Social media has revolutionised the way sports teams engage and interact with their fans, but the ability for clubs to stream their own content via social media promises to bring on Fan Engagement still further. Content such as training footage or reserve team football matches which would not necessarily draw huge crowds among the general population, and so is unattractive for outside broadcasters, can now be produced at drastically reduced cost… directly to the target audience.
Fans are by definition “fanatical” about their sports team, therefore content which may at first glance seem irrelevant to the more unfortunate, rational souls who live among us, is of real value to a fanatic. Passing drills at a Thursday morning training session, preseason games played out against minnows in a far-away land or light-hearted pitchside interviews with senior players may not be considered worthy of a subscription price, but when delivered in a manner which suits the fan via a platform they enjoy, it provides great engagement.
Instagram is now joining Facebook and Twitter (via Periscope) in offering live streaming capability. It suggests even greater broadcast flexibility as it allows the operator to allow any person who is watching the chat to join in on a split screen broadcast. For example, if a goal was scored the operator could add in their reporter to the screen, in situ in the stands or alternatively in the local pub, to capture fans reactions. It also could allow for views from different areas of the stadium, which would add to the viewing experience. Such functionality and flexibility will add another wrinkle to the cheap streaming options open to clubs/organisations.
In leagues where enticing fans to stadiums can be at times difficult, and live television coverage is not what it could be, streaming offers a great way to get your product in front of eyeballs. This season, the SSE Airtricity League, the top division in the Republic of Ireland, live streamed the FAI equivalent of the FA Cup (sponsored by EA Sports) on Facebook Live, to great acclaim from fans. This week the semi-final between Shamrock Rovers and Cork City received more than 93k views, an impressive number for a Facebook account with only 14.5k followers.
Even clubs with significant social and fan reach are availing of the power of live streaming to engage fans. With no readily available television coverage on their recent preseason tour, Everton used Facebook Live to broadcast their game against Sevilla, and it was watched by more than 1.5 million people from all over the world. The team wore one-off jerseys designed to commemorate 125 years at Goodison Park, which no doubt had a positive effect on sales of the kit from the club shop. The broadcast was accompanied by an interactive commentary team including former player Ian Snodin, who also answered viewers’ questions and added to the attraction for Blues fans. This week, the Toffees were again live, this time showing 15 minutes of a training session, which had been viewed 20k times within 3 hours.
iFollow enables fans of English Football League teams who are paid subscribers to its service to access match highlights, replays and club content. However, its real advancement is that it allows international subscribers to watch live streams of league matches on their mobile device. All paid subscribers get videos of exclusive interviews, features and match highlights, as well being able to listen to live audio commentary of every first-team fixture.
Manchester City have just launched Cityzens, a platform embedded into their club website which among other features, has streaming capability at its core. Good Fan Engagement specialist companies are also designing their client solution with streaming in mind. Solutions such as the Fanlink app from Sportego, has streaming capability at its core, in company with other features such as Augmented Reality, Fan Opinion and Sponsor Activation.
The Scottish National Team’s Facebook page this summer live-streamed underage national team football matches. In July, their streamed coverage of a boys u-16 tournament gained more than 43k views… proof that there is appetite for such content. The key to good fan engagement is to give supporters what they like and how they like it, and so streaming capability should be one of the cornerstone features of any Fan Engagement solution worth its salt.