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What can traditional sports learn from esports?

The last couple of weekends have seen two massive esports events taking place. The inaugural Fortnite World Cup event at Flushing Meadows Tennis Centre in New York and the FIFA esports finals at O2 in London.

Millions followed the events across the world and British 15-year-old Jaden Ashman from Hornchurch, London won almost £1m for coming second in the Fortnite duos event.
Fortnite is now played by 250 million players and a vast roster of hugely influential streamers attracting massive audiences with their Fortnite broadcasts.

A number of major football clubs, such as PSG Paris and Manchester City now run their own FIFA esports teams, so some people in traditional sports organisations now understand the potential in esports. So has an increasing number of major brands who are becoming sponsors of these events, including Mercedes!

Thousands attended the FIFA esports finals at O2 in London

The Flushing Meadows Tennis Centre hosted the inaugural Fortnite World Cup

…and it’s not on free-to-air telly

What is also interesting is that this whole phenomenon is that only recently has SKY begun to show the FIFA finals, so the whole movement has been developed via Skype, Twitch and various streaming channels

So, while we do agree that free-to-air broadcasting of major sports events, can have a positive effect on getting young people into sport, we are also suggesting that there are many other channels which can should be used to spread the word. Some of those channels probably don’t exist today, but soon a 15-year old will have launched one from their bedroom!

More than 380 million people across the world watched esports in 2018 and that number is expected to increase to 550 million in 2021. Whether those audiences are watching Fornite, League of Legends or Counter-Strike, the numbers hold interesting lessons for traditional sports, where viewing figures among younger people are declining.

YouTube and Netflix are now UK’s third and fourth most popular channels, Ofcom finds

The four most popular television channels in Britain now include YouTube and Netflix, an Ofcom report has found, as the streaming giants eclipse BBC Two and Channel 4 in a drastically changing media landscape.
British adults now watch an average of 34 minutes of YouTube and 18 minutes of Netflix a day, beaten only by BBC One at 48 minutes and ITV at 37.
A study of young adults, categorised as being aged 18 to 34, placed the two video services as the most-watched viewing platforms, with one hour and four minutes dedicated to YouTube and 40 to Netflix per day.
The findings were reported in Ofcom’s second annual “Media Nations” report, which tracks the viewing and listening habits of the UK.
Nearly half of homes now subscribe to TV streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or NOW TV, with average daily viewing rising by seven minutes last year to 26 minutes.

Here’s what to do:

Here are some suggestions that most of you could do if you are not already doing:

Accept that the times indeed are changing (they always have) and move with them

Set up project group of 14-17-year-olds from the club of both genders, if possible. Preferably someone who are not that brilliant at your sport and who perhaps who would rather be playing Fortnite or do street arts. Ask them to look at everything the club/centre does with a critical eye, from their viewpoint. From the experience provided by the coaches to the language on your social media.

When they make recommendations, ask upon them, even those you don’t really understand and/or accept. If they want to arrange a midnight festival combining your sport, music and graffiti – do it…and so on!

Consider points like these

• Are you coaches regarded as welcoming, friendly and relevant to the people the coach?
• Are your social media platforms the most appropriate for your young people (one 15-year female said to me “Facebook is old people”)?
• What is the first impression people get when they come to your place for a session? Warm, welcoming, dirty, clean, cliquey…?
• What do your lapsed players/members say about online and offline?
• What do your current players/members say about you online and offline?
• Do everybody have to play in a league or join competitions, week in, week out? Or can they go to the odd session and take part in one fun festival?
• Do you run informal drop-in sessions
• Do you listen, engage and act.

Here at Sports Marketing Network, we are quite good at helping people to ‘think wrong’. If you want to have a chat, give us a call on 01423 326 660.
Svend Elkjaer

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