Sports, the great unifier. When the buzz and excitement of attending live sporting events were no longer possible, sports teams, clubs, and globally had to find a way to adapt and keep fans engaged.With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics going down as the most-streamed Olympics in history, the demand for digitalization in sports is at an all-time high.Having partnered with Brightcove on a recent webinar titled ’Is Streaming the New Arena for Sports?’, we heard from panelists across three organizations about their experience with going digital. Here are the top 5 tips and themes that panelists Rocky Chow, Hong Kong Rugby Union, John O’Neil, Tennis Australia, and Cody Winnell and Darren Skillen, Harness Racing Victoria discussed.
This one will resonate with a lot of organizations, regardless of size or sector. Digitalization of any kind is a journey, and as the panelists noted throughout the session, they’ve all had their fair share of learnings along the way.From the initial utilization of social media platforms, such as Facebook Live and Youtube to deliver content, the teams began understanding the intricacies and logistics of production, along with the discovery (through trial and error) of the content and delivery methods that resonate most with their unique audiences.Tennis Australia’s John O’Neil (Supervising Producer — Live Events) shared a tidbit about a technical difficulty they experienced when first starting out — “We had a situation [where] we lost a signal feed because someone unplugged our encoder so they could plug the kettle in to make a tea. So you can do all the planning but sometimes it may just need a post-it note on the plug that says ‘please do not unplug, important’.
Signals and connectivity issues were hot topics amongst the panelists, who shared the unique challenges they experienced as part of building reliable and stable streams.With the expectation of delivering quality and uninterrupted streams, the volatility of internet connections proved to be a difficult hurdle to navigate for Australian-based organizations. Through the trial of various technologies and solutions, mobile cradle points were introduced. For Harness Racing Victoria, this solution was perfect for establishing strong 4G and 5G signals on tracks that are susceptible to low-quality signals.In Hong Kong, where stadiums and facilities are few and far between, Rocky’s team stressed the importance of creating dedicated streams, which enable organizations such as HKRU to be nimble and proactive in their approach to ensuring the quality of deliverables. User data shows that stable streams, featuring a single camera angle yield greater viewership and engagement when compared with choppy content across multiple camera angles. A case of quality over quantity.“Having our own stream does make the difference, allowing us to do a lot more and in terms of that ‘evolve curve’ allows us to move a lot quicker. Having our own stream and the ability to be nimble, that’s very important.” — Rocky Chow, Hong Kong Rugby Union.
As the saying goes, if you can measure it, then you can improve it. This is oftentimes an area that is understated and overshadowed by content; however, it’s a key to growing a stable and healthy platform.The utilization of analytics empowers organizations with crucial data that can be used across all parts of the organization.“The technology now gives us the opportunity to identify what our fans are, who our fans are, who’s watching us in Hong Kong, who’s watching us in Asia.” — Rocky Chow, Hong Kong Rugby UnionAfter extensive research, Harness Racing Australia identified that historically, they had an aging audience and engagement was on the decline. In the hopes of growing engagement and stability within the space, the team utilized data to create targeted content campaigns (via various streaming channels) that were shown to resonate with specific demographics. Through these efforts, they were able to create an environment that fosters growth in existing users and attracted a group of new harness racing fans. The 18–35-year-old segment, which historically represented the smallest segment, is now the fastest-growing.
All panelists agreed that steady, quality content is what draws people in. With audiences more receptive to locally curated video content and a diverse range of content delivery methods, costly over-produced environments are no longer the catalysts for positive engagement.“When we first started with video, we were obsessed with having everything perfect and over-produced, as the journey has gone along, whilst we still strive for quality obviously… we’ve also learned that the audience is happy with something shot from a phone, so long as the content is engaging, informative, fun, entertaining” — Cody Winell, Harness Racing Victoria.For Harness Racing Victoria’s Cody Winnell (Media and Communications Manager) the question was ‘how do we make the world fall in love with harness racing?’. This question would be the North Star for their content approach, which took a granular view of the sport, shining a spotlight on the drivers, horses, and trainers. This enabled the organization to generate content through storytelling, and capture the interest of their audience, outside of the 2-minute race itself.Automated highlights, 360-degree view VR experiences, and the utilization of the video game AA Tennis were some of the ways Tennis Australia kept fans engaged when live sports was on pause. The diversity of content, across multiple platforms and devices, meant that existing audiences were kept consistently engaged with the organization, and demand for the sport grew.With a small but extremely engaged fan base, Hong Kong Rugby Union’s approach was to create content that engaged the community at various points of their journey. Chief Community Officer Rocky Chow outlined the intentions to create content that the community can tune into within their homes, as well as in or around game days. From pre-game content being viewed on the way to the stadium (in a live sports scenario) to post-game highlights and interviews, the intention was to make the community of families, ex-players and fans feel engaged and excited for both live and streamed events.
Media, sponsors, and commercial partner support are an integral part of the commercial sports industry. Keeping them in consideration when planning long-term digitalization will go a long way in making the transition to and from live sports scenarios seamless. For Tennis Australia, creating a dedicated media hub meant that just like their fans, members of the media were engaged and had exclusive access and coverage during event periods.With Australian border closures affecting international and domestic media’s ability to cover tennis matches, Tennis Australia identified a need to support the media and establish a platform that provided a similar experience to in-person attendance. The media hub was created to provide media the opportunity to experience what they would normally do on-site, digitally. This meant having dedicated access to; live matches, with the added ability to replay video, dedicated press conference functions as well as any necessary behind-the-scenes footage they would need to promote and enjoy the event without limitations.For Hong Kong Rugby Union, creating data-led and measurable sponsor packages has proved successful for both the club and sponsors. By measuring audience engagement and having the ability to provide sponsors with accurate return on investments data, it has solidified the benefit and experience for sponsors both in live and digital event settings.
Having proudly worked with Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) to launch HKRU TV in 2020, we’re delighted to hear about the impact it has had on the organization and fan base. The OTT service features both live matches and VOD content and has been developed using Accedo’s end-to-end solution offering.