approach over a number of years and it has actually led to more broadcast deals as a result of the success of its digital-first strategies, exponentially growing global audiences in the process. 

We may well see a change in the world order as a result of the Pandemic but not necessarily as we might have expected. Strong leadership that is prepared to adopt change thinking combined with investment in the right areas will be the key differentiator, regardless of whether your organisation is large or small. 

 

BLOG: How rights holders are managing to enhance & maintain digital engagement during the COVID-19 crisis

In times of crisis, sport has always been a reliable and constant presence, providing its fans with a much needed emotional distraction. When sports closed their doors in March for the first time since WW2, showing the world that they too were not immune to this disease, it seemed to bring home to many people how serious this situation was.

InCrowd is a business that has spent the last five years championing the importance of engaging fans digitally as audience consumption changes dramatically. However, we could never have predicted that it would take a pandemic such as this to highlight the importance of a retained and engaged digital audience, now more than ever. Without live sport, clubs and leagues have been burdened with the tasks of keeping their audiences engaged and continuing to service commercial agreements whilst planning for a world without matchday income in which digital channels become a vital centrepiece.

In this paper, we look at how InCrowd clients are successfully navigating a situation that no one was fully prepared for, implementing new strategies and uses for their digital engagement tools whilst battling major digital media outlets to maintain fans’ attention. In addition we gather valuable insight from sports marketing experts on what we can expect for sports on “the other side” and present InCrowd’s four-step approach for rights holders, guiding them towards creating their own positive outcome to the COVID-19 crisis and placing them in better stead for when sport makes its triumphant return.

Many weeks have now passed since sport effectively went into hibernation and as the green shoots of hope emerge with the German Bundesliga having started behind closed doors and the English Premier League setting a provisional date for a similar resumption in a few weeks time. At the time of writing, rumours began circulating of other sports around the world putting together proposals to find a way back into action.

Adapting to the unknown

This situation is unprecedented, inescapable, very real and it won’t ‘just go away’. As ever, there are those that are better equipped to adapt and through this there will be clubs, leagues and NGBs that will be able to come out of this crisis in a stronger position than others.
One trend that emerged early in the UK lockdown period was that clubs are better able to retain fan engagement than Leagues and NGBs, with some exceptions of course.

Perhaps this is no surprise due to the allegiance and draw towards the club brands, however, after analysis of the content themes doing well, the majority of the high performing categories could just as easily be published by leagues and NGBs, such as iconic moments, classic matches, legends content and retrospective voting i.e. “team of the decade”.

Focus on Community

One organisation that has performed particularly well is Crystal Palace Football Club. Taking a look at mobile app engagement only, Crystal Palace have dropped just 14% of digital engagement comparing pre and post lockdown. This compares very favourably against a club average of 28%, and with two other significant football clubs that have reduced engagement by 39% and 45% during this time.

 

“The lack of football really has reminded us all just how much the game is loved and the huge role that it plays in many supporter’s lives.”

 

James Woodroof, Head of Content & Production at Crystal Palace FC explained the strategy behind their success:

“Two months of no football has been unquestionably challenging for all club editorial teams. Of course, in the grand scheme of things – these challenges and indeed the corresponding digital metrics are inconsequential, but nevertheless, the lack of football really has reminded us all just how much the game is loved and the huge role that it plays in many supporter’s lives. Therefore, one could argue that our role in providing engaging editorial content to give people an escape matters more than ever before.
As a club, we have been even more focused on the importance of our role within the community, and specifically on supporting those who are most vulnerable. Extremely early on in the crisis, we were sharing health and wellbeing advice from our club doctor for supporters self-isolating, as well as offering support to all 1,200 of our season ticket holders over the age of 70.

Our Chairman to his credit has been immensely proactive with statements regarding the club’s position on matters related to the pandemic, and also offering insightful thought leadership in terms of the various scenarios at a league level. Our manager penned a wonderful open letter to supporters, and these two articles have been our most read of all time. Our open lines of communication with our fans throughout this period about everything we are doing will undoubtedly have had an impact on our relatively healthy digital engagement levels.
We are extremely lucky to have a team of exceptionally gifted writers, photographers, social media experts, and production unit – and with the amount of time granted to us by the pandemic, that has helped us diversify our content in many ways. We have shown several classic matches in their entirety that have lay dormant for many years, supported by video interviews with the stars of those games as bonus content for our free members.

There have been regular Instagram Live interviews with first team players, even interactive pub quizzes. We also dusted off old Season Review DVDs, which were pay-per-view to raise money for our Foundation.

