Sebastian Gray, Dugout Co-founder and Senior Vice President, shares his insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic and absence of football has forced clubs, publishers and brands to adapt to unprecedented challenges
In these uncertain times, with virtually all sport postponed or cancelled for the coming months, collaboration in every sense of the word has never been so important. As we have witnessed, the football industry has experienced a seismic shift.
Spurred on by social media and technological disruption – from broadcast and over-the-top (OTT) platforms to live stream and mobile – the consumption habits of the modern football fan have evolved considerably in recent years. And it is within this digital landscape, and thanks to this technology, that football fans are able to find some relief during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the imposed home lockdown.
For clubs across the world, their traditional revenue streams have temporarily shifted almost overnight and at the same time behavioural patterns of fans have changed and continue to evolve. The loss of live football has created the need for greater innovation from clubs, publishers and brands – as fans stay at home but still crave content to help maintain a sense of normality. The difference is now, as we are all in lockdown, fans are consuming content at a new level, at different times, and across more home devices.
Dugout’s ‘Branded Football Content Futures Report’ highlighted that a growing number of fans support and follow multiple clubs across a variety of platforms with the typical football fan now supporting, on average, 4.6 clubs. In the absence of live matches taking place and being broadcast, engaging fans digitally is now increasingly important as they continue to have an undiminished appetite for content. In order to deliver this content, the collaboration between clubs, publishers and brands becomes vital – even more so now during sport’s current shutdown.
Dugout has so far seen increasing levels of engagement across its network with an increase of 146 per cent in the last week alone for Covid-19 related content. This is not surprising given the vast numbers of people across the world that are now working from home. But what this shows is that even in these times, clubs, brands and sponsors have to reach the same audiences of engaged fans – but are having to implement a different approach.
During the current periods of isolation, one thing many of us currently have in common is finding new ways to stay active which meet the new guidelines. These predominantly home-based fitness programmes are drawing new similarities between elite football players and their fans. Rarely before have clubs and players shared such insights into players’ meals and training regimes and self-isolation ‘training’ compilations, such as Everton winger Theo Walcott’s, home videos are performing extremely well. These new insights are providing publishers with new narratives too, with The Independent recently sharing an in-depth article focusing on how clubs are working alongside their players during this challenging period.
Publishers, who would ordinarily have content highlighting key talking points from recent live matches, are asking Dugout’s editorial team to come up with innovative content ideas to fill these gaps. Whether this is a selection of Didier Drogba’s best Chelsea goals or Gareth Bale’s top Premier League moments, the absence of live football has enabled fans to re-live iconic moments in history. Le Figaro’s daily ‘Waiting for Football’ feature is a new editorial content idea – which is proving to be very popular and focuses on some of the most memorable goals held in Dugout’s archive.
As clubs, publishers and brands collaborate, storytelling through high quality, exclusive video content becomes a way of cutting through the noise of an even more crowded digital landscape. Live football is so often seen as an escape from real life and there’s no reason why digital content has to be any different. The opportunity is there for all partners to work together, to come up with even more creative content that can give fans a never-before-seen insight into their clubs and players lives, that could build an even deeper connection with fans.
Collaboration for so long has just been a buzzword but in these testing times it becomes a necessity for clubs, publishers and brands to be able to navigate this crisis. With established business models requiring adjustments and innovation, only by working together will we be able to get through this and even identify new opportunities. But as we all become isolated physically, the demand of the modern-day football fan to view content anywhere, at any time, means that we are equipped to be able to connect, engage and create opportunities in other ways.
Posted on: Tuesday 21 April 2020