How Can Sport Keep Pace With The Digital Age?


6 min

2023 has already started with a bang, with both hope and sadness, and we are only in February.  It is only right to pay our respects to a true visionary and game changer: Ken Block. 

As a co-founder of DC Shoes, Ken sold his share in the business to follow his passion for ‘Slaying Tires’ (Tyres).  Known for rallying with the Hoonigan Industries Racing Division, but mostly for his hugely successful production of a series of Gymkhana videos on YouTube. 

Ken pioneered a change in engagement and petrol hedonism that turbocharged the creation of thrilling digital content, being both visually astounding and a marketing slam dunk.

A true revolutionary in our time, who delighted fans with his exploits and countless YouTube views. He will truly be missed and our thoughts are with his family & friends at this time.

Turning from a difficult moment, to look ahead to what ‘23 holds for sports fans and businesses, we have already seen a statement of intent for the digital age and the power of tech companies in sports broadcasting.  Google has agreed a landmark broadcast deal with the National Football League (NFL) in excess of $2 billion per annum. Google now joins Amazon as the NFL’s second digital-first broadcaster, with rights as the US domestic broadcaster for the Sunday Ticket out-of-market package.

What can we learn from this latest deal, but also from other trends that show the digital age is continually shaping the broader sporting landscape?

As we have seen since the Pandemic rights holders across sport have had one unifying goal: to strengthen their fan base and deepen fan engagement.  Social media has had a large and dominating role to play as rights holders, teams and sponsors all compete for sports fans’ attention.  The most powerful tool in targeting fans and more importantly Gen Z users has been TikTok.  Video content has proved to be effective at capturing attention, with now over 100 minutes being watched per day (Zenith) of which 75% is viewed on a mobile device (eMarketer).

Referring to Seven League digital trends report,

‘Middle of the road may feel safe. It’s what your fans like. Or at least, what your core fans like. Or at least, what your core fans did like at one point. That comfortable spot in the middle is now shrinking beneath your feet’

If video content accounts for 82% of all internet traffic (Cisco), is it fair to say that basic video content will soon be this middle ground that is shrinking?

So how do you stand out and differentiate yourself from the wealth of content available?

According to Seven League, ‘To avoid becoming diverted by the wealth of other content and options, there are two main choices: Go bigger …or go different’.

We are excited about ‘Different’.

Seven League also speaks about ‘the emergence of exciting new forms of computer-generated content’ and a growing comfort around the idea that ‘AI, or more specifically machine learning and natural language processing, can enable human-computer interaction, largely around text and speech. Think Alexa & Siri’

What does ‘Different’ look like?

To quote CSM Sport & Entertainment's Jade Wood, “The equation is simple, the more access fans have, the more likely they are to engage with the sport, year-round.”

Now if video is the preferred medium to communicate with a fanbase or audience, but if simple video content lacks the teeth to cut through in ‘growing cacophony of social and digital noise’,  what is the solution?

One option we (In The Room) have developed is a unique way to blend authentic video content with machine learning and natural language processing, the result is a personalised interactive video experience for each individual viewer.

To put it simply, using your mobile, tablet or laptop you can ask a question (speech) and get a response with specific and relevant video content.  The application of this technology (Conversational Video Content) is extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of ways, in a number of different industries.  From education and healthcare to business, entertainment and, of course, in sport.

Sport offers exciting opportunities as you have a perfect mix of passionate fans, unique personalities and interesting stories.  The result is you can offer each fan an individual (hyper-personalised) video, that builds fan engagement and a stronger affinity for a team, club, player, rider or driver.  

From our work within music, as well as our work with some Premier League teams,  we have been able to build a compelling and robust use case as to why ‘Different’ is good and, more importantly, why it makes sense in a competitive landscape.

If you would like to see how In The Room’s conversational media works, follow the link for an introduction to the technology with Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club Legend Glenn Murray.

Author: Nyan Amer