Traditionally, the two things most often found in the hands of sports fans while they enjoy a live match or event are either a pint or a pie. Or, quite often, both. However, the changing world of both sports and technology have led to a mobile phone replacing them in the sweaty clutches of the die-hards, particularly those watching from home. Whether they’re raging or gloating on Twitter or looking up stats to win an argument, sports and the second screen have never been so closely tied together.
According to a Google survey from 2014, 77% of us watch TV with a device for browsing the internet nearby. This could be a phone, tablet or laptop, and in the three years since then, second screen sports stats have shown the figure rising to around 87% and even higher for millennials. Search traffic around major events like the Oscars prove that people are watching and doing some second screen TV research on their mobiles.
This certainly applies to major sporting events like the World Cup, the Champions League Final and the Olympics, but any live sports on TV will attract thousands of viewers who will be busy on their second screens, discussing the events with social media followers and rivals. For marketers, this presents a remarkable opportunity to capitalise on the ready-made audience out there on their phones.
One of the most prominent moves in this market to date has been the NFL Twitter deal, which has seen audiences of around 3.5 million watching free streams of 10 NFL games via social media for a reported $10m. Last month, Twitter COO Anthony Noto said that the results had “exceeded our expectations on both revenue and profitability for both us and our partners.” He also said Twitter would be looking to partner with the NFL ‘in a bigger way’.
YouTube and Facebook are also putting money and energy into streaming sports events to try and turn second screen activity into revenue, though they’ll have been slightly less enthused than Twitter claims to be about the benefits of that NFL deal, with last month’s financial figures still showing that it’s struggling to make money. There has been no confirmation that the deal will continue into next season, which could be a real indication of how well it’s gone.
Meanwhile, moment marketing has been a major part of second screen activity in sports, largely through the activity of particularly social savvy gambling sites like Paddy Power, who is able to react quickly to events to post topical jokes and memes that can earn plenty of shares and keep the brand at the forefront of people’s minds while they’re watching the game and browsing on their phones. Bud Light is another brand who has sought to capitalise on the NFL, launching its Fantasy Football Champion competition last September, using mobile and Twitter to offer a second screen experience that keeps fans engaged with its brand during games.
A major challenge for brands is how to turn these engaged second screen fans into paying customers, a problem admitted by Arsenal’s head of marketing Charles Allen last year. He told The Drum: “B2C is an area of incredible opportunity for us. We have hundreds of millions of fans around the world but we have around 2 million who transact with us on a B2C basis, so how do we drive that transaction, how do we make our offer through our eCommerce platform, through our stadium tour business, through our ticketing business more attractive than anything else?”
The way Arsenal and other clubs and sponsors are looking to achieve this is to utilise their exclusive content and access via social media to offer second screen fans something they can’t get elsewhere: “The real challenge is getting to the nuggets that people will really like,” he said. “In a world of free most people can get their Arsenal fix out there somewhere, so given that all the content originates from here, which are the real nuggets that we hold back for ourselves? What are the really exclusive bits that are ours that will then drive numbers?”
Currently social is still the king when it comes to second screen activity during sports events, because it offers fans what they most want from the experience while they are watching the game. For brands wanting to monetise this activity they have to take this into consideration, as anything that feels less authentic and more like corporate money-making will struggle to win over many users.
Sports and the second screen remains a tantalising potential market to be conquered, but now, several years since the term was first coined, we are no closer to seeing a clear-cut model for success in this area. However, as with any audience this size, you can bet that marketers will keep on trying to capture our fleeting attentions as our eyes flit between screens, and someone will find a way to entice us to spend.
Have you seen any second screen marketing for sports that has caught your eye? What do you think is the future in this area? Tweet @mporiumgroup or comment below.