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Pro sports teams look to social video to score big with fans

Lauren Brousell | July 3, 2015
Video-upload and live-streaming apps provide unprecedented fan access to sporting events and athletes, but if professional sports organizations want to engage fan bases and build loyalty, they need to overcome a set of key challenges.

Periscope's app
Periscope's app lets users record live video from their smartphone and share it publicly on Twitter. Credit: Zach Miners/IDG News Service

Following your favorite professional sports team before and after games -- and beyond the nightly sports broadcast -- has never been easier. Social video apps, such as Periscope, Meerkat, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram, are disrupting the traditional content distribution models of teams, TV networks and radio stations. While the transformation is already riddled with concerns over content rights, it represents a valuable opportunity for sports organizations to engage and interact with fans, particularly younger generations.

Streaming video vs. short video clips

Two types of social video services exist today: live streaming and short video uploads. The popular Periscope and Meerkat apps provide live streams. Recorded video apps include Instagram, which lets you record, edit and then upload video clips, and both Vine and Snapchat, which are used to share short sections of unedited video.

Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer, says social video apps are currently popular in many different industries, including sports, and that's not lost on marketing pros. "It's partially the flavor of the moment and partially the fact that digital video is really growing fast," Williamson says. "Marketers want to explore whatever they can do in terms of advertising with video or even marketing with video."

Teams and players have been posting video clips to their Vine, Instagram and Snapchat accounts for months, even years, and many have large, active followings. However, live streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat attract most of the buzz today.

In July, tennis fans that use Periscope at Wimbledon will have access to behind-the-scenes video. Tennis pro Roger Federer already gave Periscope users a tour of the Wimbledon grounds, and other high-profile players plan to provide exclusive interviews via the app. The tennis tournament posted Vine video clips, and on Snapchat it's using branded geofilters, or sponsored video overlays. Wimbledon says it's trying to appeal to millennials who haven't been to the tournament or watched it on TV. Fans in the stadiums, however, have been asked not to use phones during matches, and that includes using apps such as Periscope and Meerkat.

The Seattle Reign, a professional U.S. women's soccer team, is another live-stream early adopter, and in March it broadcast an entire game, along with exclusive content.

Social video, pro sports and fan engagement

One of the most significant challenges for sports organizations is fan involvement. To date, fans have been encouraged to post on social media to share their experiences at games, with many teams rolling out in-stadium Wi-Fi to accommodate bandwidth needs, but social video apps are uncharted territory.


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