Relevance, Resonance, Real Time"
Okay, I am a fan of alliteration so when WNBA President Lisa Borders summed up her strategy for growing the WNBA brand into these three R words, let's just say it resonated. Reflecting on the 72 hours, 15 miles of exhibit aisles, dozens of conference speakers I experienced at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, I also think it speaks to the mindset of many other leaders in sports, entertainment and technology.
For those of us in the sports industry, it is very relevant that this gathering of 175,000 of the world's brightest minds representing 150 countries now looks at Sport as a leading industry worthy of their attention. Not only is the scale of sports respected, but many of the "experts" see sports as having one of the brightest futures of all industries. Why? Well as WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell explained, "Sports evokes emotion and, at WPP, we are working to differentiate the brands of our clients emotionally." Talk about resonating.
It has been four years since Turner Broadcasting President David Levy proposed a section of Sands Expo be dedicated to sports and brought commissioners of the NBA and MLB and his NBA on TNT announcers to inform and entertain. This year Turner and Sports Business Innovation teamed to take it up a notch with a diverse, eclectic mix of panelists. Some of the highlights:
Real Time. The NBA's Borders echoed what many cite as both opportunity and challenge facing business -- operating in a real time environment for your customers. Fans are not waiting to get home and watch their DVR recorded program from the start; they begin on their phone, move to their car and then finally to their living room. That presents a challenge for sports rights owners and their distribution companies to make each experience as good as it can be and the handoff from one platform to another seamless. Apple and Samsung are leading the way in developing completely integrated tech ecosystems. Real time content is also important. Live Tweeting, Facebook Live and Virtual Reality are examples in which the instant access to coaches, players and expert analysis provides a more immersive experience, similar to attending a live game.
Rising Value of Sports Content. WPP’s Sorrell predicts the rights fees for the world's three biggest sports properties -- the Olympics, World Cup and Formula One -- will continue to rise. And, as these process for rights and sponsorship go up, so too will those of niche sports such as golf and ultra-niche sports such as hang gliding. Why? As Sorrell points out, there are more buyers than ever before. It’s no longer television networks such as NBC and Turner seeking properties. Amazon outbid Twitter for NFL rights. China’s Alibaba and Tencent are also submitting rights fee bids. Verizon and AT&T are competing for content rights.
Curation Improves R&R. Today's digital customer is savvy, willing to give the sports entities and media companies personal data on our favorite sports, teams, players and brands but expecting more in return. How this data is used is key. NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash is now a major voice on content at Control Media says the more personally tailored the content, the more it is relevant and better resonates with fans, thus building loyalty. Turner Sports COO Matt Hong added that production and distribution of sports will evolve to be more personal..."it used to be you could either watch Jack Nicholson in the courtside seats at a Laker's game but you would miss the play." In the near future you'll be able to see both. He also said that content is being curated to specific audiences, extending its value. "Throwback Thursdays and Flashback Fridays may generate more views as the live content when it happened."
eSports is not your crazy cousin's compulsive hobby. From Sorrell to Twitter's Anthony Noto to Nash, all pointed to eSports as the fastest growing segment of the sports industry attracting currency in the form of event rights fees, collegiate athletic scholarships and share of mind. When the 2017 Intel Extreme Masters World Championship outdraws the World Series and NBA Finals with 46 million online viewers it makes advertisers and their agencies notice. In golf, the rise of simulators is somewhat of an equivalent force. Embracing technology as an "on ramp" to traditional sports participation is vital. As someone once said, "let the trend be your friend."
It’s All About the Fans. The most important metric in building a sports brand should be fan engagement, not reach according to Turner's Levy. He cited his company's acquisition of rights for the UEFA Champions League as their first investment not based on monetizing linear television. UEFA's annual competition of 55 teams from Azerbaijan to Dublin crosses time zones, currencies, languages and tech platforms. A new OTT (over the top) network will make every game available to its fans, allowing for an aggregated audience in the millions. UEFA marketing chief Guy-Laurent Epstein UEFA agreed saying the TV audience is almost irrelevant; "The largest screen will still be dedicated to live game action delivering reach, but the second screen is what we will use to grow our fan base."
6 Things to Keep an Eye On.
1. Technology is going mainstream. Tech isn’t just for Geeks. That means personal style is creeping into the products we use to communicate and be entertained by. Kate Spade wearables, Isaac Mizrahi smart phone accessories and Ferrari Racing power cables deliver function with extraordinary style. More people using tech = more data points = more insights on consumer behavior.
2. China is now a tech innovator. The old perception is that Chinese companies steal IP from rivals in other countries. That’s no longer the case. Sorrell points out that society previously said the same about Japan and South Korea. New Chinese smart phones and electric cars will compete with Apple and Tesla in 2018.
3. The next one billion consumers in the world will come from Asia, Africa and South America. That will change where and how global brands deploy marketing assets. How does your business connect with people in these markets?
4. Home Innovation will elevate service standards for the hospitality and real estate sectors. Televisions as command centers for the entire house, personal media playing on dozens of devices from phones to PCs to bathroom mirrors. Kohler Konnect is making your bathroom experience more luxurious and efficient while the Xfinity Intelligent Digital Home keeps you safe, comfortable, informed and entertained.
5. Ford CEO Jim Hackett put forth a bold vision for the future of cities, accepting that the automobile disrupted the natural flow of human interaction. He sees Artificial Intelligence and autonomous vehicles redesigning transportation grids to make cities more livable and enabling the renaissance of the town center.
6. Some brands are living longer. Nikon celebrated its 100th birthday and RCA trumpeted its 99th year of business. Suffice to say that Nikon’s move to content production and RCA’s to connected communications and home appliances (including a cool retro fridge) have retained relevancy. Atari has also reemerged as a producer of modern pub games including PONG and bowling. Your next clubhouse should have these games. And remember Packard Bell? It had a presence in Home Automation illustrating the connected house of the present.
Admittedly, the 3900 exhibits and millions of reports on how tech is transforming the R&D, manufacturing and marketing of business is dizzying. So what does the above average exec do? Take some advice from Sir Martin which I’ve paraphrased here:
1. Legacy businesses must embrace new technologies to transform their relevance. What is your transformation plan?
2. Accelerate the development of new businesses; the marketplace is demanding more rapid creation and deployment of campaigns and solutions.
3. Experiment. During this time of disruption it is hard to design the perfect campaign. Get in the game by experimenting. WPP invested years ago in Vice Media because it needs to know more about Millennials media consumption.
4. Get out to see the world. Reading and watching online are not a substitute for attending conferences, going to meet clients and seeing firsthand how technology is changing how people interact with your company.
That’s a wrap on CES 2018. Happy New Year! Joe