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  • RichardAyers

Seven digital trends for sport in 2020

At Seven League we are used to reflecting on the end of one year and the start of a new one. This time – for the first time in the lifespan of our company – we also have a decade to look back on.

Back in 2010, Seven League didn’t exist. At the end of the year I had started in the new role of Head of Digital at Man City which, along with many other sports businesses, was very much at the start of its digital journey. Over the past decade we’ve seen technology change the way fans consume sport and the way sports run their businesses – mobile apps, social media, video streaming and data management have all transformed the connection between audiences and the teams, leagues and players we love.

In 2012, inspired by the London Olympics, I founded Seven League. In the past seven years we’ve grown from a tiny north London start-up to over 35 people. In 2018 we joined forces with Mailman to form the Mailman Group and so we now have hubs in London, Shanghai, Singapore and offices across Asia.

With the help of some wise industry experts, we look back at the last 10 years. We then look forward to the coming year.

This report outlines the seven digital trends we feel will have the biggest impact on the sport industry in 2020. We examine why they are important and what they could mean for teams, leagues and federations.

Enjoy the full report [pdf], and Happy New Year to you and your families.

1. WE'VE HIT PEAK SUBSCRIPTION Subscription models sounds great - predictable revenue, direct access to consumers - but everyone else thinks so too and the audience does not have unlimited time or cash. Instead of competing with internet giants like Disney, Amazon and Netflix, some sports will realise that others are best placed to syndicate their content.

2. YOUR NEXT BIG SIGNING WILL BE VIRTUAL Getting access to players can be tough, that’s why the smartest rights-holders are creating their own, fully IP controlled, always-on influencers. So, it’s possible that your next brand ambassador will be virtual.

3. FANS DON’T WANT TO BE OWNED Sports organisations want to harvest data from their fans but digital platforms are moving the other way, towards privacy, and this brings a challenge. Sport can still monetise customers but must tread carefully in terms of how it talks to its fans.

4. SPORTS PARTICIPATION WILL BE GAMIFIED Major rightsholders like NBA and UEFA have invested in apps which help regular players not only track their progress, but also award scores for the number of baskets in a minute or scoring in the top corner. Rather than just watching the elite level, people want to measure themselves against the best (and themselves!).

5. STORYTELLING OVERTAKES PERFORMANCE MARKETING Take care not to be sucked into a marketing strategy built around two numbers - we spent x and we made y - without great storytelling as a key part of the mix. You must sell your brand’s story, not just pay to reach people who might have bought your products anyway.

6. FANS DON’T WANT TO JUST WATCH. THEY WANT TO CHANGE THE OUTCOME Sports has rejoiced for many years in being the one place where TV viewers will still pay to consume your broadcast live, but that audience is getting older. The biggest sports now realise that to attract younger audiences, you have to create content they can interact with and even control the outcome.

7. 5G WON’T HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT IN 2020 People are getting excited about speeds five times faster than 4G. Movies downloaded in seconds! The saviour of VR! Well, perhaps not just yet. 5G will take time to reach the masses. What should be remembered is that although it will make streaming faster and websites load quicker, it won’t make a boring video entertaining or a poor site easy to navigate.

Curious as to what we thought last year?  To review through our trends from 2019, please read more here.

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