Game Day Is Changing, Thanks To Millennial Fans

For the 50th time, Americans came together in living rooms across the country, turned on their televisions and enjoyed the Super Bowl with friends. But a majority of sports fans split their attention between the live game being broadcast on the biggest screen in the room with whatever they were choosing to engage with on smaller screens. 

Nielsen has reported that more than 85% of millennials have smartphones, and those that do, touch their phones 45 times per day on average, according to a report from SDL. With all signs pointing to a mobile-first mentality, millennials are craving content that grabs their attention on smaller screens.

This has forced brands and marketers to change how they look at engaging these fans, both on the couch and in the stadium.

Sixty percent of fans believe that social media helps bring them closer to the game, according to a national study commissioned by Burson-Marsteller’s Fan Experience specialty group. Major leagues are trying different methods to engage with millennial fans. With the need to reach these fans, the MLB got creative for the 86th All-Star Game partnering with Esurance for the MLB All-Star Game #FinalVote. This campaign used both Twitter and texting to allow fans to cast their votes. Over 70 million votes were cast in 2015 to determine the American League and National League winners.



In soccer, Real Madrid capitalized on a different form of social media to tie together the game to the fans through Google+. In 2014, Real Madrid and Emirates partnered to create #FansForReal and #FlyToMadrid through their Google+ accounts. The tournament ran for two months and gave fans the opportunity to fly with Emirates to watch the players in the Santiago Bernabeau Stadium. 

Brands are getting more creative with their marketing campaigns as the ways to reach sports fans continue to grow. Consumers are not going to change their viewing habits to see ads, so the need for brands to work with social media is of the utmost importance. And for good reason, as 62% of consumers in the 13-24 age range would be more willing to try a product or a brand if suggested by their favorite YouTuber, versus one shown in a movie or TV show, according to Defy Media. 

Pepsi and Buffalo Wild Wings got into the collaboration-making business this year when they partnered YouTube personality Scooter Magruder with NFL legend Derrick Brooks. The four-part series around football fan stereotypes, such as “Linebackers Be Like” or “Frenemies,” were created in conjunction with Pepsi’s Super Bowl 50 sweepstakes. The videos, which got over 4.5 million views on Facebook alone, were distributed on multiple platforms and combined Scooter’s brand of comedy and Derrick’s legacy on the field to create funny and engaging content that resonated with fans and followers.

The fields themselves have added high-tech elements in an effort to keep fans engaged with live sports. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. — the host of NFL’s Super Bowl 50 — upped its game. The Stadium has its own app, which not only can keep track of tickets and highlights from the game, but can do much more than that. Want your cheeseburger delivered right to your seat? You can do that on the app. Want to watch the instant replay of the last touchdown? The app will show you that through the Game Center. And fans are seemingly loving it, as 85% of them are excited to see new technology being used in football, according to Burson-Marsteller’s Fan Experience specialty group. 

The technology doesn’t just impact a fan’s experience. It’s impacting the player and coach experience on the field, or court, as well. 

In 2014, the NFL partnered with Microsoft to provide their Surface tablets for use during games. Instead of the old playbooks, coaches, players and staff are now drawing on tablets to determine the next play, for instant game feedback and to analyze the game happening on the field. For game reports, 95% of coaches in the booths don’t use their printers anymore because they rely on the tablets instead.

The NBA isn’t missing out on incorporating their own high-tech elements. On all prime-time broadcasts of the league games on ABC, the three-point arc will light up to show viewers when a player attempts to shoot from beyond the arc. For those taking in a game at the Sacramento Kings’ new Golden 1 Center slated to open this fall, they will experience the first-ever in-stadium 4K Ultra HD video board which will total over 6,100 feet, thanks to a partnership with Panasonic. 

The moral of the story is that live games are here to stay, but social interactions and technology are more important to the comprehensive fan experience than ever before.

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