I heard a great story over the holiday break from a colleague about his 12-year-old son’s consumption of digital media. The short version of the story is that my friend’s son spends most of his time on sports and entertainment content sites that aren’t made up of the usual suspect of sites delivered by familiar media companies. He is drawn to web properties that emphasize the fun, entertaining and visually intensive (particularly video) experiences to which a pre-teen is most drawn.
After listening to my friend describe this experience, it dawned on me, that that’s exactly how my daughter (also 12 years old) navigates her media consumption. And, in fact, if I throw in the dynamic of video game experiences, it’s safe to say that there is a whole generation of young users for which traditional media brands carry much less weight than does the ability to deliver an experience that captures their interest and attention.
For sports marketers and publishers, the reality is that the gulf between this younger set and users who hit the desirable 18-34- (or even 49-) year-old demographic is narrowing rapidly. The rapid emergence of smartphone and tablet usage (a trend I’ve touched on numerous times before) enables older users to bypass many of their traditional media outlet habits and enter on their own this kaleidoscope of content experiences that meet their individual needs and interests.
So while publishers continue to grapple with the notion that they need to create compelling and engaging content experiences across just about every distribution outlet that pops up these days, the sports marketer needs to also be actively reevaluating many previously held assumptions about where they spend their money to get in front of users who are increasingly acting more and more like 12 year olds.
Three important elements come into play given this dynamic:
Distribution is Everywhere
This is more than a simple exercise in finding the few apps on the iPhone or Android app market that matter for smartphone and tablet users. Distribution extends to the broader experience that many digital content consumers are crafting today based on their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and even LinkedIn usage. While brands might invest to build their own content channels through these outlets, they shouldn’t overlook the fact that content providers are also engaging audiences through these user touch points. A dual strategy of investing to build a Red Bull Facebook experience should be augmented with that same Red Bull creative finding a home on the Facebook presence of a complementary content publisher (big or small) who is connecting with the type of fan Red Bull hopes to engage.
Content that Captures Attention
Yes, the 12 year olds of the world might have fickle interests and challenged attention spans, but one might argue so do the 34 year olds in the world of digital media. Assuming this might be even directionally the case, brand marketers have to constantly be on the lookout for the most visually engaging, interactive and easily digestible content experiences that will continually engage digital users. This is why games and other engaging experiences around content that spur users to act are so important for brands. Brand messages stick better when the user is pushed to “click” with the content. Humans are visually attuned – this is why images, photos, video and good design are important, so long as that, embedded within those visual experiences, brand marketers know that a meaningful content offering is being delivered to users.
Sponsor Integration and Adjacency
The evolution of sports sponsorship has been highlighted by the “title” and “presenting” sponsorship paradigm. Increasingly, however, the digital media experiences that we see evolving go beyond the notion of simply the “All-State Sugar Bowl” model. Adjacency like this for All-State is important and certainly valuable, but deeper integration in the experience that is afforded by putting the All-State brand squarely into the digital media content experience will increasingly become a must have activation around sports sponsorship investments.
Again, we’re seeing the world evolve through the eyes of a 12 year old who comes to see sponsors integrated within content – whether on a web page, a mobile app or a tablet game – as the norm. As this expectation expands beyond the tweens set, sponsors and content-experience creators will continue to advance along the spectrum from brand adjacency to deeper, more meaningful integrations that resonate with users.