Key Learnings from "Digital Arena: Redefining the Second-Screen Experience"

In this “Age of the Individual” consumer demands have shifted around technology and fans are calling for more. More engagement. More connection. More experiences. Amid this change, successful brands are finding solid ground on how to stand out, and build lasting relationships with fans in an uncharted digital market.

We asked our partners - Christian Magsisi from MLSE, Brian Matzat from the Portland Trail Blazers, and Geoff Sakaguchi from the San Antonio Spurs to share their experiences in tackling this uncharted territory. From creating a new digital platform to engage fans, to pivoting roles within their organizations - their experiences have uncovered 5 key insights.

If you missed the webinar - don’t fret - we list the key takeaways below. If you’re feeling curious, you can watch the recording of the webinar here.

Redefining the Second Screen Experience - 5 Key Learnings:

1) Creatures of Community - We live for Connection

When you think of the perfect game night, do you picture yourself alone? I would venture to say: no. Our fan moments are made just as much by the people we share them with, as the actual game itself. We live for connection. Yet, when tackling what a digital experience would look like, community as a “business-case” is often overlooked. In the case of all 3 panelists, community wasn’t the main problem they were trying to solve, but it ended up being a major reason fans continued to visit their ‘Digital Arenas’. With this revelation, each team was able to leverage their feedback from fans, to curated digital gameday experiences focused on bringing fans together. The brands that have continued to retain and grow their fanbase during this period, are the ones that aim to enhance digital connection.

Brian Matzat from the Portland Trail Blazers had this to say,

We’ve had fans participate from 6 of the 7 continents. The global community has reminded us that digital provides the opportunity to reach almost every fan, everywhere. That’s something that we can’t take for granted, and post covid, don’t want to lose sight of; the ability to make our world ‘smaller’ so to say

Community and connection is a powerful driver for all people - fans will find a way to create it, so it pays to design for it.

2) It’s all about Iteration

“We’re living in unprecedented times”

We are. This is why creating the “perfect product” is a frustrating goal. When the future is hazy, building strong processes for execution, and a team that is willing to pivot and iterate becomes a necessity. The way that fans view sports hasn’t changed in a long time. Today we have the opportunity to build new channels out, and to experiment with the way fans connect with sports. A measurement of success today is having the capacity to experiment with new ideas and learn from them. For each of our panelists, they have adopted the mantra of “small iterations for success” with the idea that there isn’t a final product per se but a vision they’d like to execute on. Staying flexible, with a team that is primed to pivot are qualities that will help you stay ahead of shifting markets.

As said by Christian Magasisi from MLSE, “That’s the best part about technology and building: it takes a life of its own.

It’s not easy, but tackling opportunities with the understanding that it’ll take many iterations from day 1 will make it more manageable and exciting for your team.

3) Bring Back the HEAT: Gamification to Entice Fans

We’re sports fans, we like a little competition (or a lot). Gamified moments are a great way to play into this - and they’re already baked into the sports fans’ experience. From traditional ‘8-bit’ arcade games to predictive trivia - gamification and prizing are fantastic ways to create a more unified experience for your fans. The ‘gameday’ experience - of being in the stands, with half-time routines, t-shirt tosses, and mascot routines - all of those learnings can be leveraged digitally. You can dig into the same craving for excitement, competition, and winning with expertly placed interactions. Our three panelists also mentioned that gamification is a great way to teach certain fan ‘behavior’ to adopting new channels and concepts. Getting fans involved in the action on the court by letting them make predictions on real-time games is a great way to bring new elements into the fan experience.

4) Delighting with Digital: From Physical Activations to Digital and Back Again

When venues shut their doors, one of the biggest concerns for teams was in how to fulfill their partnership commitments. From large sponsors to smaller mom&pop shops, sports partnerships were forced to turn digital. For our panelists, getting creative with partnership assets & digital make-goods was part of the everyday process. And today, they’ve been successful because of their ability to frame challenges as opportunities.

Through their iterations with Digital Arena, Geoff Sakaguchi of the San Antonio Spurs had this to say, “When everything shifted from physical to a digital platform experience, we wanted something that would be equal to or exceed what our partners would get during a regular season. [Digital Arena] opened up a whole new inventory of opportunity”.

To delight partners, it can start with transforming in-arena activations to digital. Then it pays to think beyond. Ask yourself the question, “what new opportunities are there in this medium & how can we tap into that”. After all, the pandemic has transformed many people’s digital literacy by forcing them to a higher level of tech savvy-ness. It has transformed the fan-base that you are speaking to.

5) Innovation in Numbers: The Opportunities from Collaboration

Collaborating competitors. It sounds like an oxymoron but it is, in fact, the perfect opportunity for innovation. The issues around fan-engagement, lack of venues, and partnership fulfillment is larger than any one team. It has impacted the entire sports ecosystem. Because of this, tackling the problems as a solo team can feel paralyzing - especially when you’re equipped with far fewer resources. Our panelists decided to come together, to address the most pressing issues for their teams. As a result, they have been able to test, iterate, and adopt at a quicker pace than if they were experimenting alone. It’s not just external collaboration that will be necessary to stay on top of changes in 2021, there’s also the need for more internal collaboration.

MLSE, the Portland Trail Blazers, and the San Antonio Spurs - all three organizations have had to shift teams, pivot positions, and push departments (that have never before worked together) into the same meeting rooms. The results of which have led to more knowledge sharing, and adaptability within the teams tackling their digital challenges. We have an entire industry that’s pushing new boundaries. Tapping into the knowledge reservoirs across teams opens up the possibilities for the entire ecosystem.

Finding the sweet spot for digital fan engagement is an ongoing challenge. If you’d like to tap into our ecosystem, get in touch, and we can discuss how to tackle your fan marketing goals.


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