Where's My Digital Sports Bar?

I took a trip to Seattle last weekend, arriving Friday evening as the locals were scurrying home to begin the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.

As I drove through downtown Seattle, I noticed the Seahawks banners and the "12th" man placards -- as well as the 12th man flag flying atop the Space Needle. Of course, every bar was decked out in Seahawk cheer. It reminded me what a powerful community driver sports can be -- at least offline.

But what about online? Why, after all these years and the recent onslaught of social digital media, have we no killer app to point to as the lightning rod that brings fans together online with sports as the catalyst?

Like most mysteries, this one has two schools of thought: one that says it's only a matter of time before the digital version of the sports bar appears for fans, and the other that argues sports community can't be recreated through online tools.

Allow me to argue both sides.

The Web will create the virtual, 24/7 sports bar, and mobile devices will be the driver. An ultimate online experience will emerge that brings me all the content about my team, the ability to connect with fellow fans via check-ins around live events -- whether they be personal friends or not -- and share my fandom through Facebook, Twitter and any other social sites that matter.

It won't be enough for me to follow my team through the Web, I will need to find my fellow fans in our own stadium section on the Internet. And advertisers will come along for the ride, sponsoring my tweets and Foursquare check-ins touting that I am watching the Giants game from my couch or local tavern.

So where is this fan utopia today? For years, sports has been held up as the perfect content vertical around which to create engaged online social communities. From the early days of chat rooms that emulated sports talk radio (without the emotion) to the stampede of team-based Facebook apps that all fail to grab my long-term loyalty, for some reason the sports fan doesn't find the Web a suitable replacement for the in-stadium or barstool high-five.

Maybe there's a consumer behavior dynamic at play here. Could there be something unique to the "vibe of the crowd" that physical proximity to other fans brings out that is impossible to replicate via a Web experience? There's also the dynamic that my teams only play at most a few hours of live game action a week, such that the majority of my daily sports consumption will be me trolling solo for bits of wisdom that help me win my fantasy league or look smart in the office -- as opposed to jumping into real-time fan experiences around games.

I'm not ready to give up on the virtual sports bar idea -- heck, there are just too many digitally savvy sports fans out there. But to crack the code we'll need to dig deeper than chat rooms and check-ins. We'll have to give fans a true online venue where they can get everything they need about their teams, interact with fans they get to know over time, and perhaps a destination that feels a bit like a place where you could imagine a little beer getting splashed on them as they peck away on their smartphones.

4 comments about "Where's My Digital Sports Bar? ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, January 18, 2011 at 12:44 p.m.

    Isn't this Twitter? #seahawks #packers etc?

  2. Darren Lachtman from rEvolution, January 18, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.

    FanIQ has an app called "Sports Bar" which lives both on their website and on mobile that is exactly a digital sports bar...the next phase should be combining the virtual check ins with actual check ins to receive on premise deals, discounts, etc.

  3. Gail Sideman from PUBLISIDE, January 18, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.

    If you're looking for a specific team hangout online, you'll find everything you want and more for Portland Trailblazer fans on their website. It think you'll see other teams following suit.

  4. Dan Vaughan from Competitor Group, Inc., January 18, 2011 at 9:28 p.m.

    From a branding/sports team perspective, i totally get it. The Atlanta Thrashers have a very nice site and mobile app.

    From a consumer perspective, there's really no such thing as a digital sports bar until my iPhone can pour Beer through its earpiece. I don't want to interact w/ fans i don't know other than the cursory high five because i'm stuck next to you at the stadium. I want a beer, my buddies and my 'high fives' all in one of two places: My "man cave" or my team's preferred sports bar. Checking in from section 310, row k, seat 1 does me what... introduce me to the guy next to me for one game? I can do that without an app.

Next story loading loading..