There have been countless phone conversations with former players that have been made into long-form reads, and we’ve engaged directly with supporters by asking them to share examples of their favourite club memorabilia that they’ve acquired, which has been illuminating for us – with several spin-off stories in the pipeline.

Finally, for several months, our video team have been working on a project where we shared our claim to be the oldest football club in the world through a fantastic short film, having been informed about new evidence clearly showing our lineage to the original Crystal Palace FC of 1861. This story has stimulated fierce debate around the world, and we have seen huge interest in our historical content since that launch.”

Focus on Content

Whilst in general clubs seem to be out-performing Leagues and NGBs, one governing body that continues to excel digitally, even during this period, is UEFA. In fact UEFA Champions League Facebook and IGTV platforms generated the highest number of interactions per video across all major global leagues and federations last month.

For our content team at InCrowd, which manages UEFA’s social content, there has recently been significant focus on converting digital audiences through to UEFA.tv subscriptions. Rather than letting the lack of live events scupper their targets, the team, along with their colleagues at UEFA HQ, have been innovative in their strategy to continue the positive trend of sign-ups by, like many right owners, turning to archive content. UEFA decided to create an entirely new brand utilising this archive footage and the result was the UEFA Classics campaign.

“In a planned two-month campaign, the KPI for UEFA.tv registrations was hit within ten days, with organic UEFA social media accounts being the primary source of new subscribers.”

Sam Adams, who heads up the content division at InCrowd, explained:

“The centrepiece of the Classics campaign was legendary UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League & EURO matches, replayed in full as live on UEFA.tv (UEFA’s OTT platform). The games went out every weekday at 17CET, the sweet spot time to hit all the key global markets. Vital to its success has been a fully integrated cross-platform collaboration plan in which UEFA’s other owned and operated channels switched focus to become referral drivers to UEFA.tv.

Our social media strategy concentrated on using Twitter cards, which have proved to be the biggest referrer, and Instagram Stories to drive fans to UEFA.tv. These posts were built upon by shoulder content tapping into fan nostalgia, while UEFA ambassadors who played in those games were also utilised (e.g. in Instagram Q&As). Classics-related video accounted for 12.5m views on Instagram the week of 4 May or 22% of all video views, demonstrating that the content was holding its own as a standalone strand.

The native platforms –– UEFA.com & competition apps –– published supporting content (video, text and still imagery) such as best moments from corresponding seasons, related match highlights, scene-setters and historical colour pieces. Following the initial success, corresponding ‘throwback seasons’ were added to each week’s content plan to enable existing competition sponsors to reignite branded partner posts on official channels.

It was then important for us to dial back the Classics referral posting frequency after its early surge, redressing the balance between our short-term campaign promotion priority and our long-term strategy to retain high engagement across our operated channels.”

Both Crystal Palace and UEFA have shown the power of utilising cross-platform marketing strategies to amplify their content and objectives; social as volume driver and converter, with owned channels hosting and converting audiences through to action like OTT subscription. But even owned channels are showing variation during this period with apps and websites performing very differently.

Apps vs Web Behaviours

The relationship we’ve traditionally observed between our clients’ App & Web audiences has been consistent across sports & types of rights holders. Web audiences can often be up to 10x the size of their counterparts, but Apps make up for this with much higher user-level engagements; the likes of Sessions per User, Page Views, Pages per Session, and Duration per Session are significantly higher in App communities. This is unsurprising in relation to their respective positions in the traditional sporting funnel –– Web typically comes into its own at the top end whereas App is stronger towards the bottom at engaging, converting and retaining audiences. But how has this landscape changed as a result of Covid-19? Below, you will find a graph that plots the percentage of digital usage that App represents, where app and website combined for a single rights holder equals 100%.

Across a cross-section of Leagues & Clubs, there is a consistent average of ~10% of digital users use the App. The global pandemic hasn’t hugely shifted this behaviour, Web & App have both seen user volumes drop at fairly similar rates since Covid-19 began. However, we noted during our research that, for 65% of the clients we reviewed in this study, the proportion of App Users has actually increased (i.e. the number of web users saw a steeper decline than app users), but the ultimate average was tempered by 35% of clients who saw particularly significant shifts in app vs web usage behavior, towards web. Notably, as demonstrated in a previous graph, it has been leagues & competitions, more than clubs, that have experienced this greater decline in usage.

