Much more than a game: How social media is changing the sports experience

Publishers and brands can innovate with formats that keep the viewer at the centre, and engage audiences in more nuanced conversations through social audio formats that are informal, fun, and let the community of fans come closer to each other

Updated: Jun 7, 2022 12:46:08 PM UTC

Amrita Tripathi is Head, Global Content Partnerships at Twitter India.

Sports-and-Social-Media
Fans’ inclination towards viewing sports video content presents a massive opportunity for broadcasters to drive viewership and engagement via social channels. Image: Shutterstock

Over the last few years, digital technology has rapidly transformed almost every aspect of the sports-viewing experience, and social media continues to add new dimensions to it. Today, sports fans aren’t satisfied with just watching all the action unfold live, they need a second screen to truly engage in real-time. Social media is where fans come together to dissect the most gripping match moments and off-field developments. It’s a tapestry of content, which is great for fans, and equally so for the entire ecosystem of leagues, teams, players, broadcasters, and even brands who want to ride that momentum and connect deeply with fans.

Social media: Second screen game-changer

While fans are glued to their screens for live action, social media is where they come together to share and connect with the rush of the game. Sports action on social media is especially charged-up during game time but this momentum stays alive all year long—as is evident in conversations around India’s favourite sport, cricket, during which people shared a whopping 96.2 million tweets between January 2021 and 2022. The excitement around each six, each wicket taken is palpable across timelines. It is the excitement around culturally binding moments like these that brands, publishers and broadcasters can lean towards to get to the pulse of their audience while it's thumping loud and clear.

Engaging, conversational and audience-first

Publishers and broadcasters have been leveraging this momentum to forge a deeper connection with fans by offering exclusive content and experiences via social media. While consumption patterns are ever-changing and evolving, especially with younger audiences who tend to love watching shorter highlights clips, for example, there’s scope for it all, across the live, video (and even non-video) space.

The extensive content spectrum includes access to behind-the-scenes action, pre-game and post-game moments, and opportunities to interact with the biggest names in sports. Whether it’s viewers getting to engage in Q&As with their favourite athletes and experts, getting the latest commentary in real-time, or being able to follow all the dramatic twists and turns of a historic auction, publishers and broadcasters are diversifying their slate of content to match fans’ excitement on these second screens too. Stalwarts like Harsha Bhogle and Gaurav Kapur, among others, have also been driving the sports and cricket conversations with their own unique flair. They keep it authentic and interactive to keep audiences hooked. In a recent conversation, Bhogle told us that social media channels have democratised the sports viewing experience. Kapur, meanwhile, said that people are no longer just viewers, but active contributors to the conversation around their favourite sports, and are helping shape the story while being a part of it.

Audiences love short-form, snackable content, and that’s the preferred format especially for highlights. However, journalists also enjoy longer format storytelling that can capture insights, analysis, trivia and nostalgia.

Winning strategy: Immersive video and audio content

Grabyo’s 2021 Sports Video Trends Report found a high demand for free-to-access sports content across social media and stated that 73 percent preferred to see more live sport broadcasts, whereas 62 percent wanted more instant highlights and social videos. There is a huge appetite for videos including highlights, in-match moments, expert commentary, as well as poignant and inspirational interviews with our best athletes. According to the report, over three-quarters of sports fans in India use social media as a primary channel for video viewing. Fans’ inclination towards viewing sports video content presents a massive opportunity for broadcasters to drive viewership and engagement via social channels.

Of late, the growing acceptance and popularity of audio has also allowed a roster of talent, including broadcasters and superfans alike, to engage fans more meaningfully, especially through conversations across formats such as Spaces that enable even more of a connection with listeners.

Shoot your shot: Personalise, localise

Audiences are increasingly leaning towards content that they can relate to, or what’s culturally relevant to them. That also includes content in their language of choice. As interest and culture based communities continue to take shape and grow in the digital realm, approaching audiences with what resonates with them will let both broadcasters and brands win on the engagement and audience-connect scale.

Personalisation is another key element that not only attracts audience attention but also keeps them coming back for more. Publishers and brands can innovate with formats that keep the viewer at the centre, and engage audiences in more nuanced conversations through social audio formats that are informal, fun, and let the community of fans come closer to each other.

Win-win: broadcasters and brands 

People want to engage with authentic, meaningful content which covers more than the actual game or event itself. This presents brands with an opportunity to collaborate with publishers and broadcasters, align with premium content and reach a larger audience when they’re most actively engaged in the conversation.

  • Collaborating with creators and fan-favourite experts helps your brand borrow their credibility to amplify the brand’s message to a shared audience.
  • Sharing in-match highlights, BTS [behind the scenes] footage and exclusive content in real time are surefire ways to engage a content-hungry audience.
  • Interactive experiences that let audiences participate (and often take the lead) in conversations can be another way to seed-in your brand’s message in the easiest, most light-hearted way.

Game on!

The writer is Head, Global Content Partnerships at Twitter India.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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