Digital Sports Fans

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There have always been different types of Sports fans: the ‘go to every game’; the ‘follow the team wherever they go’; the ‘keep track of the results the the papers’; the ‘watch the match on the telly because the beers are much cheaper’; and even the ‘sit in the comfy seats at the stadium eating prawn sandwiches’. Over the last few years a new fan has emerged: the digital fan.

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I can testify that even with newspapers, Sky TV and Internet 1.0, living in London circa 2000 made it very difficult to follow my football team in Glasgow. The distance, even the relatively short distance, seemed huge. No transfer rumours on newspaper back pages, no chatter about last night games by the photocopier at work… nada.

However, now a re-kindled love of American Baseball and my team, the Detroit Tigers has suddenly become a much easier pursuit. Why? Digital is why.

For years now the MLB (Baseball’s governing body), has been all over digital. About 10 years ago when O Street helped re-design Celtic FC’s website, it was Baseball teams websites that we were inspired by. At that time no football team in the UK was showing video highlights on its Home page. However, MLB, with their league-wide template style, had video highlights on every Major League baseball team’s home page. Yes, not only were Celtic FC the first team in Britain to win the European Cup (ahem), they were also the first to have video highlights on their website homepage (natch).

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Now, I don’t even need the Tigers website to follow the team—I use the MLB’s amazing At Bat app—a mash up of stats, gossip, chatter and live reporting combined to be a one-stop shop for all I need to know. The live feed gives you the option of graphic led reporting (batter, pitch position etc…); video; and even radio.

It’s the radio that makes you feel even closer to your team of choice, with the inclusion of local radio adverts and the sound of the crowd combined to make you feel like you’re really part of the action.

If that’s not enough, you’ve even got the option to listen to post match gossip on a range of high production podcasts from the best reporters in the sport (my fave is Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast).

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The BBC reported the other day on a story that confirmed the importance of this new digital method of following a sport. UK-based Manchester United football team has reportedly got in excess of 650million fans world-wide. However, with 85% of these fans living in developing countries around the world, most will never set in Old Trafford (Man U’s stadium). 100million are already engaging with the club digitally through its existing App, website and Social Networks.

There are, however, potentially another 550million fans not engaging with Man U digitally, so the question is what more can they do to attract them? The article quotes the firm employed to help Manchester United, HCL Technologies, as saying that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ App will not deliver the uptake they desire.

“How many apps could we build? It could be as low as four or five, or as many as 100 – it’s hard to say,” says Krishnan Chatterjee, head of marketing at HCL. It seems that tailoring content, and delivery mechanisms, for people across the globe is key to successful engagement.


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Also key is giving people choice as to how they consume sport. Sometimes I do want to just go for a walk and listen to the game on the radio. Other times a cold beer, comfy armchair and big telly is enough. However, I also dream of making it over to Commerico Park (the Detroit Tigers Stadium) in person one day. Eating hot dogs, spitting out salty sunflower seeds and catching a homer from Miguel Cabrera.

‘mon the Tigers!