Whether you’re watching the game in a bar with a hundred other shouting fans, on the couch in the comfort of your own home, or doing your best Spike Lee impression while sitting courtside at the United Center jeering LeBron, there’s one constant: your cell phone. In fact, 91% of U.S. citizens have their mobile device within reach 24/7. While it comes as no surprise that people like to be near their phones at all times, a recent study discovered that two-screen viewing has officially taken hold as more than half (52%) of adult cell phone users now use their devices for diversion, engagement or to connect with other people while watching TV. This number is even higher (74%) for smartphone users. For these reasons and more, sports and mobile devices were made for each other.
In-venue mobile campaigns have long been an incredibly effective way for professional sports teams to strengthen their relationship with fans through engagement and incentives. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see their text or picture on the big screen in front of 15,000 fellow fans? Whether it’s a text-2-screen, a vote for the player with the best facial hair, or a text-2-win for a free jersey or seat upgrade, fan/team interactions are just a text message away.
Not only are these engagements fun for the fans, but they present incredible opportunities to cultivate loyalty. Teams can reward fans with prizes, by displaying their texts and pictures on the big screen, or just by responding via text. Savvy teams have also taken these interactions one step further as an opportunity to drive fans to their website, increase retail as well as ticket sales, and promote their alert lists. The effectiveness of sending a fan a direct link to the team’s website for more content or a coupon code for a discount to the team’s store cannot be overstated. Fans that go out of their way to interact with teams are even more likely to be receptive to additional offers such as these. Additionally, since these fans are participating in these campaigns in the stadium, teams can customize offers by location to maximize effectiveness. What could be better than knowing you’re sending an offer to avid consumer in an exact location?
Sports events, more than any other television programming, are best viewed live. With this ideal live nature of sports viewing, communication among fans and friends as well as staying on top of every game’s latest breaking information is integral to the fan experience. When I was younger I remember watching nearly every Bulls game on television with my father. During the breaks between quarters, he would grab the landline phone and call up a friend to say something along the lines of “Did you see that?!” or “I can’t take the stress!”
Nowadays, mobile devices are tailor-made to suit these communication needs in far more comprehensive ways. I guess the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, because I inevitably find myself doing the exact same thing as my father. Except instead of calling one or two friends, I end up engaging in conversations with far more people through texting, Tweeting, and posting to Facebook as the games progress. I stay on top of all the action by opting-in to various alert lists to receive breaking news, score, fantasy, and injury alerts. Sure, there’s still the occasional phone call, but with these methods I’m able to communicate with far more than just one or two friends.
This new and extensive communication system allows viewers to sound off on every facet of the game, making normally casual viewing more interactive. Alex Campbell, co-founder/Chief Innovation Officer at Vibes Media, explains the value of enhancing the Olympics viewer’s experience saying, “It looks like most of the mobile options are all about getting deeper into storylines on the athletes and events. This is a great use of mobile – especially on a tablet. While I’m sure there will still be feel-good stories during the primetime broadcast, now I can actually research athletes and events on my own while watching that particular athlete compete live on my TV.”
These abilities for marketers to make the viewing experience more interactive, allowing for more of a lean-forward mentality, highlights the newest and most innovative ways mobile devices are perfect for sports. Moreover, the chances that viewers will stay tuned in longer only increases when the viewing experience is better.