Last night (7e July) saw the first Sport Industry Socials event of the year, Finding A Fanbase, take place at the HKX Building in Pancras Square.
In a packed room filled with industry professionals from all levels of their respective organizations, personalities representing the sport at different stages of their journey discuss the challenges of finding and retaining fans in a crowded market.
Moderated by Emma Lax, Head of Strategy at Cake, the panel was made up of representatives from some of the most exciting and forward-thinking sports in the world.
Hrag Sarkissian, founder and CEO of eSkootr, Willie Cruickshank, race director at World Air Race, Dave Souza, director of communications at ESL, and Jen Vile, marketing director at Hundred, all sat down to explore the obstacles and opportunities to win eyeballs in a digital age.
“We’re building a whole new category of sports and we’ve been focused on growing this whole micromobility sector,” says Sarkissian, talking about the origins of the eSkootr Championship (eSC), a brand new electric scooter racing series that made its debut in London this year. “It is a sector that has developed very quickly. You look at cities like Paris, Berlin, even London, it is obviously the solution to decongest cities, but it is very relevant for a large population. This is where eSc saw an incredible opportunity.
As the head of another sport hoping to establish itself on the international stage, Cruickshank explained how an engaging and entertaining format is key to attracting new fans. “One of the important lessons to learn is to keep it simple. It’s very easy to get sucked into creating such complicated formats. Before, our format with Red Bull was a head-to-head format and we’ve changed it slightly. We were mostly guided by our TV production partners on how we could make it more exciting, bringing in elements from other motorsports, and we sat down and said it would take a long time to explain to someone. 1. Keep it simple, the fastest wins!Sometimes the simple solution is the best solution.
As well as simplifying the format, Vile described how the new The Hundred cricket tournament introduced entertainment outside of the sport itself. “The way we thought about music is twofold,” said Vile. “Entertainment tailored to our audience and supporting The Hundred’s brand positioning. Cricket is the centerpiece, and everything we’ve built around it is aimed at improving the overall experience. Nothing should take away from being the hero and the players from being the stars.
“We are trying to reach a younger audience. Cricket was increasingly predominantly white, male, over 55. We had to diversify. Music is a great way to get another form of representation in The Hundred. We obviously have a gender balance proposal with the men’s and women’s teams and we have a lot of international stars helping with representation on the pitch. It’s another way of driving the performance through different artists, different genres, different cultures. And it helps communicate the youth and freshness of The Hundred brand.
Souza also agreed on the importance of increasing diversity with the ESL ecosystem. “There is an overall goal to increase the mix of genres that we see in mainstream esports,” Souza explained.
Regarding gaming as a way to attract new audiences, Cruickshank explained how “the gaming market was worth around £178 billion, next year it is expected to reach £380 billion” and as a result, “no sport can afford not to look at how it can engage with this market.
“We incorporate a lot of VR, AR into what we do,” Cruickshank added. “It means we can have people at home competing on the exact same circuit at home, because we are flying there. They could be on the same circuit at the same time.
The future of our sport is not just a traditional spectator, you need that level of interaction and integration. When talking with partners, it’s this possibility of gamification that lights up their eyes,” said Cruickshank.
Sticking with the theme of gaming, when asked about broadcasters entering the esports space, David questioned fan appetite within the esports community. “The Esports community has always had free content. The majority of esports content is on Twitch or YouTube. have never experienced anything different. I’m sure it will happen in the long term to varying degrees, but I think for the community there will always be free platforms.
An evening of entertaining and informative discussions highlighted the ongoing challenges of finding a fanbase. A clear theme ran through the evening around the evolution of perceptions of different sports. From the World Air Race trying to simplify and reposition itself away from the Red Bull brand, to the Hundred trying to turn an exclusive and inaccessible sport into something for everyone, the parallels between the sports that have existed for two years, or two hundred years, were evident.
The next Sport Industry Socials event will take place on Thursday 8e September and will be entitled “The Legacy of Award-Winning Campaigns”. Receive two tickets to each of the 2022 Sports Industry Social Events by purchasing a Sports Industry Membership.