Regardless of rights holder type, where we have seen the most significant changes in behaviours during Covid-19 has been in the user engagement-based metrics. Our Apps are designed to create surges of Sessions and subsequent higher Page Views due to an array of content types, fan engagements, and communication triggers. This creates a hive of activity as higher-affinity fans have a larger variety of reasons to continually return. Over the last couple of months, we have seen the high shares of app sessions & page views drop to the ~30% mark where they were previously sitting closer to 40% & 50% of total engagement respectively. One conclusion we can draw traces back to a slowing of App content production – the cornerstone of the channel’s strategy – which has naturally declined while sporting events aren’t happening, as well as the high usage of apps typically seen in-line with matches, where fans utilise the apps for stats, commentary and are often tempted to open via match related push notifications such as line-ups. Less production = less engagement.

Web usage metrics have also dropped since March, but less pronounced. This is an expected outcome, with the majority of fans checking in occasionally from a search to retrieve a specific piece of information related for fixtures, results and live scores. Reductions in content production due to Covid have essentially had less of an impact on the audience & their expectation of the channel. Overall, it’s clear that, even in these unprecedented times, Apps are still performing very well in taking big shares of overall digital engagement behaviours considering their relative audience size.

What has started to become apparent across sports & client types over the last 3 months is that general engagement, regardless of channel, is simply beginning to drop at a sharper rate. While clients have tried to pivot their content strategies to keep capturing fan attention (so far resulting in mixed success across the board), April represented a significant drop across most metrics from the perhaps more novelty period of March. This is an intriguing opportunity to more deeply understand a fan’s relationship with sports, and how a period of inactivity leading to dwindling fan attention could actually be used to better tune marketing automation and audience management moving forward.

Naturally, the recent announcements regarding the resumption of competition for many sports is dramatically reversing this decline, but we shouldn’t forget the lessons this teaches us about how important it is to be able to engage fans with diverse content outside of matches. If this were addressed it would lead to a softening of typical downward engagement trends seen in the off-season or even mini-drops seen between match weekends and competitive events.

The Battle For Fan Attention

Regardless of the impact of this global pandemic, the need for sports rights holders to diversify and upweight content production was already a key theme in the industry, mirrored by the significant appointments of personnel with media backgrounds into organisations such as The Jockey Club, Premiership Rugby and the former shortlist for the Premier League football CEO position. The approach is designed to enable these organisations to successfully capture their fair share of audience attention from their competitors and partners in media.

Too often rights holders are losing out to major digital outlets in this fight, having a significantly detrimental impact on broader commercial revenues due to the intrinsic link between audience volume and engagement levels to the size of direct and indirect (sponsorship) revenues.
This is evidenced to some degree in the graph below which shows engagement with one major rights holders website (blue) and engagement from the league’s fans with league related content on third party websites (red) two weeks before and several weeks after lockdown.

What is clear is despite no matches taking place, the aggregate of third party channels experienced a smaller drop of audience engagement. These channels are typically media organisations therefore more nimble and able to switch gears to produce both COVID related and other general content in order to minimise the negative impact.

Max Jolly, CEO of digital marketing business Arcspire commented:

 

“The challenge for a rights holder is how to be relevant amongst the major digital media outlets. How do they retain uniqueness that fans can only consume through them?”

 

“It comes down to rights holder’s providing a reason for fans to go to their own site or app. At what point am I opening a new browser tab and typing in the rights holders web address (or opening the app)? What fan need is the rights holder fulfilling at that point that they can’t fulfil elsewhere more easily? As a fan, I go to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc every day and can get my updates and news there. I may also go to my preferred news channel every day e.g. Sky News, BBC Sport, The Times, The Daily Mail etc and get my news there. I might even go to a specialist sports forum e.g. NewsNow, RugbyPass, LiveScore etc to dive deeper into my passion.

The challenge for rights holders is how to be relevant amongst these options. How do they retain some unique content or element of the relationship that fans can only consume through them? This is a lot harder when live sport isn’t being played. I think a lot comes down to good content and thinking editorially about what content is where and how it is structured and shared. This could mean sign-posting content on social channels but requiring people to come to their site to consume it fully. Once there, how is the site structured to give them the next best piece of content and keep them there, and engaged, and with a reason to come back.”

