IMG and Nokia Form a Mobile League of Their Own

They’ve got global game. And now, IMG, one of the biggest players in the worldwide sports content arena is teaming up with Nokia to take it to the mobile rich media ring.

The companies will deliver MMS Essential Sports Service to insatiable sports fanatics in the US and around the world. By Christmas, footie fans in the UK, badminton lovers throughout Asia, and hockey enthusiasts in Jersey will all be able to download and send customized sports-centric audio, images and text over their MMS (Mobile Multimedia Services) phones through the service. Nokia MMS will also allow users to store content and send and receive email, voice messages and photos.

The service employs GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology, which enables a continuous connection and quick data transmission speeds.

Nokia’s research indicates that people will be willing to pay for sports content delivery to their mobile phones. Joe Barrett, director, market development, NET Strategic Marketing for Nokia predicts, “Sports appeals to the mass market so the opportunity for this kind of service to create early growth in mobile data usage is more likely than, say, financial news.”

IMG, a sports management and marketing agency, has been leveraging sports content developed by its television division, TWI, via SMS (Short Message Service) since 1996. By partnering with Nokia to offer all of the mobile communications firm’s 40 wireless operator customers the rich media content service, IMG aims to help carriers stimulate MMS usage.

A key to moving IMG’s sports programming into 3G will be customization. According to Mark Selby, head of mobile for IMG, content usage is often segmented by country or sport; so, a golf follower in Glasgow may utilize information in a different manner from a basketball fan in Beijing. MMS Essential Sports Service content offerings will follow their lead by allowing users to access both narrowcast and more generalized broadcast content in various ways.

The promise of a rich, niche and on-the-go messaging service such as this doubtlessly has advertisers excited. Nokia and IMG foresee interest from sports equipment suppliers, individual sports clubs and event ticket sellers, sports apparel brands, and other contextually relevant advertisers. Advertisers could accompany messages with brand logos, sponsor Essential Sports Service, or offer promotions through it. Still, Barrett stresses that the service does not require “advertising, promotions or sponsorships to make it viable.” Specific advertisers have yet to be announced.

Message relevancy is imperative. Marketers will not only need to abide by the anti-spamming laws that exist in certain countries; they’ll need to respect the target audience.

Cautions Selby, “If someone is keen on an athlete, people will probably accept brands that the athlete is associated with, but not a competing brand.”

Promotion of the service will be undertaken by the carriers, and branded by them rather than by Nokia or IMG.

Let’s hope for their sakes their logos feature the right team colors.

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