Media is the name of the game in the sporting industry. It is one of the largest sources of revenue for team organizations, soccer especially. Broadcasting, distribution, publication, and licensing rights sell for a pretty penny all over the world. NBC Universal’s new 3-year $250 million TV rights deal with the Barclay’s Premier League is just one example of that. For sports marketers, understanding how sports fans and consumers are accessing the sporting world and engaging with their favorite teams is absolutely crucial. In a world where that understanding is essentially made to be a moving target with the exponential rate of growth in the technological field, which changes the media and consumer technology landscapes almost on an annual basis (sometimes quicker), getting to the answers can be quite challenging. Kantar Media, TVSportsMarkets, and PERFORM team up every year in an attempt to make sense of all the media consumption numbers to provide those answers in the Global Sports Media Consumption Report.
Though many of the metrics and insights gained from this report are general in nature, most are indicative, at the very least, of media trends in the soccer industry. Researchers surveyed 990 million people in 14 different global sports markets. 460 million of those fans surveyed, or 46.5%, were soccer fans. There are essentially 6 different vehicles, or platforms, for sports fans follow their teams, other than physically going to the venue itself for a match: television, print, online, mobile, radio, and social media.
Television is still the number one media platform used by consumers to follow sports in all markets that were surveyed. However, the number of fans choosing to engage via the other five platforms, online and mobile especially, is steadily growing, and fast. Online is now the 2nd most preferred platform for sports fans in 10 of the 14 markets surveyed, according to the report. Consistent with the broader consumer product goods industry, mobile platforms have exploded in the sports industry, especially in the last year. For example, in Australia, 37% of sports fans leverage mobile devices to follow their teams, up +9 points vs 2012. The methods with a growth rate closest to that were social media platforms (29%, up +6 points vs 2012) and radio (46%, up 5 points vs 2012); however, both of these methods are inclusive of consumers using these mediums via a mobile device.
A major part of the growth seen from the mobile platform is a direct result of the social media boom. According to the report, the average sports fan spends 1-2.5 hours a week following their teams via social media. Sports industry experts were surveyed as part of the research for the report, in addition to sports fans, to lend their expertise on some of the pressing issues and questions floating around the marketplace. One of those experts was FIFA’s director of television, Niclas Ericson. When researchers asked how digital media was changing his business, he replied:
At our recent FIFA World Broadcaster Meeting for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we presented a large package of services in the multimedia area including fine tuning guidelines and how social media can be integrated into the media presentation of the event by our media rights licensees.
Ericson went on to add,
It is clear that the main value of our media rights is the live main match coverage. However, digital media plays an increasing role for promotion and additional coverage and applications around the matches.
John Kristick, Global Chief Executive of GroupM Entertainment and Sports Partnerships, provided his thoughts on how social media specifically has changed the media landscape, and what opportunities have yet to be uncovered in this space for the sports industry:
Social media has been a gamechanger in sports. It is forcing agencies, brands and properties alike to think more critically about how they can enable the sports experience to be shared. More directly, social is facilitating a truly borderless sports landscape in which fans and properties can interact regardless of geography. This provides an enormous, previously unavailable opportunity for properties to position themselves more globally. Challenges remain for rights-holders, brands, and the major social media players to find more innovative ways to work together and share benefits and wealth. I believe new models will emerge.
Like most industries, the Asian market represents a massive growth opportunity for sports, soccer in particular. The growth in these countries across most categories is astounding, and the scary part is that we are just beginning to uncover what the size of the prize could potentially look like. In India, the average sports fan spends almost an entire day per week, 19.1 hours, consuming sports media. One area of opportunity in these markets that over-indexes vs the rest of the world is pay-for-view online content. For instance, 56% of sports fans in China are willing to pay for online sports content, compared to 7% in Germany.
Mobile and online technology companies represent an interesting new dynamic to the equation as well, for all markets in a different capacity other than just consumer engagement. Everyone is asking the question, ‘how long before the major mobile and online companies enter the market for media rights, joining the likes of the TV providers?’ The researchers asked the industry experts this very question, and Kristick replied:
This is already happening significantly and will only continue to grow. In the United States, one need not look much further than the Verizon-NFL and T-MobileMLB massive pacts. What will be particularly interesting is the extent to which properties can identify how to best optimise and leverage these opportunities given how constantly the landscape is changing.
Ericson had a slightly different opinion when it came to the soccer media rights market specifically.
We are still waiting. The market for sports rights is still dominated by traditional media companies. These companies are, although present on all platforms, offering services not only on linear free-to-air channels but on broadband, mobile, etc. We have seen strong movements related to large cable and satellite platform companies, as well as by large telecommunications companies such as BT for top-tier sports rights, which is encouraging. However, the new players such as the social media platforms, including YouTube, are still on the sidelines.
Most anyone would concede that it is only a matter of time before the mobile and online companies make a large-scale entrance into the media rights market for the top-tier sporting events and leagues. As these platforms continue to grow full steam ahead, it will be increasingly important for teams and leagues to have designated media strategies for these platforms that work in tandem with the more traditional and high traffic methods, such as TV. A cohesive, 360 degree media plan/strategy is becoming more and more complex to achieve and execute. Yet the opportunity associated with the increased growth and complexity in this space is more than capable of delivering the kind of ROI needed to sustain such an intricate web of media and marketing strings.