Max is illustrating a core challenge we focus on at InCrowd; the ability for rights holders to capture and engage fans. Both of which are the first two steps towards successful conversion, where conversion means an outcome which supports the commercial objectives of the rights holders i.e. a fan registration, a direct transaction or engagement with a sponsored asset. We aim to align different technologies to each part of this process and illustrate this in a typical funnel:

 

 

Whilst several challenges that might occur for rights holders that aren’t able to digitally maximise their core asset are obvious, Max highlights a slightly less obvious threat of losing this audience to more sophisticated digital players. “The interesting shift that Covid-19 may accelerate is the digital giants winning more broadcast rights. The ‘digital-winners’ of Covid-19 will have their cash reserves enlarged and rights holders may be looking to carve up broadcast deals to get maximum value. This represents both opportunity and threat. The opportunity is clear: to bring in more revenues from new ‘alternative’ broadcasters. The threat is a little more hidden. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube etc are using their engagement mechanics to capture audience attention and discussion with little investment required in the content. Every rights holder has to build their audience and connect with fans on these platforms.

Social networks simply have the scale of audience and this is therefore where most fans reside digitally too. Whilst rights holders get to connect with fans, the digital giants get to hoover up data on fans. This enables them to offer these fan audiences to any advertiser that is interested. The digital giants have much better data on fans, capture the conversation as well as the emotion, which is sports secret sauce. So as more and more broadcast rights, highlights, memes etc are shared on these channels the bigger the threat grows.

Who has the ability to turn passions into purchases? The likes of Google and Facebook are able to offer a ‘full-funnel’ solution to brands, totally independent of any official sponsorship. I can watch the highlights on YouTube and then be targeted when I search on Google. I can watch the match on Amazon Prime and then be targeted when I’m shopping on Amazon. In this world, why does a brand need sponsorship at all when the digital giants have the data and gateway to fans that they need?

If any evidence was needed, Google, Facebook and Amazon recently announced their Q1 2020 results; together they grew by almost $7billion in advertising revenues in a quarter. This represents over 3x the annual growth in global sponsorship revenues forecasted by WARC in 2020. Marketing directors are voting with their budgets. They want the accountability and performance that these channels provide.”

The InCrowd Solution

 

“When sport returns, digital is going to be a more prominent focus than ever before, a huge acceleration in a pattern of behaviour.”

 

The COVID-19 crisis will change the way in which sports rights holders engage with their audiences forever. As the head of marketing a Championship football club said to me during lockdown – “digital is all we have now”.  But even beyond the “now”, when sport returns, digital is going to be a more prominent focus than ever before, a huge acceleration in a pattern of behaviour. So what can sports rights holders do to ensure they are one of the organisations that thrive in this new era:

  1. Think and act like a media business: For a rights holder, your greatest asset is your fans, yet traditionally, sports organisations prioritise the monetisation of physical assets and real estate. At the core of a media business is it’s audience and content production is the centre of success. Offer fans experiences that encourage them to engage with you on a regular basis that goes beyond the pre-match, in-match and post-match hygiene and invest in content production and delivery.
  2. Give fans a reason to visit your owned channels: Develop a content and technology strategy that considers deployment by channel. Know what is pushed to social vs what is reserved for own channels, perhaps with even further variations for Web vs App and logged in vs logged out. What can your own channel own that third parties don’t have? Fantasy Games, Specific Player Access and even utilities like Mobile Ticketing (which for one InCrowd client drove 24% increase in general app usage) are all reasons for fans to visit your platforms.
  3. Track, measure, analyse and react: The beauty of digital engagement is the ability to know what is working and do more of it! Whilst lots of digital metrics are tracked by all organisations, many are too high level to offer real insight. We need to understand not just overarching traffic numbers, but the details of engagement by content type, by audience type, and in relation to external factors such as time and form. Use this information to build the successful engagement formula for your organisation.
  4. Know your Value Per Fan and make it a key KPI: To be a successful “media business” digital engagement can’t be pure vanity numbers. We need to focus on driving users to valuable engagements; direct ROI, data capture or sponsor interactions. Define what success from a digital user or user group looks like by measuring your direct and indirect value per digital fan. Through your approach to point 2, measure this value continually and build strategies to drive more of it.

InCrowd is here to help plan & deliver all of the above. To find out about how we can work together to navigate this new world of sports engagement, get in touch!

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BLOG: A World Without Sport – Part 1

It’s incredible to think that it was only two and a half weeks ago that 86,000 fans were packed inside the MCG watching the Australian Women’s Cricket team celebrate their ICC T20 World Cup title on stage with Katy Perry.

