Digital Masterclass: “Athletes Are Drivers Of Engagement”

June 27, 2019

The central role of athletes in creating fan engagement was a recurring topic at the iSportconnect Digital Masterclass in London yesterday during a day jam-packed with insights from experts from both sides of the Atlantic. This overview on iSportconnect TV gives a sense of the buzz.

Here are some of the stimulating points made in the discussions.

Panel 1: Content, Data & Innovation

  • Jodain Massad, Executive Producer, Fighting Irish Media, Notre Dame Athletics
  • Johary Rafidison, Digital Content Insights, beIN Media Group
  • Xavier Diquet, General Manager – Content & Brand Engagement, Nissan Europe

The moderator was Joe Kyle, Marketing Director of digital marketing agency Goodform.

  • “The most interesting social media metric is retweets rather than likes. Retweets mean people want to align their own personal ‘brands’ with you.”
  • “The young audience is done with fake. They demand authenticity.”
  • “Athletes should be content collaborators.”
  • “The biggest challenge is making the link between the physical and digital experiences.”
  • “Intuition are common sense are not enough when you play in the digital world. You must depend on the analytics.”
  • “Social listening is crucial.”
  • “The single most important of a brand is trust.”
  • “Digital is ideal for bringing young people to your brand even before they become your customers. You take them on a journey to becoming customers.”
  • “Our most important KPI is time.”
  • “It’s challenging to compete with publishers who produce content without spending money on rights.”

Panel 2: Digital Media & Technology

  • Richard Berry, Commercial Director, Williams Racing
  • Taylor Riese, Managing Director EMEA and India, Verizon Digital Media Services
  • Anand Narayanan, Head of Digital Marketing and Innovations, Panasonic UK
  • Marcus Parnwell, SVP Future Market Expansion & Planning, DAZN

The moderator was Mark Bishop, Head of Marketing EMEA & APAC of digital payment solutions leader Vindicia.

  • “The OTT market is a creation of technology. Broadcasters used to own the delivery platforms. Now they don’t.”
  • “OTT barriers to entry are low. In Brazil, we launched in a new market by promoting through YouTube and subs for OTT took off.”
  • “For content, we have a cost-per-minute KPI.”
  • “OTT should be about doing what broadcasters are unable to do.”
  • “Some social media integrations with partners work, others don’t.”
  • “Digital latency is getting lower. But broadcasters will always be a bit faster.”
  • “Unscripted up-close content with legends can work best. Show Rio Ferdinand reacting to a real game and the authenticity shines through.”
  • “For a brand, the moments between the games are more important. When there’s a game, the engagement is on the game, not a brand.”

Panel 3: Is Digital The New Sphere for Athletes to Win the Battle of Ideas & Opinions?

  • Callum Skinner,Olympic Champion, Lead Athlete for Global Athlete, and Sports Governance Reform Campaigner
  • Daniel Smith, Director of Communications and Digital, World Sailing
  • Rob Woodhouse, General Manager Talent – UK, TLA Worldwide
  • Steve Wilson, Communications Adviser / Writer

The panel was moderated by Ben Nichols, CEO of Ben Nichols Communications, who also acted as emcee for the day.

  • “Athletes have audiences that are more engaged and more powerful than many organisations.”
  • “We use the athletes’ channels to amplify our organisation’s communication.”
  • “The most effective way for athletes to use social media is by being themselves.”
  • “What makes a good campaign is the athlete believing in it.”
  • “In five years, we will probably see more collaboration between federations, athletes and commercial players.”
  • “Thanks to social media, athletes are now in a position to control the conversation.”

Panel 4: International Expansion for Brands – Using Digital to Engage Fans in New Territories

  • Adam Field, Head of Global Fan Engagement, Chelsea FC
  • Robert Alberino, Vice President & Executive Producer, San Francisco 49ers
  • Alejandro Daroca, Communication & Translation, Real Betis Balompié

The moderator was Ben Barker, Commercial Director of digital engagement technology specialists Monterosa, who before the panel gave a fascinating presentation on his company’s interactive solutions. He pointed out that fans have always relied on media companies for content. Now rights owners and sports bodies can (and should) create their own content “to keep the fans in their own environment.”

Comments and observations made by the panellists included:

  • “Think like a fan. Thank about the story you want to tell and how they want to hear it.”
  • “Do not be afraid to fail. You have to fail to succeed.”
  • “We have now launched in India because we have succeeded in gaining traction in China. If we hadn’t made progress in China, our focus would have remained entirely on making progress there.”
  • “You can never switch off in China. Even for a day.”
  • “Nine times out of ten with our content, we just try something. If it doesn’t work, we move on.”
  • “One size does not work in the international market. That goes especially for the U.S.”
  • “Engaging with the popular culture in a market is a good way for a sports property to grow.”
  • “In the Mexican digital market, memes are very popular.”
  • “We tend to experiment in overseas markets. If we try something new at home that doesn’t work, the fans might riot.”
  • “Sports have the advantage of huge archives of video to draw upon in creating digital content.”