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  • Julian Jackson

The time for Real Time Engagement is NOW.

Real Time Engagement is a buzz phrase that has been around for a few years, but only now are we seeing the convergence of affordable & available solutions that have robust monetisation models. Sport cannot afford to wait and see any longer.

By Julian Jackson, Founding partner ResultX Asia. 5th August 2021

My partner James White and I, have been generating revenue for the last 25+ years for sports organisations. We have bought, sold & created content as well as created events and sold sponsorships for major properties around Asia and the rest of the world.

However, in the last 2 years, we have seen that the revenue from these streams have reduced dramatically due to the Pandemic - amongst other factors, such as shifting content consumption habits as well as sponsorship investments being shifted to digital players such as Google, Facebook and Instagram who can provide instant, measurable feedback on the effectiveness of a campaign.

As sporting organisations have been frantically searching for new revenue sources, the rise of video and audio communication, due to lack of in person interaction, has gone through the roof.

The functionality of audio and video chat rooms on your own digital platforms, which were previously seen as a "nice to haves", have become a "must have" that fit the current consumer social media interaction trends. Also, in business we are now all used to having several video meetings a day. Even when we do watch sport on TV, many of the presenters & pundits are not in a studio but commentating remotely or even from home.

This has become a normal and accepted practice that before the pandemic was more of a novelty. Many of these changes were already in process amongst Gen Z and Millennials across social media such as Twitch. But Covid has been the catalyst for a seismic change of behaviour of how the majority of us now consume content .

The rise in popularity of User Generated Content (UGC), has also proven that live streams do not have to be professionally produced to be entertaining and engaging. This is something that we all know and now accept.

The ubiquity of social media, has also meant that sports fans are now more used to having their voices heard and what was once a chat around the water cooler or over a pint in the pub, is now more likely to be on social media.

Sports rights holders and broadcasters have made some inroads into encouraging discussion and engagement on social media, however, they rarely make any meaningful revenues from these interactions, as by far the majority of revenue is made by the likes of Mr Zuckerburg at Facebook and Misters Brin & Page at YouTube as well as their happy shareholders.

Add in the fact that only about 5% of your social media followers get to see your posts because of the draconian social media platform algorithms that require you pay to "boost" your posts (if you want a meaningful number of followers to see them) and we see that social media platforms hoard the revenue generation elements for themselves. They also own all of the data about your fans and which means that you don't know much about them. Fan data is important as it can be used to target fans with social commerce offerings that they’re more likely to buy, thereby increasing revenues from e-commerce and even sponsorships. The need for sports organizations to take back this power is obvious.

Thus, the time has come for a social media alternative. In the last couple of years it is now possible and affordable to have these social engagement functions all on your own app or web platform.

Companies like Agora, Monterosa, SportBuff, Fanisko and LiveLike have developed products that allow rights holders and broadcasters to bring the fans into the conversation, through watch parties, talks shows, fan walls and gamification elements. These fan engagements get fans to show up to your own platforms and more importantly to stick around because they can be part of the conversation in real time. This is vital in raising the value to advertisers and sponsors, as well as appealing to a younger demographic to ensure the future of a sport, team or broadcast platform.

The other reason why increasing fan engagement is important for rights holders and for OTT broadcast platforms is that all of these engagement elements are monetisable. Providing revenue from social commerce, VIP subscriptions, gamification & tipping.

Offering this functionality on your platform and not pushing your fans to Facebook, YouTube or Twitch allows you to own the data and generate meaningful data about who your fans actually are and what their interests/habits are. This is real time engagement is attractive to Gen Z’s and Millennials which is doubly important if you are to attract new sponsors to your sport.

The world’s biggest social media platforms are moving into sports (and monetising your fans) as they know that sports fans are among the most loyal in the consumer world. However, the sports industry can now afford to create its own bi-directional, real time social media functionality that will attract and retain fans. This allows for Direct To Consumer (DTC) monetisation with their fans which will become one of the biggest new revenue streams in the industry.

The time for Real Time Engagement's is NOW.

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