How Gamification In a Digital Media Environment Boosts Sports Fan Engagement
When it comes to sports, spectatorship can never be passive. After all, the arena of sports is an interaction with greatness – a chance to behold champions who are the best in the world – and requires passionate involvement from those bearing witness to it. The adrenalin rush that comes with watching sporting idols battling for glory, the profound joy felt at their success, the gut-wrenching sorrow experienced when they falter – a single match can encompass many human emotions. But what is it about sports that pulls fans in and incites such zealous sentiments in them?
The answer lies in the result. There is, in sports, a decisive irrevocability about the final whistle, a climactic sense of closure that people struggle to find in other spheres of life. It is this aspect of a sport that brings fans together, uniting them across boundaries of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Players aren't just celebrities – they become idols, heroes who inspire and motivate millions across the globe. Watching a sport means living the action, and fans become a part of it by rooting for their icons.
Sports fans are no longer at the receiving end of a monologue
Sports consumption, in the current day and age, has become even more interactive and captivating, thanks to the latest developments in technology. Sports fans are no longer at the receiving end of a monologue. Instead, they are constantly interacting with the game through predictions, live updates, and post-match comments on second-screen platforms like Twitter or Facebook. They are engaged in every moment of the game, all through a handy smartphone that allows for rich, engrossing, immersive entertainment experiences on-the-go. Streaming matches, checking and predicting scores, reading sports-related news and articles, or building a fantasy team – all of this is possible with a few taps on a screen. Given the popularity of instant digital access to sports, it is hardly surprising that Hotstar pays INR 300 crore to IPL for the mobile rights of a single IPL season!
How has the internet explosion helped
The unpredictability of games is what drives the sports consumption industry, something that the fantasy sports market in particular benefits from. The phenomenon of fantasy sports, conceived in 1979 by American sportswriter Daniel Okrent, has received great response over the last couple of decades. The market that was launched with seasonal games began providing daily fantasy matches and became one of the biggest engagement tools for a sports fan. The explosion of the internet has only served to bring the format to an even wider consumer base. And just last week two of the biggest Fantasy Sports Platform, Draft Kings and Fan Duel, announced merger ending a long fought marketing battle to grab eyeballs.
Fans, however, have recently been turning away from fantasy sports. Excelling at the format requires a pedantic memorisation of individual players' statistics and a detailed analysis of the upcoming fixture list, something which many fans do not have the time for. Moreover, fantasy leagues require fans to lock their teams almost an hour before the match, thereby putting an end to the engagement well in advance of the match. This passive aspect of fantasy sports has fans yearning for a real-time format more accessible and exciting.
Live sports gaming has emerged as the answer to these concerns, and is touted as the next big thing in the sports fan engagement market. It is also pulling in a lot of casual fans, a tribe which is far bigger than Fantasy sports userbase, into Sports thereby making it more inclusive for the larger section of sports fan engagement market. The format is based on the most common sports fan's behaviour where the entire conversation during a Live game is about predictions.
It is the thrill to announce next event on the field and find glory in the success of it that makes it a more real experience. It also allows users to get into the game from the first minute and remain engaged with the match till the very end, giving fans the chance to connect with one another and share their passion for sports across real and virtual worlds. The inclusion of chat forums, pre-match quizzes and live match prediction games allows for a sports interaction experience that is far more engrossing and riveting than any other medium. The future of sports consumption lies in fans engaging digitally and sharing their insights, predictions, and analysis in real time – just like the spectators of the Colosseum did, but with much less blood involved!