It was a seismic moment in women’s sport. Not only did the Aussie team capture the imagination of a generation of young girls with a sublime performance on International Women’s Day, but it was also the highest crowd figure ever for a women’s cricket match globally. As the sun set at the MCG, COVID-19 was simply something on the horizon. Of course, it looked terrible on the news in China and Italy, but still remained very much on the horizon…

 

 

Today, COVID-19 is the reality for every sports organisation around the world. Not even the most cautious sports executive would have forecast such a crisis. As Murray Barnett described on a recent Unofficial Partner Podcast, the sports industry is currently “punch drunk”. A situation in which no sport would be played around the world, and major competitions Euro 2020 and The Olympics would be postponed, is simply unthinkable.

Whilst there are bigger concerns for the world to deal with than the lack of sport, the COVID-19 crisis is of course unique. In other periods of crisis, from recessions to terrorism, sport has often provided comfort for people and generated positivity from the dire reality, and here we are without our usual go-to pick me up in this time of crisis.

So what do we do now?

For those currently at home (which should be everyone, #StayAtHome), the recent Netflix series “The English Game” is a great watch and a fabulous example of the power of sport as an important connective tissue to bind people together, both across and within societies. Without giving any spoilers away, the series dives back to the 1880’s and tells a story of two footballers on opposite sides of the class divide, who forge a bond to help bring the upper-class sport and its joy to the masses, in particular the mill workers of Northern England. It was the birth of modern football and professionalism as we know it, but the series at its core shows the power that sport has, even back in the 1880’s, to distract humans from life’s troubles.

 

Looking to the future

So as we navigate our way through this increasingly anxious and unknown period, the lack of sport only exacerbates this feeling. For the sports industry, the commercial consequences of media rights, sponsorship, ticketing and hospitality revenues suddenly drying up has sent shivers throughout the entire ecosystem, and will no doubt change the industry and its operating model forever. However, just as COVID-19 was on the horizon at MCG a few weeks ago, so too are the myriad of sports events that are to eventually come.

For any sports fan, the prospect of the European Championships, Olympics, Lions Tour, Ryder Cup, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and many other events sitting ready to reignite once the virus has passed is beyond exciting. As Southampton CEO Martin Semmens explained, that once it is safe to do so, the return of sport will be a crucial sign that life is ‘returning to normal’.

But for now, as fans rightly stay at home the sports series, archive footage and rightsholder digital platforms become more important than ever in keeping the sports audiences engaged (and sane!) whilst also keeping the commercial ecosystem alive. And when the sun rises, there is no doubt that sport will be welcomed back by the world with open arms, returning bigger and better than ever…

Keep an eye out…..

We’ll be keeping in touch and keeping you up-to-date with our “A World Without Sport” blog series. We’ll share as far and wide as we can when new posts go up but keep an eye on our social media channels and our website!

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BLOG: Split Screen Sunday

Following what is arguably one of the most incredible sporting Sundays in living memory, the traditional rating figures for the F1 British Grand Prix, Men’s ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon Finals were released the following day.

With Sky Sports releasing coverage to a free-to-air audience on Channel 4, 8.3 million people watched the drama of a Super Over unfold, whilst a peak of 9.6m watched Novak Djokovic’s victory over Roger Federer in an equally titanic battle at Wimbledon and a further 3.7m viewers tuning in to see Lewis Hamilton win a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix. In addition, the Netball World Cup in Liverpool was in its first weekend on Sky Sports and live-streamed in the UK by Sky Sports over YouTube.

However, on an afternoon described as ‘Split Screen Sunday’ by Sports Pro writer Eoin Connolly, two interesting topics were at the forefront of conversation here at InCrowd:

Servicing Fans

The debate around OTT vs Traditional Broadcast has been rumbling for a while now, but if anything, Sunday 14th July highlighted that ultimately fans don’t care through which platform the sport is delivered, as long as they can watch it. With 3 events happing concurrently, fans were left to argue which event took precedent and made it on to the TV, before utilising laptops, phones and tablets to stream the rest of the action. Clearly, this is a challenge, not only to the fan experience but to the whole concept of ‘attention’ which is so fundamental to the broadcast commercial model.

As a ‘Pom’ living in Australia, I’ve had the pleasure of using the Fox Sports-backed OTT service Kayo Sports, which includes a split-screen option that allows viewers to watch up to four streams at once. With sports scheduling becoming ever more congested, it will be interesting to see how broadcasters & rightsholders use technology to adapt to this challenge.

Audience Understanding

Whilst the traditional broadcast figures highlighted the impact that the sporting drama had on mass audiences, it was digital where the conversation and engagement were really happening. You only need to look at Google Trends to see the incredible spike that occurred when people grabbed their phones to Google what a ‘Super Over’ was!

