Laura Louisy is the SVP of Business Development & Rights Partnerships at PERFORM where she works directly with major international sports federations, leagues, and brands to develop rights strategies that maximize fan engagement and commercial value, including through digital channels.
In this week’s Agents of Change soundbite, Louisy explains how PERFORM helped FIBA garner 130M engagements on a single campaign, why behind-the-scenes content is critical to driving live tune in, and the three behavioral trends that have created a new breed of fan. Read or listen below to learn more about how rights holders are adapting to engage the connected fan.
Why behind-the-scenes content drives tune in to live games
Nowadays a young person has many ways they can spend their time. There are a lot of things competing for their attention. That might be their smartphone, it could be hanging out with their mates, it could be playing sports… I think you just have to work a lot harder to get [young fans] to want to engage with your sport and with your content. I think part of that is showing them who players are, taking them behind-the-scenes, and making sure that they want to watch the games by creating a reason for them to tune in.
As part of our partnership with all of our leagues and federations, we invest our time and effort into creating that content that makes people want to tune in. The WTA is a great example of that. We do a production of every live match, but in addition to that we are onsite at every single event creating that content so that we can get to know who the players are. We’ve seen great success, particularly internationally, in some of these markets where there are one or two players really growing because we are committing to doing that coverage.
It’s the same with FIBA—they’ve just restructured their calendar and we created a content series called ‘This Is My House’ to drive interest in these new qualifying tournaments. We created that and we gave it to broadcasters, players, teams—everybody that wanted to show it—and we got over 130 million engagements. The reach was nearly one billion. I think it’s about investing in and creating content that makes people want to watch the live game.
Why localized content should be every right holder’s starting point
With the WTA, we make sure that every single match is produced. We can go to each individual broadcaster across Europe—and internationally—and they know that irrespective of which court that player is on, how early in the tournament it is, or who they are playing against, we guarantee that they can show the locally-relevant players. That’s the starting point. You have to make sure that every single match is produced.
Secondly, I think using technology to make sure that you can create localized content is key. In Germany, DAZN is the rights holder for the NBA, and we also run the NBA.com local portal. We know exactly what type of clip will drive interest in Germany. It may well be that Steph Curry has had a record-breaking performance, but that will not get the same amount of views as Dirk Nowitzki with an average game. Technology allows us to have the best plays for Dirk Nowitzki in 90 seconds, and it goes out to all of the publishers in Germany, and we know that that’s going to drive engagement.
The three trends defining the new breed of fan
We obviously spend a lot of time trying to understand what we call the ‘new breed of fan‘ and our research/analysis points to three key trends, one of which is nowadays the new younger fan, they follow players, not teams. When I was growing up—I’m a soccer fan—I supported the team that my parents did, and I didn’t think anything of it. Looking back it was a terrible idea because we’ve been bottom of the Premier League a number of times. But now young sports fans follow multiple teams, and they follow the players across those teams. When those players move teams, they follow a different team. It’s not unusual now for an eight or nine-year-old kid in London to wear a Bayern Munich shirt, or wear a Real Madrid shirt, or wear a Barcelona shirt.
The second trend that we see is that people want more from their content. They want insight; they want knowledge; they want to learn something that they haven’t learned before. One of the things that we focus on is around data. We have a great partnership with MLS for our Opta data brand and that provides a lot of insight and deep-level stats around games, particularly around editorial and trying to draw out insights that fans want. They want to go behind-the-scenes; they want to know who the players are; they want to know what makes players tick and what goes into their training. So more and more on the production side, we have to make sure that we are telling those stories.
Finally—and this goes without saying in 2018—they want that content everywhere. Each platform, each device, wherever they are, on the move—every platform they consume on. So as rights holders, as partners of rights holders, we have to make sure that we are planning our distribution strategies around live content, around highlights, and across the sort of behind-the-scenes production to make sure we’re on all of those platforms.
Why platform-specific content is critical to audience engagement
I think that the important point is that you have to know who the audience is on each platform and know what they want from the experience to make sure that the content is tailored to that. You can’t just put the same clip on Twitter as you put on Facebook as you put on YouTube. People say that viewers don’t watch long-form content anymore. They actually do. Particularly on YouTube, for example, people might watch a 30-minute documentary, but if you put that on Twitter no one would watch it. So I think it’s about understanding what each of those platforms gives to their audience and making sure that you create the right stuff that resonates for those platforms.
How social platforms are ‘dipping their toes’ into sports rights
I think what’s really important is what the social platforms have done—they’ve created a little bit more competition against the traditional broadcasters, those that own rights and try to monetize rights, and that’s always great because we want people to want to show the content.
Twitter has identified that MLS content is very important for them, and they’ve actively approached [MLS] and want to do that deal. That’s great because what we all want is for our live rights to sit on platforms where people really want to show them and invest in promoting the coverage and doing more around production.
What we’re doing as rights holders and companies that commercialize rights is trying to identify which are those platforms that want to come in for the rights and then try to create a way for them to dip their toe because that’s essentially what happening at the moment. How can we carve up what we have to create a package that’s maybe one [soccer] game a week, or if we’re talking about tennis, maybe one specific tournament that has some specific relevance for a market they’re trying to go into.
And then once that has been proven and been tested, I think increasingly you’ll see platforms starting to pay larger rights fees. It’s in the early days and they are testing it out. There are more and more of these deals being done, in the UK recently, Amazon announced a packaged with the Premier League which is the first time the Premier League will be shown on a non-linear broadcaster ever so it’s exciting times for us all.