Even the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” has taken note and more than felt the effects. In April, ESPN slashed its editorial and on-air staff to focus more on the intersection of sports, culture and politics.
So, what’s led us to this topical convergence and how can sports and non-sports brands take advantage of this growing trend?
No doubt social media has helped catapult this industry movement. Fans have access to athletes and a peek inside their daily lives in a way never before possible. At the same time, athletes have a platform to reach out directly to their fans, giving athletes ownership of their brand off-the-court and the ability for them to display what they stand for. Couple this with the 24-hour news window, in comparison to just the 2-4 hours of a game shown on broadcast, and athletes are able to position themselves as influencers, celebrities and icons in a way that their box score performance never could.
Our own top stories of late have been beyond the the game itself. The content that has received the most engagement featured Derek Jeter’s potential acquisition of the Marlins, Johnny Manziel’s continual off-the-field antics and Odell Beckham Jr.’s yachting excursion in Miami. With this constant attention, it’s no surprise that many athletes are now making more money off-the-field than ever before.
Brands can also benefit from this conversational shift. With the growing fusion of sports and pop culture, brands have a broader opportunity to fit themselves into the landscape and create a more personalized experience with their target audience. Fashion brands can lead from their own angles, music brands can also cultivate audience and even tech and politically focused brands stand ready and able to take advantage of this broadening interest and support.
This all comes at a time when brands continue to search for ways to own media assets outside of the standard commercial during a live sports broadcast– especially as rights and rates continue to skyrocket. Great examples include State Farm’s “Discount Double Check," Buffalo Wild Wings’ “Extending of the Game,” AT&T’s music activations at Final Four and even Head and Shoulders’ creative “Hair” approach with several iconic NFL athletes. It's a more affordable, but still very scalable way of reaching the same audience — and more importantly, being memorable!
So while some fans may lament the decline of pure sports news coverage and engagement, both cross-genre publishers and brands will take delight in this expansion and capitalize on the consumption that is happening way beyond the stadium.