Digitisation has been changing the way people consume and interact with sport for some time now. Technologies are in a constant cycle of evolution, and it is essential for clubs, leagues and federations to produce digital content that is driven by trends in fan engagement if they want to facilitate audience growth.
Recognised partnerships with the likes of Bayern Munich, Nascar and the PGA Tour have already established Omnigon as one of the industry leaders in providing global brands with solutions in this very space. According to one of the company’s founding partners and chief commercial officer, David Nugent, a fundamental step when working with any partner and tailoring a solution is in recognising the digital device that sports fans are now relying on most.
“Really, our view is that it’s your phone that matters most,” says Nugent. “It’s your phone that matters most especially when you talk about commercial viability as it relates to technology for sports properties. There’s such a personal relationship between that device and fans that to look past the ways you leverage that is a mistake.
“We also understand the nature of the relationship that people have with this device. It is either near us or on us, and it allows us to communicate with practically anyone on the planet at any given time.
“Because sport generates most of its revenue during a live window, digital leadership really comes from innovative ways to deliver content to fans regardless of where they are. But because of the live window, we’ve got to think about making sure there is an experience created for anyone regardless of the device they have. And for many that is their phone.”
Indeed, traditional broadcasting has previously dictated what consumers can experience and when, meaning digital content has not benefited from the same exposure. Emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, however, are giving fans experiences they cannot yet enjoy through linear sources, while digital platforms have also developed to offer more control over the content people want to see. The key, then, is in helping brands react to these technologies in order to deliver engaging experiences for an audience that is becoming increasingly attached to the sports apps on their handheld devices.
“We are constantly thinking through how to add value to our partners in areas we are strong in,” says Nugent. “As part of that, we think about how we can help brands and properties deliver great experiences as new technologies emerge.
“When you think about our business, there are really two scenarios where we create value. There’s the scenario where there’s a finite problem – with a beginning and an end, a budget and a timeline – that just needs flawless execution. In that scenario hiring us is kind of like buying insurance against issues that will always arise against execution.
“The second scenario,” he adds, “is a lot more common these days. These new technologies emerge so quickly that our clients often don’t even know which questions to ask to sort through these new, emerging technologies. Our role is to then help them think about the state of the universe while we understand the things that drive their business forward. We apply what we understand about their business to distil that and build models around it.”
Omnigon has recently formed several partnerships to provide clients with an enhanced and more informed service to benefit from. Earlier this year, it launched a partnership with Shareablee, a company with the world’s largest system of brand performance data across social platforms and industry standard metrics.
“In some ways those types of new offerings and those new types of partnerships can expand the pillars of what we offer,” says Nugent. He points out that, in the past, the three pillars of Omnigon’s business were strategic, creative and technical. Now, it is looking to build a fourth.
“We added one in the last 18 months which is in the area of distribution,” he explains. “I think partnerships like what we have with the likes of Shareablee point to that.
“It’s no longer enough for us to think about how to design and build the house if the problem statement is that the client needs the most beautiful house on the block so that people want to come and check it out. Now it’s about: how do you tell people about the house?
“We’re not in the content creation business, but we do understand how to best monetise and distribute content and accrue value back to the things that brands own; ultimately, the things you own allow you to promote your brand and grow your sport.
“There has to be a strategy around the way you’re going to smartly distribute that content through non-owned properties, and potentially go direct to the consumer with some kind of a paid offering.
“Clients do need us to think through that problem and platforms like Shareablee allow us to use data to smartly inform the effort put forth in order to gain the greatest audience.”
In 2016, Omnigon launched the official mobile app for Velon, a joint business venture featuring 11 International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour team, to create an all-new suite of services. These were designed to bring fans closer to the action by showcasing real-time performance data, detailed statistics and story-based profiles of riders, in-race information and a media section.
More recently, it worked with the United States Golf Association (USGA) at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin, developing the entire digital product suite around the tournament. This included both the website and mobile apps, which were capable of carrying live video feeds, following marquee groups and pivotal holes, a robust player recap and scoring visualisation feature, and a scrolling feed of the latest video, articles, photos and social streams.
In addition, the U.S. Open app boasted location-based technology which allowed spectators to make the most of their visits to Erin Hills, giving a digital boost to a physical experience. These included on-site maps and access to unique fan offers.
“I think when we’re doing the best work that we do is by looking at all the parameters and thinking about what the best consumer experience is,” says Nugent.
“That’s how you convert a casual fan into an avid fan, by taking complex data and turning it into something that’s easy to understand.
“I think the stuff we did with Velon around delivering biometrics in real time, and being able to see heart rate as a team of cyclists is in a climb is fascinating and – to my knowledge – was not really available in any other consumer-facing sports application prior to this.”
Nugent acknowledges, however, that in the fluid realm of delivering digital sports content, it does not take long to turn stagnant. The next generation poses different challenges and, as long as technology shows no sign of standing still, sports brands and properties cannot afford to either.
“I think there’s been a fair amount of public debate over whether or not the next generation are going to have the desire to consume sports content in the same way it’s consumed now,” he says. “My instinct is they will, but I’m just not sure it will be at the same rate.
“Take Snapchat as a platform. If you just think about the concept of what Snapchat is, it’s really snackable bites of content that, because the attention span is so short, are just followed by more and more snackable pieces of content.
“There has to be some combination of those that want to consume binge versions of the content and those who just want to snack through it and move on. Whether it’s a stream from a sports platform or Facebook or any other platform, you better be able to present that content in such a way where it’s going to be compelling for a short window of time. And you better be able to make money doing it.
“That’s a very different paradigm than exists today.”