What is a sports-fan in 2020?
Ask anyone what a die-hard fan looks like and what probably emerges is an image of a man with face-paint, shirtless, and loudly present in the stands shouting profanity and R-rated language.
That type of fan still exists. Usually they are the most loyal ones. The ones who travel to away-games, buy season tickets or VIP-packages. But what about the others? The kids, the teenagers, the families and the seniors? The ones who can´t afford the ticket prices, the travels to games, races or attend in person? And what about those who can´t spare an hour of two on the couch in front of the TV?
Time and attention have become our most precious and scarce resources. We all feel we have too little of it. But our interest and engagement in sports has not faded.
While I was growing up, my local sports team was only broadcasted on one single TV-channel, once a week. It was a setting that suited the sports media business well. They could sell interruptive advertising targeted to fans who gathered around the television sets. But in the wake of the radical technological strides of digital and social media, all sports content is now available at the tap of a finger on a screen that fits in our pockets. On demand. How sweet that is for all of us who loves sports.
Today, I usually visit approximately 8-10 different sources of sports content each day. I read news about my favourite sports teams and athletes on Bleacher Report or local niche sites, and watch clips on YouTube or Facebook. But I rarely use more than a couple of minutes at a time. I think I have become what they call “the four minute fan”.
"The four minute fan” is the notion that you, as a fan, can be just as passionate and interested in four minutes every morning with highlights clips and mobile viewing, as the die-hard stereotypical fan who wears the jerseys, paints their faces and leaves their wife and kids at home to spend hundreds of dollars on beer and crisps at the stadium or the pub.
The downside and upside
«The four minute fan» represents a downside for brands and rights-holders. The technological development has created growing generation of fans who are sustaining their fan engagement on highlights and Youtube-clips, but they’re not performing the role of the TV-viewing fanbase that brands and rights-holders has enjoyed for the last 50 years.
The upside is that the interest and engagement has not faded. It has just picked up the remote-app on their mobile phones and changed the channel. Good business will always be generated by fans who enjoy sports. However, the brands, networks and rights-holders need to accept the growing existence of the “four minute fan”, and find new ways and means of engaging them. And I believe the potential for value creation is huge.
The need to think differently
We need to rethink what advertising in a sports environment means in the era of the "four-minute fan".
It is no longer an option to just say «Dear fans, we are placing an advertisement in an ad break about our new brand of soda, and placing our logo on shirts and signs in the stadium, because we are really hoping that you and your group of friends are sitting on the sofa watching the big game and decide to buy a soda-pop in the morning».
If you’re targeting a message to someone who is watching a four-minute highlight reel the day after the game, how is soda relevant to them at that moment in time? And how should we engage the fans instead?
Let us start talking about new ways of engaging fans around the sport they love.