Every Second Counts in the Hyper-Connected World of Sports


Sports plays a huge part in forging people’s personal as well as tribal and national identities and the act of watching, playing and talking about sports is ancient (as the arenas in Rome or Athens would attest).

With smartphones, social media and crowd funding as well as other technological developments making interesting waves, we are likely to see even more disparate connections being established as micro groups of people find each other and enjoy the sports that they love.

The Internet is largely to thank for this as personalization and integration of multiple content streams and increasingly sophisticated video technology are defining how we talk about sports today.

It is no longer the major networks that determine things.

Players, fans and leagues have become content creators and video technology is becoming so advanced that it seems cameras will be able to catch up to wearable technology in the not so distant future.

The growth of Communication Technology and Social Media now brings billions of potential new fans to the table, with young millennials largely preferring to stream content from their devices instead of watching the game on TV, humorous bloopers can be more important than who won or lost and may even go viral!

This generation is set to be accustome to ‘volumetric video’ and toggling between different points of view mid game is becoming a norm for them.

Living in the age of Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and Snapchat where conversations are becoming immediate and richer, live streaming seems to have become a staple.

Amazon is streaming Thursday Night NFL games for Prime members and Facebook has expressed their interest in live streaming college sports as well as featuring NFL game highlights and recaps through a deal with the NFL.

Pro sports teams like the Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Eagles have promoted Instagram Stories content live in stadium and now, live social content is blasted on the giant video displays in stadiums.

Data has shown that 98% of sports marketers choose social media as the number one way to fully leverage sponsorships.

As with other segments of the digitally connected economy, niche groups of sports enthusiasts also known as Alt-Athletes are getting together and building platforms on a scale that may even rival mainstream sports.

Largely individual sports, these niches are now building communities to talk about rock climbing, parkour, skateboarding and bungee jumping with shows like Run Junkie, produced by FloSports as well as many other shows dedicated to these niche sports.

Video channels featuring Alt-Athletics make individual athletes famous and draw millions of views while advances in technology are changing almost every aspect of running a professional sports franchise.

Communities rule in the hyper-connected era of sports and thrive on conversation with communities of people banding together to affect the industry such as this Change.org petition to remove Russia as host of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

Craig Barry, head of content for Turner Sports says that “The same way that tech is evolving, content is evolving,” with pregame shows now beginning the conversation around the game and then jumping into the conversation that’s already happening online.

Turner Sports has also created shows specifically designed for social media/online platforms with these platforms becoming a more central focus instead of an after thought of television.

Fighting through the stands for an autograph from your favorite athlete used to be the only way to go, however, in 2013, T-Mobile hosted the first ever Tweetup as part of the MLB All-Star game in NYC with 2013 MLB Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper, allowing fans to tweet him while getting replies in real-time.

The business of commenting on sports is also evolving, through personalities such as former ice skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir who are engaged with their audiences and big on social media with Weir’s work at the Kentucky Derby garnering amazing social engagement across multiple platforms.

Using social to drive audiences to NBC’s platforms, the company has spoken about its “most comprehensive social media plan ever,” a 24/7 effort that includes partnerships with Instagram, Buzzfeed, Facebook and Snapchat.

Today, professional sports photographers such as Brad Mangin have shed their massive, telescopic cameras for the more handy iPhone 6s Plus.

Brad Mangin, who has been a professional sports photographer for more than two decades explains that using the iPhone provides many advantages from being able to gain access to areas he couldn’t have before to getting more honest shots due to his subjects letting their guard down, telling audiences a different story that only the small camera can capture.

The world of sports financing has also become smaller and barriers are being torn down with micropayments that allow kids to share fractional royalties with leagues.

No longer dependent only on traditional sources of revenue such as sponsorship and ticketing, clubs can now leverage crowdfunding (or as some put it Fanfunding).

Sports clubs are starting to realize that they have a one up over many other businesses and are utilizing their legions of online fans and engaged supporters (the 30 most followed clubs have more than 1 billion followers across all social channels) to establish a different sort of financing model.

Since 2010, crowd funding is part of a $432bn phenomenon and clubs can expand their wallets as well as their reach and engagement all at the same time through this cost-effective financing model.

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