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The New Breed of Sports Rights Holder

As Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn states, 'Detroits are everywhere'. He's referring to how once-great companies, like those at the heart of the motor industry, are losing their leadership positions more frequently and quickly than ever before.

Detroit: welcome to motor city

Detroit: welcome to motor city

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Why?  Because, they don’t adapt to change fast enough.  They fail to embrace the new opportunities that technology offers them.  And, crucially, they neglect to recognise when their competitors do.

‘Official’ is no longer enough

Do a quick Google search for any sports club fan base.  You’ll see that many ‘unofficial’ fan bases enjoy numbers that far exceed those of their official counterparts.  Raw, rough and ready fan-hubs, often run by the sports industry’s answer to the bedroom DJ, are rampant.  These are gathering and keeping crowds with only self-generated insight, content creativity and a healthy appetite for experimentation to play with.  There’s no ‘official’ or ‘exclusive access’ here.  The official mark of the club and the its ability to offer access to exclusive content still matters to fans, but these assets need to be delivered in more compelling packaging.

Differentiation through Creativity

Sports fans have taken to social with little regard for where content comes from.  Their motivation is to show the world that they belong to a tribe of passionate people, by consuming and sharing content that reinforces their place in the world.  Their currency is their own commitment and opinion, ‘I am here and this is what I think’.  Recognise me.  The smartest community leaders give these fans quick and easy ways to ‘feed their feed’ with stuff that stands out.  This takes good old fashioned creativity.  Take a look at Footballfancast.com, a fan hub that makes it easy for fans to share their opinions with a couple of clicks.  A simple insight, packaged creatively to differentiate the hub from others that think less about why fans love social in the first place.

Beat them and Join them

Rights holders are now challenged by a new breed of competition.  A restless band of social renegades that are capturing the hearts, minds and clicks of sports fans with a daily desire to share.  If federations, associations and clubs want to compete, they need to think like NetFlix, not Blockbuster and make assets work harder.  ‘Official’ and ‘Exclusive access’ are massive USPs that the bedroom bandits would give their Macbook Airs for.  Find ways to package these in more creative content packages.  Find ways to work with rather than against your unofficial counterparts – see fans desire for content over source of content as a positive, not a negative. 

Nick Shaw, Head of Digital at the RFU, captures the dynamics of the moment nicely,

‘We need to behave more like a creative agency and be the experts on how to engage our fan base, not just how many of them there are’.

Josh Robinson is Director of Creative & Integrated Solutions, Sports Revolution

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