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The Shifting Sands of Digital Sports: Content, Monetisation and Data

When it comes to success in sports, there are a few fundamental questions at the top of every rights holder’s mind.

Interview_BenCausse

How is the way fans experience their favourite events and sporting moments evolving?

What should be on top of the to-do list for sports entities when dealing with large audiences?

How can these organizations monetise their target audiences and create additional revenue?

There are, of course, more challenges that go without a clear-cut answer, but in our experience, these are the big ones that still await a response. The sports tech sector is notoriously a very fast-paced environment, and nothing can be left to chance.

We sat down with Benjamin Causse, Deltatre’s Senior Commercial Director, and asked him about client expectations in an increasingly digital world and to share his thoughts on the future trends in the world of digital and mobile platforms. Here’s what he told us.

#1. What are the current expectations among clients for a content management system and apps to engage their fans?

"An efficient content management system is key to engaging with fans around the world. Content of all kinds can now be published very quickly, and news, stories, videos or images can (and should!) now be accessed and shared anywhere in real-time. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to choosing the right CMS. The challenges that a European sports organization might face is very different from the environment in which a major North American league operates, or the audience of a sporting event held in Asia.

"Our clients appreciate this and look for flexibility, both in terms of technical and editorial features, as well as workflows to integrate their solutions with different ecosystems and external technologies. They want their publishing platforms to interact effectively with third-party tools, from CRMs to stats and social media.

"We live in a fast-paced environment, where clients and prospects are looking for evolution. Making sure that a new platform represents a solid step forward to meet today’s requirements and go beyond current expectations has become key. Clients now have the desire and possibility to influence the roadmap of their technology partners, with visibility on what we ⁠— as a company ⁠— are planning to work on in the near future.

"Ultimately, it comes down to three milestones of success. Quick time to market, enhanced opportunities to monetise the audience, and ease of use. In a fast-paced environment like the world of sports, it has become essential for a company like Deltatre to be able to launch successfully against tight deadlines, quickly configuring and developing even the most complicated frameworks. Also, the right owners and holders are always looking to monetise their properties both directly or indirectly across their digital properties. Finally, editorial workflows need to be platform-agnostic and therefore very easy to use. Editors need to be able to carry their duties and perform in a timely and effective manner, with no room for mistakes."

#2. How can sports federations monetise their content strategy?

"Monetisation and demonstrating ROI are now primary aspects to focus on for today’s sports organisations. Western European users spend, on average, more than five hours online per day. This is a remarkable figure and our clients need to be able to extract the engagement and monetary value of this time through fan-first technology solutions. It can be done directly, with the integration of sponsors and partners on specific sections of the websites and apps. Or, again, via banners and more engaging formats, like sticky ads or parallax, which are adding value to the content proposition.

"Monetisation can also happen indirectly, with the provision of a sustainable back-end to integrate existing e-commerce solutions or ticketing systems. This delivers new opportunities to promote those revenue-drivers."

#3. Forge is powering many world-class sports federations websites and mobile applications. What does a CMS need to have today for international organizations?

"Among the most important things a CMS needs today, is the ability to integrate with an existing digital ecosystem. Clients want to make sure that Forge will fit seamlessly with their CRM, sports data, analytics tools, and video providers. This is what Forge is all about - it’s an open publishing platform that has already been integrated with many best-of-breed third-party solutions in the market. 

"There is also another crucial aspect that is becoming increasingly important - social media. A recent study highlighted how 64% of young people prefer social to TV content. Among young sports fans, in particular in football, a considerable 57% would rather watch goals immediately as they go in on social media, instead of waiting to watch them on a later broadcast. It’s clear how clients today want a content management system that is able to share and publish content straight on to their social channels, enriching the offering and enhancing fan engagement.

"Digital platforms are also constantly evolving, and with them, the needs and habits among consumers are quickly changing too. Data becomes key to addressing future developments and a solid structure to capture and monitor set KPIs is what a CMS needs to support. Forge’s landing pages comprise of a series of dashboards that capture all key technological and editorial metrics. This way, our clients can analyse quickly which pieces of content are performing better than others. Sports entities work in extremely complex environments and teams are often spread out across the world in different time-zones. Features that enable a quick translation of content, as well as full control of the editorial workflows, are extremely important. The flexibility of Forge, in this case, represents a real USP, for it can be fully customised according to the needs of our clients."

#4. What trends do you think will influence the digital sports space in the near future?

"I would say there are three major trends we’re currently seeing. Firstly, storytelling tools inspired by what social media players like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook call ‘stories’. The combination of various elements, like photos, videos, stats, animations, emojis, and static text is becoming increasingly popular. Sports federations, leagues, media providers and other rights holders can deepen their bond with fans by effectively targeting younger generations through ways of displaying content in a familiar and engaging manner.

"Secondly, I can see a return of what we call ‘own and operated’ platforms. A few years ago the future of websites as we know them seemed to be at a stake, with clients mostly looking at social media channels as natural destinations for their own audiences. It’s true that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are unique spaces and still key to enhance reach, but to capture more granular - and therefore meaningful - data, and create much richer relationships with the fan, websites and apps are still key. However, both elements need to coexist and ‘feed’ each other.

"Ultimately, there’s what I would call convergence. We are witnessing a big consolidation trend, where apps and websites are being built as comprehensive destinations. Some sort of aggregate home of ‘you name the sport or league’ where fans can access all types of content from one centralised location. We live in the era of the fluid fan, who wants to find that one-stop-shop under which roof they can consume content in the form of stats, live streams and even interact with their friends in real-time."

#5. Data is a hot topic today. What are the trends you are seeing with clients across match/game data and audience data? How is this influencing their decision-making?

"Data helps the storytelling. It also helps fans understand who is performing better and why, and it provides endless ‘coffee machine and water cooler’ conversations out in the real world. In terms of match and game data, in order to make sure hardcore or even casual fans get a real benefit, it’s important to identify what is the key data to a specific sport - what are the best ways to visualize this in different disciplines?

"Finally, data needs to be brought to life in a captivating way. When these elements are combined together, data can actually become complementary or (in some cases) replace video and live streaming, adding value to the fan experience.

"In terms of audience data, the main challenge today is breaking the silos, building a unified view, and making sure our clients can access and easily understand the numbers we gather for them. This is why we have been developing analytical tools like the ones I mentioned above for Forge. Thanks to these unique tools, clients can get insights, make informed decisions, and therefore evolve their platforms. Not to mention the countless possibilities to better tailor their products and content to a more strategic approach for their audiences."

Closing Thoughts

"These are just snapshots of a bigger picture in the world of digital and mobile. But what emerges is a clear fact - content creation needs to be supported by a seamless content management system and greater flexibility naturally reflects better opportunities for monetisation.

"Ultimately, storytelling at the core of any content strategy will need to be channelled through a ‘one-stop-shop’ digital platform where users are going to spend most of their time, accessing several sources of information in real-time and finding ways to build connections with other groups of fans. This is underpinned by the need to have a sophisticated way of using data to address the relevant strategy and its implementation quickly."