Breaking down the barriers to innovate the fan experience – no excuses!

November 9, 2016

Ben Barker is an experienced sports marketer, therapy who spent 11 years with WPP-owned Communications Agency H+K Strategies where he created sponsorship and partnership consultancy Soho Partners before joining Monterosa. Clients included Allianz, multiple P&G brands, Carling, Nissan, Betway, Aviva and Statoil. Ben works with brands, broadcasters and sports federations, to inspire and concept the next generation of interactive fan experiences.

The technology isn’t ready, it’s too risky, it’ll take too long to integrate” – We’ve all heard it, or said it. Yet we live in an era where the world’s most dominant, profitable businesses are those that dare.

With mature, intelligent cloud computing, advanced sensors and powerful smartphones, it is often the understanding and creative application that presents barriers, rather than the technology itself.

Willingness to move away from the status quo, however, is key to activating around sport.

We saw this at the Euros this summer, and to a greater degree during the Rio Olympics. How many campaigns can you recall where you saw something different, innovative or even ground-breaking? Yes, the examples are few and far between, but there were some Brand and Marketing Directors who were happy to embrace technology and take the next step to get closer to the fans and potential new customers.

Two examples spring to mind: Carlsberg and Gatorade. (Disclosure: Carlsberg are a client). Carlsberg were willing to look at how their two sole and exclusives Man of The Match and Goal of The Tournament could be delivered in a new way that would meet their sponsorship strategy of ‘doing it better for the fans’, and also capitalise on the advances in technology since 2012.

Carlsberg took an enlightened view by recognising where football fans were most likely to consume Euros content. In addition to owned platforms and websites, social media and UEFA’s digital properties would naturally attract the most attention.

Carlsberg integrated our fan interaction platform ‘LViS’ with all of those products to deliver a unified experience across multiple platforms, differing brand identities and a multitude of languages in real-time during the matches. Security was a concern, however. 

We had to prevent intrusions and synchronise the results across several different countries, locations and social media platforms. This momentous task was possible today but four years ago it simply would not have been so.

Crucially, the technology took the emphasis away from driving traffic only to the Carlsberg site, and instead allowed the fans to engage within the environments that they were already active within.

This resulted in an increase from 25,000 fans engaging with Man of The Match in 2012 to over 2 million in 2016.

Gatorade were equally up for creating new ways for fans to interact with the US Open, in their case focusing on enhancing their Snapchat ads. The Gatorade Serena Williams game captured the imagination of Snapchat users by adding an experience and value to the viewer it morphed from a one-dimensional advert into an 8-bit gaming experience.

Despite a consensus that “Snapchat doesn’t do games”, they overcame technical integration hurdles and to Gatorade’s credit, the game took on a life of its own, driving shareability, conversation and engagement globally.

A willingness to innovate and adopt new technologies is no guarantee of take-up or success with sports fans. But millennials make up such a large portion of fanbases that their appetite to ‘the new’ must be satisfied constantly. The first to break the mould, the discoverers, become advocates.

The possibilities are endless. Go on, be brave.