As sport grapples with an explosion of media platforms and channels, it is becoming more and more important for sports rightsholders to own these conversations on digital, and to understand the ‘fans behind the figures’. For example, the BBC’s live feed broke records by recording 3.9m unique browsers…but how many of this 3.9m are known to the rightsholders of Cricket, Tennis & F1? Traditional figures behind the broadcast, ticketing and merchandise only tell a part of the engagement story. At InCrowd, we are delving into more and more data sources to not only identify each fan but to uncover & understand their emotional attachments to the sport. This ensures that sports can communicate and develop new relationships with each fan on a more personal level.

Sunday 14th July was undoubtedly the best sporting day of the year; big sporting moments saw big viewing numbers and new fans were brought into the worlds of Cricket, Tennis and Formula 1. But who are these fans? Data and real audience understanding would ensure that these relationships can be nurtured and harnessed over the subsequent 364 days…

 

Source Material: http://www.sportspromedia.com/opinion/cricket-world-cup-final-wimbledon-f1-british-gp-split-screen-broadcast

RFL’s Our League named as a finalist at the Sports Business Awards

Our League, the Rugby Football League’s membership scheme for fans, players, coaches, volunteers and viewers, has earned the game further national recognition with a nomination in a second major sports awards ceremony this spring.

Our League is in the running for a Sports Business Award on May 31 in the Best Fan Engagement Programme category. This is the second award nomination of the awards season, having already been included on the shortlist for Best Fan / Community Engagement for the BT Sports Industry Awards on April 25. This second nomination comes after Our League recently celebrated breaking through the 100,000 members milestone, showing just how much Rugby League means to the fans.

Mark Foster, the RFL’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “It’s great to have this recognition for the sport, and also for the people who have worked so hard to establish and develop Our League since it was launched in late 2017.“It was the first Rugby League OTT platform, allowing more matches and features to be broadcast and watched than ever before – and a pivotal part of our strategy for ensuring that Rugby League is well-placed to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the digital revolution.”

Launched in Autumn 2017 in partnership with InCrowd, the membership scheme has improved fan experience and engagement for lovers of Rugby League at all levels of the game, offering exclusive content, predictor games, ticket offers, money can’t buy benefits and prizes via the digital platforms – app (iOS & Android) and website that members can access. This season Rugby League personalities such as Andrew Henderson and Jamie Jones-Buchanan have led extensive coverage of the Betfred Championship and League One competitions, focusing on the best tries and matches through the week – as well as providing live and exclusive coverage every weekend.

This weekend (30th March) focus turns to the Coral Challenge Cup, with the Our League cameras focusing on the famous St Helens amateur club Thatto Heath, and their attempt to spring an upset against North Wales Crusaders. That will be followed by a blockbuster opening fixture from the fast-growing Women’s Super League on April 7, as Wigan Warriors launch their defence of the title against fierce local rivals St Helens.

Darren Parsons, Marketing Account Manager at InCrowd said, “Recently smashing the 100K member mark, Our League continues to be a great project to work on in close collaboration with the Rugby Football League. It’s been amazing to see fans from all corners of the Rugby League community come together and find something to engage with on the platform; it’s fast becoming an absolute must-have, for every fan.”

Download the Our League app on Apple iOS and Android or visit rugby-league.com to sign up for FREE!

InCrowd recognised on ‘Agency Of The Year’ Shortlist

On 30th January, the shortlists for the 2019 Yahoo Sports Technology Awards were revealed. InCrowd are proud to announce that we are amongst the five successful shortlisted agencies, whose work has been recognised in the Agency Of the Year category. This year, once again, sees fierce competition with entries representing 50 sports from 30 countries doing battle.

InCrowd are a data and technology led  fan marketing company, but first & foremost, we are sports fans. We understand the passion & dedication of supporters towards the clubs, leagues & players they love. Our vision is to lead the evolution of the fan experience through technology & insight, giving clients opportunities to deliver personalised & relevant content and create unique commercial opportunities, driving value for everyone. To meet the challenges of today’s sports marketing landscape, InCrowd assessed the structure of our business in regards to efficiency, conducted fan research projects & launched a host of new products & features with major rights holders across a range of sports, ultimately rewarded by our nomination in this year’s Yahoo Sports Technology Awards.

