When it comes to creating the optimal Web experience, nowhere are standards higher and the audience tougher than in the world of digital sports. In the same way that sports fans demand 92-inch screens, theater-quality audio and even 3D, the digital experience needs to be state-of-the-art as well. If you don’t offer the best, don’t get in the game. Only winning counts.
Whether the NFL or Major League Soccer, sports has the most extreme challenge in satisfying a fan accustomed to constant action, high-intensity drama, and who takes great graphics and multimedia for granted. The major sports leagues and sports teams around the world provide all of this with state-of-the-art technology to support their efforts. For example, spend a few minutes at www.nfl.com, the digital home of the National Football League, or visit www.mlssoccer.com, the site of Major League Soccer, and you’ll find blogs, copious amounts of video, interactive schedules, quick links to Facebook and fantasy leagues, and plenty of game highlights and retrospectives.
Sports sites often provide the best examples of bringing together content, community and commerce. To produce a winning digital sports experience, there are some key building blocks to ensure success:
Mobile Content Experiences: Content is king. It’s important that the action never stops and that the viewer is continually engaged. RWD, or responsive web design, will ensure that your content is compelling on mobile tablets and smartphones as well as laptops and desktop screens. HTML5 options continue to evolve and offer the basis for an alternative presentation on Apple IOS devices, where Flash in not supported. Great content and interactivity must work together to produce a flawless user experience. The ability to tap into the user’s location can also open up compelling new marketing program options to increase consumer conversion rates.
Video: For many fans, sports is video and video is sports. Highlights, replays and even the great games of the past are where many fans will feel most connected to the digital experience. The video has to be compelling, easily streamed, easily shared, and the interface for searching and finding just the right highlight has to be intuitive. On the backend, serving up the video through a content delivery network, or CDN, as well as transcoding services can be key to ensuring a smooth, reliable, and optimized video experience across device types. Video files are typically large and are good candidates for cloud storage.
Social Networking: Connecting fans to the larger fan community is essential – and expected. Whether providing blogs, forums, or building that connection through Facebook and Twitter, give fans an easy way to share their experiences. Think “digital tailgate party.” Also, providing exclusive access to sports personalities via the community is another attractive way to improve engagement and excite a fan base.
Rich Online Shopping Experiences: Once emerging fans are fully immersed in one of their teams, the last mile is getting them to buy the gear. Enabling transformative shopping experiences that embed rich content and social experiences often lead to higher sales and repeat purchases. Engaging fans at a higher level during the last mile of the customer journey can elevate a brand over the competition.
Gamification: Fantasy Leagues are an enormous component of the online sports experience, and fans are passionate and committed. Incorporating participatory game elements when possible in your site will resonate with your audience. And the fantasy football/gamification experience also provides a rich social networking connection.
The revenue stakes are high and competition for each dollar in the digital world of sports is, well, Xtreme. The technical platforms must offer a seamless intersection of content, community, and commerce to offer a compelling experience. Marketing success in the digital world of sports is as competitive as the Superbowl or the World Series. To get into the game, you must build an amazing site that leverages the latest technology – and be prepared to continually keep pace with the public’s definition of “the best.” In the competitive world of digital sports, that’s the only way to be a winner at every point in the fan’s journey.