Sean Verity, Antourage co-founder, explains the mechanics behind the company’s work with Swedish soccer’s top-flight and how it is taking fan engagement to new levels.
Many professional sports have been exclusive for too long.
Speak to sports fans, and many will tell you “it’s my club”. They should feel that way. Let them behind the scenes, make your sport or club inclusive. Create the most engaging content, it also happens to be the cheapest.
The demand for insider, lifestyle content is evident. In the US you have the likes of the National Football League’s (NFL) Hard Knocks, likewise some of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) most successful strands have been – you guessed it – behind-the-scenes lifestyle content. Amazon Prime has adapted the NFL’s All or Nothing series for Manchester City in soccer and the New Zealand All Blacks from the world of rugby union to meet demand.
These are recent examples of giving consumers what they want, but there have been flops. 2012’s six-part series Being Liverpool didn’t go down well, and was perhaps most accurately described by the Guardian’s Andy Hunter, who wrote: “[The show] is not really about the inner-workings of a football club, but everything to do with promoting Liverpool in a glossy, Hello! Magazine-style to a global (particularly American) audience.”
The problem? Lack of authenticity.
Your authentic content
Authenticity is the easiest type of content to acquire, especially if it is live. Just give your players a phone, with the ability to broadcast, and the viewer is now in the inner circle. It might not always be great content all the time, but it doesn’t need to be, again, especially if it is live.
Recently, having seen Sweden beat Switzerland to secure a World Cup quarter-final spot, suspended midfielder Sebastian Larsson jumped on Instagram and posted this:
The genuine insight this content offered was clear, and as such, seen around Sweden, from news outlets to talk shows.
Non-stop content that belongs to you is a no-brainer. It is content that you can monetise, repurpose and use to achieve your own objectives however you want. It can go out live, as truly authentic, or you can take that content and repackage it later as you see fit.
Staying in Control
The next problem is management.
If you have a variety of personalities broadcasting on your channels, how do you manage the production? Anything could be broadcast or said on your channels. How do you control that?
Antourage (shameless plug) has gone about solving this problem for the Swedish soccer leagues, including the top-flight Allsvenskan and all of its 32 member clubs. We have developed a live streaming platform that can stand alone, or be integrated into existing apps. Much like Facebook Live, or Periscope, but with increased interactivity. The clubs or leagues who own the channels have the ability to manage who can stream, and to where. Admins can simply turn authorisation or streams on and off, whether they be player vlogs, on the team bus, arrivals, super-fans, live tunnel cameras, live training feeds, youth or B team games.
For example, Stockholm-based club Hammarby uses a series of live Antourage cameras at all of their home games. One is stationed outside the dressing room, capturing the hustle in the belly of the stadium as players come and go. The camera is there for every game, the players are familiar with it, and they know that they can quickly pick up the mic to connect at any time.
Another camera is stationed at the top of the tunnel, running pre-match interviews, another roams, inviting the fans to choose where it goes. Finally, the manager always uses one of these cameras to announce his starting XI before the fans (or press) hear it anywhere else.
Hammarby chose to use this Antourage tech to exclusively broadcast this content within the stadium, to give fans a reason to arrive earlier (drink the club’s beer sooner) and enhance the match day experience. For this project, this is their return on investment.
Many years ago, I was one of those kids who used to drag his mum to the players’ entrance before and after a game. I could not get enough of what it would be like to be a soccer player (unfortunately I never came close to actually finding out). Having watched young Hammarby fans being glued to this content, it is clear that nothing has changed as they wait for their hero to possibly walk up to the camera and say hello, except perhaps parents don’t take their eyes of it either.
For away games, Hammarby will soon start broadcasting back to the stadium and partner pubs around Stockholm from the team bus as the team make their way around the country. This only further entrenches those ties, and secures more value from the platform.
Although Antourage offers production training, much of this kind content isn’t rocket science, more than anything, sports organisations just needed the tools.
There is another kind of authentic content: the games themselves. Many leagues (but certainly not the majority) make a lot of money from the rights to their premium coverage, so taking a different approach to rights is sometimes a tougher sell, but it could be the way things are going. If you have your own platform ready to go, with engaged users, then you’re already at the races backing the favourite.
The social reach conundrum
I often hear media managers and producers from a variety of clubs and organisations raving about the reach and exposure they achieve online, citing combined channel numbers to praise their teams. That’s great, it really is… but so what?
I would feel uncomfortable describing increased social reach as the final stop of a great digital content strategy, but it is to so many media professionals. It’s a bit like drawing up this grand plan to go to the shops, buying your chicken dinner, getting it home, but then realising you have not got an oven. Sure, you have a lot of poultry, but I am not sure it is useful.
Regardless, to cater for this concern with Antourage we are actually increasing reach via simulcasting to other social platforms. When streaming to your own channels you can choose to send that content to other social destinations at the same time. The big difference is that there is now a better strategy behind this capability to ensure an ROI for that increased reach.
If you could broadcast live on your own app, whilst simultaneously broadcasting to other social channel you could increase your reach. Even if just ten per cent come down the funnel to your owned platform, that is a huge success.
If that live content was only interactive on your platform then the flow of users back into your app, to experience that interactivity, will only increase.
Further to that, by broadcasting build-up content across all platforms before encrypting at a certain point to only show the premium content on your own platform, again, viewers on your owned platform will increase.
If you only broadcast this live content within the stadium you give fans a reason to arrive earlier and start spending money on your products sooner.
That is a strategy that allows you to cut your own deals and collect 100 per cent of the data. As such you are offering increased value to your sponsors, whilst building a direct, easily activated relationship with your fans.
What if you could produce more content, with reduced effort, meet more objectives, increase revenues and make your supporters happier?