David Granger Digital Cafe iSportconnect Social Media

Member Insights: The Digital Café – How Sports Stars Have Adapted To Their Content Role In Lockdown

June 1, 2020

In the Digital Cafe this week, David Granger takes a look at how sports, sportswomen and sportsmen are coping with no action and how they are adapting to creating online events. 

Content to Stay At Home

A whole summer of sport has been wiped out – and most of a spring and perhaps even an autumn – but some clever online innovation has kept fans entertained and kept athletes… well, creating their own lockdown content. 

The current pandemic has given us the chance to look back at the pre-pandemic days to keep us entertained, and also to look forward, to have a glimpse to where we might be. Looking back? Check out FIFA’s excellent #WorldCupAtHome campaign which had voting on Twitter decide which of three potential classic games they would stream live (well, not live, but…) on YouTube – excellent engagement and an excellent chance to re-watch Spain v Netherlands from Brazil 2014.

Looking forward? Well, if you were missing the glitz, glamour and overpriced fizz of F1 in Monte Carlo, on the weekend which should have marked the 78th Monaco Grand Prix, you could have watched the virtual racing around the principality complete with esports racer support series, pro commentary and – let’s hope this is not one we see too often in the future – a ringer driver.

Both the virtual Grand Prix and the football match used build-up to create anticipation, but crucially an appointment to view to emulate live sport. The advent of on demand and increase in streaming has meant there are fewer and fewer of those appointments-to-view, one of the unique aspects of sport. Success in digital and social is not only about continuing fan engagement when there is no sport, but having events to re-create that build-up and a single date and time to mimic live matches, games and races. Even if you know that Friday 13 saw the Netherlands thrash the then reigning champions 1-5, the FIFA replay was a definite event.

And the future could see more athletes turn to home-made content. Lockdown and a lack of action until the leagues return has given players the chance to hone their online production skills as well. Where skate, surf and snowboards have been filming every moment for years, according to sports marketing agency 90/24 Media (via www.digitalsport.co) there has been a minor explosion in content created by soccer players.

Their report which looked at the impact of Covid-19 on soccer players and their social influence found that footballers are producing 15% more video than before lockdown and getting 82% more video views which may be down to more content or they’re getting better at it. Which you might expect as sport turns to social to keep fans on side, except when you find out that other sports teams, media publications, leagues and brands have experienced a slower growth rate during lockdown than before.

Soccer players are getting it right on social. And not just on their content, either. There was (unwarranted) criticism by the UK government over players’ collective reaction to the virus outbreak, so it was good to see the other side of the coin when Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) of Manchester United posted on Twitter recently it was to display his award from the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester for his efforts helping to feed children in the city during the Covid lockdown. While footballers were heavily criticised at the start of the UK lockdown, it seems they were out there actually doing some good.

As the Bundesliga continues its tentative return, and we start to hope sport returns, there is still enough to keep everyone occupied – but nothing quite beats the real, live thing.

Track Flash Back 

The other opportunity which lockdown has given us is for some of the sports snappers to go through their hard drives and re-present some of the best moments they’ve captured. Over the Monaco weekend there were two, especially Mark Thompson (Instagram @thommogetty) and Vladimir Rys (Instagram @vladimirrys), who had some excellent, and completely different, takes on previous Monte Carlo races.

Staying Entertained 

If you listen to one thing… Don’t Tell Me The Score – the podcast which explains life through sport. It’s what Bill Shankly was talking about when the Liverpool FC manager claimed that football is more important a matter than life and death. It’s not, but it is a great insight into what sport can teach us about life.

If you watch one thing… if you’re not a natural German soccer fan, then check out the Bundesliga’s YouTube channel. Despite the occasionally sightly over-enthusiastic commentary, it’s got some great off-the-field content and while we wait for the other European leagues to kick off, is well worth 90 of your minutes. 

If you follow one account… former Liverpool, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest striker Stan Collymore runs a more political, and more articulate than most Twitter account in which the former England footballer calls it exactly how he sees it, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. 

David Granger Digital Cafe iSportconnect Social Media