The Web 2.0 World of Sports

With instant access to scores, statistics, and live streaming games, the internet is reshaping the union between sports and the sports fan. Today I want to explore how the sports world is tackling web 2.0 technologies, including social media, in an effort to find new ways to connect with die hard fans.

With numerous interactive options available on an increasing number of sports teams’ websites, fans now have many real-time opportunities to reach out and communicate with players, coaches, and other sports nuts out there. Building fan loyalty is a key factor for any team, and the use of online social media is an excellent way to achieve this goal. Sports teams can use social media tools to increase overall exposure and saturate fans with new ways to stay connected.

Many teams have been increasing their online interactivity with KickApps powered social media websites. KickApps allows these sports-oriented websites and fans to build their own community, create their own profile, participate in blogs, and have easy access to photo and video sharing. The KickApps platform offers media applications that can be integrated into existing websites.

A new, cutting-edge source for sports content is Open Sports. Open Sports is boasting an all-star lineup of familiar sports entertainment personalities, providing their unique commentary, analysis, and opinions of the sports world at large. These varied personalities, coupled with diverse programming, aim to provide sports news and knowledge, and to spark discussions from the audience. Open Sports hopes to serve sports fans with a next generation approach, allowing them to connect, inform, and participate with others in the sports community.

Mike Levy, the Founder and CEO of Open Sports, posted this message introducing the new website:

Having launched OPEN Sports, we are committed to providing you with a whole new approach to sports entertainment – our goal being to super-serve you with a next generation sports experience guided by a user-first philosophy, deep content and new and innovative applications. We will empower you to make OPEN Sports YOUR personal sports site.

A recent study from JupiterResearch reveals that serious sports fans account for almost 1/5 of the total U.S. web user base, and claims that these fans are also more likely to utilize online video, fantasy sports activities, and internet shopping (tickets, sports apparel, etc). Recently, ESPN has risen to be one of the top ten providers of internet video streams, thus showing the numbers and demand of this niche market.

Sports marketers have been jumping aboard the online bandwagon, as the revenues from advertising in this space are predicted to grow exponentially.

Turner Sports, a division of Time Warner Inc., will start selling advertisements on Yahoo’s NBA, golf, and NASCAR pages as part of a multi-year deal. This relationship will provide online sports fans enhanced sports coverage, while allowing Turner to target and exclusively sell advertisements based on the consumers preferred sports content.

This year, the Summer Olympics in Beijing became one of the biggest internet hits in sports history. Setting records for unique visits, page views and streams, NBCOlympics.com attracted an average of more than 6 million users daily. On the mobile front, Perkins Millers, the SVP of Media at NBC Sports and Olympics said that they had a half a million unique visitors everyday on mobile, and about half of them were accessing mobile for the first time.

Another big step for sports and mobile this year was ESPN’s contribution to the NCAA’s March Madness. ESPN’s Tournament Challenge was accessible through ESPN’s mobile WAP, and allowed the user to stay current with their bracket and teams while away from the PC and the television. From the users’ mobile phone, instantaneous links to the different teams’ auto-refreshed, real-time statistics were readily accessible. ESPN’s goal was to push mobile as far as it could and serve as an anywhere go-to point for fans.

While it is still playing back up quarterback to network television’s sports coverage, the internet has become a vital resource for many sports fans. With a level playing field and a whole new playbook, sports fans now have many options available to really become part of the game.