InCrowd’s highlights include:

  • The RFL’s Our League membership platform, building a community of over 90K members in its first year.
  • The Formula 1 Grand Prix app, a digital concierge service for fans, for every track.
  • The Sky Sports Road To Moscow predictor game for the 2018 World Cup, that generated 2.64m predictions.
  • A 309% usage increase for our InCrowd Cast in-stadia digital display management software.

Rebecca Hopkins, Sports Technology Awards Group CEO, said “We are in the sixth cycle of the Yahoo Sports Technology Awards and this year’s entries, once again, push the boundaries of innovation across the sector. The shortlist highlights frontrunners in every area and proves that these Awards highlight the industry’s technical progress like no other. Every successful brand should be proud to have made it this far given the high standard of competition.”

CEO of InCrowd Aidan Cooney says “Moments like this make me feel incredibly proud –  we feel that we have an amazing team and we are starting to make groundbreaking advances in the field of sports marketing using technology to help sports tell their story and enabling fans and brands to be part of that story and it is nice when an outside body recognises the steps we are taking. We are honoured to be included on such a strong list of contenders and look forward to celebrating with everyone at the ceremony”.

The 2019 ceremony will be hosted at the Roundhouse, London, on May 2nd, an experience enjoyed by leading industry figures, innovators and international athletes, who will be flying in from around the world for the event. InCrowd would like to congratulate our fellow nominees and look forward to the celebrations.

For more information about InCrowd, please contact enquiries@incrowdsports.com

More information about the Awards can be found at www.sportstechgroup.org

Editors Notes: The Yahoo Sports Technology Awards is the leading global celebration of technology-led innovation across the international sports sector. Held annually as a competition to highlight outstanding advances in the industry, the Awards is run by the Sports Technology Awards Group and judged by over 40 leading influencers from the world of sport. Six brands are shortlisted for every category, with one outright winner being awarded the YSTA Trophy in each. The Awards were first held in 2014, with Yahoo Sport taking headline sponsorship for the first time in 2018. The Awards attract hundreds of entries from more than 30 countries and 50 sports. The Group is also glad to be partnered with Ticketmaster Sport as Global Ticketing Partner, Charles Russell Speechlys as Global Legal Partner, and Betconstruct as Global Betting Partner.

QPR FC & Ticketmaster Sport deliver mobile ticketing first for UK sport

  • QPR FC offers fans in-app mobile ticketing in partnership with Ticketmaster Sport.
  • First UK football club to integrate new mobile ticketing technology that allows tickets to be transferred between operating systems.
  • New technology features a host of anti-tout mechanisms.
  • Improves stadium security by giving the club the ability to identify anonymous fans.

In partnership with Ticketmaster Sport, Queens Park Rangers have become the first UK football club to integrate the only in-app mobile ticketing solution that allows secure ticket transfers across operating systems, by implementing newly developed and innovative mobile ticketing technology from fan engagement specialists, InCrowd.

Both matchday and season tickets have been available in the official QPR app to those who opted into the trial phase in September 2018 and are now available to all fans attending games at Loftus Road via a personal in-app ticket wallet. Available to QPR fans for the last five home games, 12% of fans are now using the new ticket wallet to enable stress-free access to Loftus Road on match days.

Individuals that purchase multiple tickets can also ‘share’ tickets with other supporters via the official QPR app; a much more efficient and secure process than exchanging physical tickets. To activate their tickets securely, recipients are asked to download the official QPR app and register their details providing the club with the data required to know exactly who is in the stadium, improving safety creating more direct connections between QPR and their fans. Perhaps most importantly, tickets can be transferred between mobile devices and between operating systems; believed to be a first for mobile ticketing in UK sport.

The QPR ticket wallet also features a range of anti-tout mechanisms all of which are highly configurable according to a client’s specific requirements. These mechanisms include hidden barcodes, device locking, screenshot prevention and several other features that provide a sense of security to not only the fans but to the integrity of the club.

The ticket wallet technology created by InCrowd enables fans to enjoy a seamless, stress-free and engaging journey from their front door to their seat in the stadium. The official QPR app also provides fans with a set of team and venue specific features and exclusive content. This delivers an unrivalled match day experience for the fan and provides QPR with the ability to connect the ticket holder to a previously anonymous device, significantly improving their marketable database.

David Scriven, Digital Content Manager at QPR says, “The QPR Ticket Wallet has helped simplify the matchday for fans at Loftus Road. Not only can fans now access the latest news at the push of a button they can also access the stadium with one. By working closely with Ticketmaster and implementing this advanced, fan first technology from InCrowd we’ve been able to deliver a unique product in an efficient manner with significant upsides to supporter experience and the businesses digital objectives.”

