Trainspotting, unboxing videos and the lust for digital innovation in sport

We all love shiny new things.

Boredom, after all, is a largely unrecognised first-world problem with far-reaching social effects. We have enough of everything but we just want something different, the flashier the better. Why else would unboxing videos be so popular on YouTube? 

Digital and social is still the bright, young thing of sport. Whether it is marketing, partnership activation, communications, eGaming, VR, moneyball analytics, expansion into China, India, the US or Timbuktu, the growth and focus is on this area. 

It has to be really. Digital/social/technology is the basis of our communication, our entertainment and, increasingly, our commerce. 

The race between sports organisations to be doing everything, everywhere, every way feels like the start of Trainspotting where the thieving Renton (Ewan McGregor) races clear of pursuing police reeling off a list of category choices you had to make to “Choose Life”. With Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life pounding in the background, he starts with so-called essentials, continues through a roll call of nice-to-haves and ends up with a cynical flurry of items you never would need.

Expectations can lead to pointless accumulation.

In sports digital, it is like this:

  • Choose an agency in Asia. 
  • Choose a VR engagement solution. 
  • Choose a responsive website. 
  • Choose a multi-faceted partnership activation. 
  • Choose an overseas tour location
  • Choose a brand ambassador

You can go on and on. This is a wish-list for many modern sports teams. And, of course, the well-heeled clubs organizations have the resources to be at the forefront of digital development and expand their horizons globally.

And why not?

That is not my point. 

My plea is not to ignore established and effective digital/social media content, platforms and communications just because someone else is unwrapping a better toy on Christmas Day.

This is especially true if your purse strings are tight. Digital is seen as a cost centre rather than the essential it has become. In the short-term, the most pragmatic way to change that is to produce results time and time again, preferably with ROI attached to them, while spending relatively little.

Unless your brand is "innovation", "change" or your pockets are deep, keep a focus on low-cost and, when well-executed, high-yield digital/social solutions. If you feel they are purring along then, by all means, put your foot to the floor.

Here’s what I am talking about:

  • Newsletters – cruelly ignored by many but still very effective when they are given the investment of time, money and value to the fans 
  • Podcasts – so much bang for your buck if you produce them well. And with increasing monetisation in this space you may get all those bucks back plus a little more besides 
  • Social Media tone and language – we are not just talking about liberal use of emojis here. You need a personality and method by which to convey it. But who thinks about it enough?
  • Liking and replying or retweeting  – Still the easiest way to connect with fans around the world
  • Finding answers for fans – “social media” is two-way and “who cares, wins”
  • Picture selection – video gets the most engagement but it is time costly. Great images, well presented are an easy win 
  • Headline writing – a forgotten art. Social media producers are not the same as sub-editors.

This is not about an old dog, their lack of new tricks and a new puppy that gets all the attention. It is more that those clubs and organisations who had success with Web 1.0 learnt lessons that we now seem to be happy to forget.

This blog will continue to write about new innovation; that is as inevitable as the next unboxing video. But effective development, engagement and monetisation of an audience is grounded on caring about the fans, forming a relationship and giving them a product they value.

Shiny things grab the attention. But only utility, in this case entertainment or information, will keep it. Do it again and again and again then you have a digital brand.

If you can wrap the utility in glitter then great but don’t let it blind you to what is valuable.

* Got a view? Please comment below or discuss on Twitter