The power of data and participation to transform sport

Farid Jeeawody
The power of data and participation to transform sport

Almost everyone who likes sport fits into two neatly divided camps that very often overlap.

We either watch sport or we play it, preferably a bit of both. Except now there is a third option, fuelled by the power of data, multi-channel digital offerings and an ability to personalise content.

Now, we can actually participate. Well, we’re not tee-ing off with Tiger Woods or playing a perfect pass for Harry Kane. But we are able to immerse ourselves in sport in powerful ways that are developing all of the time as technology changes.

We at Hall & Partners have recently been involved in a fascinating project with Formula 1 which explored all the ways fans engage with Formula 1, their content preferences and desired viewing experience, to help shape the future of Formula 1’s digital F1TV service.

The sport is trying to transform its image from one that was often regarded as too niche and the desires of fans had, in some respects, been sidelined. Even though Formula 1 is fabulously popular, those who run it know that the sport must appeal to new generation if that popularity is to be sustained and grow. For instance, audiences that are more discerning and demanding, view mobile technology as an essential part of their enjoyment of the sport and want to feel as if Formula 1 is a part of their lives – and that the sport values them in return.

Being able to access data and engage with the smallest details of how consumers behave can transform the way we watch and experience sport.

Formula 1 is using technology and insight to put fans and data at the heart of its strategy, to help transform Formula 1 from races to culturally rich experiences. Because sport is all about the experience. The experience of being a part of the action. Research can forge that link between sport and audience by providing the information that can improve that two-way experience. Not just showing a sporting event to an audience but engaging with them before during and after.

That kind of approach goes to the heart of our Hall & Partners philosophy. Our global CEO, Vanella Jackson, recently published a book – Shared Beliefs - that outlined our thinking about the role creativity can play in making brands more meaningful to their audiences. One of those ‘beliefs’ is that people want to participate so it’s important that brands both encourage loyalty from their audience but also follow them in return. This is particularly true for millennials and social media.

Because ideas in this digital age are so fluid, advertising and marketing can no longer be viewed as one-way traffic. By ceding control of the message, brands can become more meaningful. Greater brand influence comes from inviting participation. If you’re not prepared to have conversations you’ll lose your audience. Consumers want brands to follow and listen to them as much as brands want consumers’ attention. There is a huge demand for brands to ‘notice’ people, so that they are not just lifestyle accessories but identity accessories.

That’s what we’ve been doing in Formula 1, and the potential across other sports is vast. Being able to access data and engage with the smallest details of how consumers behave can transform the way we watch and experience sport. To ensure that games aren’t just played or watched but they are part of an interactive, always-on brand experience, at the heart of which sit countless personal stories.

Data has the power to not just boost audience interest and change the way fans interact with the brand, but perhaps even the entire cultures of sport and those operating within it. More inclusive and engaged, less hierarchical and aloof.

Formula 1 has shown what’s possible to make sport more relevant and meaningful to more people. For us, it’s just the beginning.