Jimmy Lynn: On the Next Generation Fan

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Football (Soccer), MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Social Media

This week I want to focus on what is often called the “next generation fan.” And what is the next generation fan? It’s the sports fan who consumes sports in a much different manner than the traditional fan. The “traditional fan” would primarily go to watch the action on the field, court, ice or arena. But the “next generation” fan consumes sports in a very different way. Instead of just watching the on-field action, the “next generation fan’ is constantly multi-tasking. They are also watching the big scoreboard/big screen as well as using their smart phone to text, Tweet, take photos, check-in, post to Facebook, etc.

Jimmy Lynn for iStrategy
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In the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend sporting events in two of the greatest sports venues in the world. In late 2009, I went to the famed Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (one of the three greatest soccer venues in history) to watch Flamengo play a league match. And, in the spring 2010, I went to see Arsenal play Porto in a Championship League match at their new beautiful Emirates Stadium. The passion of the fans at both venues was remarkable and bone-chilling. But, it was also clear that they were there for one thing … to watch the action on the field.

Big screen Cowboy Stadium

Contrast that to the American sports fan in the US. Go to nearly any professional sports league game and you’ll witness a good number of fans multi-tasking. I think back to Feb 2010 – at the NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium in Texas. I’ve never seen a more spectacular sports venue. Wow. The place is simply amazing. In particular, the high-definition screen that runs 60 yards long will simply take your breath away. What’s interesting is that the picture is so clear that often times you find yourself watching the big screen versus the live-action on the field. Then, of course, the fans are on their iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids, etc to tell their friends about the spectacular venue – snapping photos and posting on Facebook, posting tweets on Twitter, checking in on FourSquare, texting and emailing, etc.

I do love the purity of watching the soccer/football matches in Rio de Janeiro and London, but as a sports marketer, I marvel at how sports venues in the US, such as Cowboys Stadium, create so many more meaningful ways to create revenue.  The sponsorship opportunities alone are staggering.  But also the advent of mobile apps will continue to help sports fans consume in even more engaging ways. There’s a number of apps that help fans follow their fantasy sports teams, order concessions, change seat locations, follow other teams and sports, look at traffic reports, check on weather, etc.

iphone sports app
Sports has always been one of the key content areas to drive the adaptation of new technologies. This “next generation fan” will continue to multi-task in more and more ways as new applications continue to be developed.  Yes, the US is probably leading the way since it’s the largest consumer sports market, but many of these lessons will be shared – and fans in the UK, Brazil, China, Australia, India, Russia, etc will also consume sports in a different manner. This also means that leagues and teams will also be able to create new incremental revenue streams. It will be interesting to watch this play out in the coming years. The game – or “watching the game” has changed.  And, those that embrace it will be the ones who can most benefit.

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