It’s incredible to think that while talk of Zoom fatigue is both common and understandable today, not so long ago very few people outside Silicon Valley had ever heard of it. Of course, new tech is always arriving. From the initial days of the world wide web in the nineties, through smartphones, social media, digital signatures, the ever-growing cloud – things that were once the stuff of science fiction are, these days, embraced without a second thought. What’s different now though is that the pandemic has catalysed a perfect storm for the simultaneous global adoption of many of these new solutions. No more gradual evolution but wholesale change, almost overnight.
In business, nowhere has this change been more profound than in the worlds of sport and entertainment. Remote production had already been gaining ground for some time. For example, both Formula 1 and MotoGP are now running most of their broadcast operations from their home bases in the UK and Spain, regardless of where in the world the races are held. In enabling teams to produce entertainment without actually being at an event, it delivers on cost, sustainability and quality of life perspectives. But it’s not only the production teams that no longer need to be physically present at the fixtures they’re putting on – the audience doesn’t either! And while virtual production – and consumption – of events was accelerated as a short-term alternative during the early days of Covid, it’s now increasingly clear that they both also have long-term futures regardless of how soon the pandemic finally recedes.
We talked about this in broad terms in our recent post “Five reasons why virtual is critical to event strategy in this new hybrid world”. What we’d like to look at more closely is the opportunity virtual provides to create an entirely new tier of event offering through which brands can engage with their customers and prospects.
Sport and entertainment transformed
Broadcasters, sponsors, fans, even the sports themselves have had to adapt in big ways and technology has quickly bridged the gaps. Companies rushed to fill stadia on TV with audio and visual solutions to replace the missing supporters. In other approaches, from the likes of OZ – one of Fast Company’s top 10 most innovative sports companies of 2021 – fans can come together as avatars in the metaverse to discuss and share moments simultaneously on any mobile device.
As one might expect, the fan response to these advances has covered the whole spectrum of opinions. But in combination with other emerging technologies that aren’t directly related to the pandemic and the absence of crowds, some intriguing opportunities begin to appear.
One such example is MultiView. While remote production is altering the supply side of content delivery, MultiView is bringing a new dimension to the demand side, enabling the viewer to become the director and watch the action or entertainment from whichever camera they choose at any given moment. This opens up entirely new opportunities for fan interaction, engagement and experience – none of which would be available if attending an event in person – as well as attractive new revenue streams for teams and rightsholders.
But what of the traditional revenue? It is often the premium services that make the most profit. In the sports context, the VIP hospitality experience comes with a corresponding price tag – an important revenue stream that all sports have, to a great extent, lost.
Take a typical motorsport event with a traditional three-tiered fan engagement structure: an extremely select few enjoying in person pit-lane hospitality; the atmospheric thrill of a seat in the stands amongst the masses; or an armchair and television in your front room. All three have both pros and cons from the perspectives of sponsors, brands and customers. But what if there was a fourth option?
Who amongst us hasn’t been to a major sporting or entertainment event and thought, “that was great, but I could actually have seen more of what was happening at home on the TV”? The overall venue experience is a key reason why live sport and entertainment is so popular. But what if you combine the best of both worlds? What if technology could be used not simply to offer an alternative to the real thing, but to help create a fan experience that might, in many ways, be even better than the real thing?
A new world emerges
The pandemic has exposed a gap that technology can profitably fill. A premium, personalised offering, taking elements from on-site corporate hospitality, the mass-market live in-person experience, as well as streamed and linear TV to create something entirely new – a combination of exclusive live content and full control of the viewing experience, all from the comfort of home. A unique experience for the viewer, at a fraction of the cost of traditional hospitality and with almost unlimited scalability for the sponsors and rights holders. This has the potential to create an entirely new form of entertainment and revolutionise corporate hospitality in sports sponsorship. Ultimately, and regardless of the uncertainties the world still faces, one thing is clear. We have been through a fundamental shift. These technology-driven solutions are no longer simply maintaining the status quo of where we were before the pandemic began. Rather, they have opened the door to a whole host of new possibilities. Organisations that don’t step through will fall victim to those that do.