It’s been two years since the world “shut down” due to Covid-19, and to say that things have changed is a huge understatement. I still remember that week in early March 2020 like it was yesterday. I grew up a huge college basketball fan and we were approaching one of my favorite times of the year: March Madness. I remember I was sitting in my tiny apartment at the time and my phone constantly lighting up with notifications that events were being cancelled, which meant March Madness would be cancelled, one of the biggest sporting events for advertisers and sponsors.
The cancellation of major sporting events like this meant loss of ticket sales, loss of advertisers and loss of sponsors. This also meant fans had to find a new pastime. Personally, this was when my TikTok addiction began, which I can imagine is true for others as well. People began spending more and more hours just scrolling through the app as their overall attention span decreased. Because there was nothing else to do at the time, athletes were practically inviting fans into their homes via social media. We were getting an inside glimpse into star athletes’ day to day lives, what they ate for breakfast, what their workouts looked like, even what shows they were binging. This gave fans a brand new way to connect with sports, and there was no looking back.
This also gave brands and companies a completely new and unique way to advertise. While teams and athletes continued to take part in the newest TikTok trends, companies decided, “why not sell our products through this approach as well?”. But once sporting events started back up again, fans still demanded the constant content from their favorite athletes and teams, no matter if it was sports-related or not. The demand for content overall remains high with non-event broadcasts, such as highlights, recap videos and more, nearly as high as the event itself. According to the latest Nielsen report, about 40% of global fans will watch non-live content related to a live sports event; and sports viewership has become a multi-screen experience with almost 50% of people who watch sports simultaneously interact with other live content (a 5% increase over the last year).
Even with the Winter Olympics that just ended, I can admit that I wasn’t completely invested in the Games. I was, however, invested in the individual athletes’ TikTok videos, though. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who did that, either. It’s even crazier to imagine that four years ago, I was not scrolling through the Olympic athletes’ social media videos. The pandemic has forced so many fans and viewers to adopt new behaviors. All of these new ways of idolizing sports has a huge impact on how brands should approach audience engagement and now more than ever, it is vital for brands and companies to leverage new technology and utilize digital platforms to develop fan-engagement strategies that didn’t exist before.
This blog post was written by Integrated Media Planner Buyer, Abby Schrum