“Digital ticketing is the future. It’s easy for fans, provides venues and events with more ways to engage with them and increases security for all,” says Ian Sanders, Director of Ticketmaster Sport “This integration with InCrowd demonstrates the ability Ticketmaster Sport has to work with partners in exciting and innovative ways. It’s been great to work on this project and we’re looking forward to rolling this out to many more of our clients in the near future.”

To benefit from this one-of-a-kind ticketing service please contact enquiries@incrowdsports.com

About Ticketmaster Sport – Ticketmaster Sport, a division of Ticketmaster International, is the leading technology and services partner for UK & International sport, providing ticketing services, venue technology, project management and marketing reach to the biggest and most exciting sport brands around the world – www.ticketmastersport.com

How the FA could work with clubs on Boxing Day to boost family attendance for women’s football

Boxing Day sport is a fantastic tradition. From Premier League football to Melbourne’s annual test cricket match, it is a true family occasion and has proven to generate well above average ticket sales. But what happens when your team is playing away? This is something experienced by many fans – left without a match to attend at a point in Christmas when, let’s face it, we probably all need something to get us off the sofa and away from Home Alone! So, what can be done to give those fans somewhere to go and something to do?

Thousands of empty seats and thousands of fans wanting to buy tickets
The Premier League designs a schedule to ensure away fans don’t have to travel too far on Boxing Day, but there are still thousands of fans missing out on attending sport with their families.

Ticketmaster’s State of Play research (http://www.ticketmastersport.com/stateofplay) shows that family time is a major reason for attending sporting events and Boxing Day stands out as one of the biggest on the UK calendar for family gatherings. At the same time, there were 350,000 seats left empty in stadia around the country because teams were playing away games. So, we have empty seats and families desperate to fill them. This is an open opportunity for rights holders.

Prime opportunity to promote women’s football

This is an opportunity to promote Women’s Football to a fanbase that would not normally attend. The FA could schedule local derby matches which would give greater context to the match whilst enabling both the home and away teams and spectators to easily attend the game.

Here is a list of matches that would have been possible in 2018; had these gone ahead it would not only have made for an effective promotional campaign for women’s football, but I am sure clubs would see good attendance figures.

  • Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates
  • Manchester City vs. Manchester United at the Etihad
  • Chelsea vs. QPR at Stamford Bridge
  • Everton vs. Liverpool at Goodison Park
  • Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Lewes at the Amex
  • Huddersfield Town vs. Bradford City at the John Smith’s Stadium
  • West Ham United vs. Millwall at the London Stadium
  • AFC Bournemouth vs. Southampton at the Vitality Stadium
  • Cardiff City vs. Swansea City at the Cardiff City Stadium

There are, of course, mis-matches above although I am not sure that matters (it doesn’t for the men’s FA cup). There could also be issues with policing these events when another football match is happening just down the road but this can be managed with scheduling across 26 and 27 December.

Rugby fans in the same situation

This “away day” problem for fans is even more apparent in rugby union. When Boxing Day falls mid-week, as has just done, it is not possible to schedule a match without cancelling one of the weekends either side to allow for proper player recovery time.

Other teams (e.g. non-league, schools, Barbarians) could step up and take on the annual Boxing Day slot at each of the 12 Premiership Rugby grounds. It would not take much for this to become part of the Christmas holiday routine for rugby loving families; perhaps something for CVC to consider as part of their new investment in the sport.

Marketing and fan experience funding

For both of these examples, ticketing is going to be the greatest revenue stream for those involved and costs will be manageable without the larger player fees to consider. Focusing on marketing the event well and investment into the fan experience will be crucial in creating an annual, much anticipated event for football and rugby fans.

Furthermore, without this match being confined by the usual playing conditions or regulations (these matches would not be part of the Women’s Super League for example) they could involve star players drafted in from the US leagues to provide an additional layer of interest for fans. It is also an excellent time to involve charity initiatives as Sunderland have done so successfully with their recent “Gift of Football” campaign. There are a multitude of possibilities!

Christmas time is all about bringing people together after all. I love Boxing Day sport and think there there is huge potential for organisations and clubs to promote women’s sport, provide opportunities for lower league teams and reach out to communities around the UK.

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The sports industry is changing & at InCrowd, we help our clients adapt & evolve. Using technology and insight, we give rights holders & their commercial partners the power to deliver personalised content and experiences, for every fan.

Find out more at www.incrowdsports.com