The pace at which sports rights holders are finding new ways to get their content in front of audiences is staggering. From establishing a metaverse presence to teaming up with social platforms to launching alternative TV broadcasts, properties are exploring all available opportunities to attract and keep fans.
The latest concept debuts tonight as Amazon Prime Video’s inaugural Thursday Night Football NFL game featuring Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth will be paired with an alternative stream hosted by the Dude Perfect sports/comedy quintet.
Amazon promises “an entertaining parade of dunk tanks, pudding cannons, special guests, and the occasional world record attempt,” as the Dude Perfect version joins other NFL alt versions, including ESPN’s ManningCast for Monday Night Football and Nickelodeon’s kid-focused broadcast, which this year will be a Christmas-Day game between the Denver Broncos and L.A. Rams.
But the NFL is far from the only rights holder to develop new ways to connect with audiences, especially the highly coveted youth and young-adult demographics that are difficult to reach through traditional content and channels. Consider these three recent examples:
- The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the R&A formed a content partnership with TikTok
- Wimbledon tournament organizer AELTC digitally recreated its Centre Court in the Roblox video game platform. “WimbleWorld” offers games, video content and social features exclusively for fans under 18 years old. The AELTC already had a presence in the metaverse through its Virtual Hill experience.
- Mediapro, the Spanish media partner for LaLiga football, FIFA World Cup 2022 and other properties introduced a new content production and distribution partnership with Snapchat.
These deals and other similar tie-ups are deemed essential to broadening the appeal of mainstream sports beyond their traditional—and aging—audiences. Future success may hinge on bringing younger fans the type of content they want in the format they want it.
It also creates an opportunity for other partners to jump on the bandwagon. As brands themselves seek to appeal to younger consumers, they are likely to look for partnership opportunities that allow them to tag along with sports properties. Case in point: Wimbledon’s Virtual Hill experience is done in partnership with longtime tourney sponsor American Express.
Brand marketers exploring this new partnership territory will need to weigh their options carefully. One of the first considerations will be how to manage what could become a three-way partnership. Is the platform or sports property taking the lead? Which entity controls which rights? Who is paying whom?
These are also important questions for properties. Will they be able to bring along existing partners without interference from the platform or channel? Have they protected their IP so that platform partners can’t market opportunities that would cut the property out or ambush existing sponsors?
Ideally, these new partnerships can and should be beneficial to all involved, creating new ways to connect with fans—as well as new revenue opportunities—in ways that don’t cannibalize or compete with current channels.