Engaging the next generation of sports consumers

(Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports)
(Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports)

There have never been more devices, platforms, operating systems and applications designed specifically to deliver content or enhance the viewing experience than right now. Technology is a confusing labyrinth of set top boxes, game consoles, connected TV’s, mobile apps, responsive web and wearable content delivery vehicles.

We have known traditional linear television would eventually be replaced by new, more personalized experiences. The race to create those experiences and scale them to leverage the strengths and features of today’s technology landscape has many sports content owners and rights holders operationally confused and financially fatigued. Large sports properties employ hundreds and spend millions of dollars exclusively on digital content, building and managing platforms, and software. They face decisions on how to deliver the best fan experiences within their budgets, while considering more social, mobile and advanced technology decisions than is practical or possible.

Why invest all this in digital technology? One reason is content and CRM strategies; empowering fans to get the content they want, when they want it, on their device of choice. The second is a result of Millennials’ consumption patterns.

Millennials are truly the first “connected generation.” They think and act differently than previous generations. Growing up in a connected world, they multi-task and consume information seamlessly. They wear headphones at work, text friends, exchange social data, and actually seem to do their jobs at the same time. They crave collaboration, seek attention and responsibility, and demand quick bits of information.

While some have defined them as complacent, at Omnigon we see a group with different values. They want to be inspired and asked to help. They have a much higher BS-meter than older people and, because of that, seek authenticity in messaging and brands. Doing good is more important than doing well, in fact many of this age group choose social activity over revenue.

At 80 million strong, Millennials represent the largest group of consumers in the U.S.. The U.S. Census tells us that there are more 23-year-olds in this country than any other age. Of greater importance to those who seek to monetize content, Millennials spent approximately $600 billion in 2013. An Accenture study predicts that their spending will reach $1.4 trillion by 2020 — an almost 60 percent increase, within a six-year window.

Sports content owners and rights holders must ask themselves, “Am I building my brand with this group? Am I designing content experiences that they’ll care about?” Millennials consume 22 percent more video online than non-Millennials (Verizon Digital Media Study – March, 2014) and one third of Millennials watch absolutely no broadcast TV (NY Times Study-2014); this information should drive content distribution strategies.

At Omnigon, clients retain us to help think through “What’s Next?” Advancements in video delivery, social products that engage sponsors or partners, and the impact of new operating systems and devices on existing apps or browser-based experiences are all versions of the “What’s Next?” theme. Ensuring our clients understand the impact of technology on their businesses and the behaviors of their fans, and helping them design engaging experiences that matter is paramount.

A well thought out plan targeting the right audience and delivering the right content the best way, serves everyone, not just Millennials. But this group is absolutely critical to the success of some very big sports and sports media properties over the next 3-5 years.

Here are a few tips:

  • Have a strategy for responsive web development and a plan for implementation. Millennials are on hand-held devices, which already represent more digital content consumption than desktop machines. This will only increase.
  • Consider native iOS development where budgets allow. Over 40 percent of 13-17 year-olds have iPhones and iPhone users download apps at a higher rate than any other platform.
  • Develop content strategy that includes short form content that can be consumed and shared quickly.
  • For leagues and governing bodies, youth participation in your sports builds fans. Strategize on how your digital content and products can deliver authentic experiences that encourage participation.
  • The race is on, but pace yourself. Focus on success in phases and use market research to help build your product roadmap. No need to build a three-year plan, you’ll throw it away next year.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the ride. Use new technology as a way to motivate and excite executive management and staff, and inspire partners and staff.


David Nugent is the Chief Commercial Officer at Omnigon, the New-York based digital consulting firm. Omnigon counts some of the world’s largest companies, including NASCAR, PGA TOUR, WWE, NFL, MLB, IMG, FOX Sports and FOX Broadcasting, as clients.

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