Tracking Today’s Sports Fans — and Tomorrow’s

Keeping up with shifting behaviors of sports fans is key in 2018.

To do so requires broadcasters, leagues and local stations to be engaged deeply across more areas than ever. That was one of the themes from the Tuesday session “Keeping It Real: Delivering Live Programming to Today’s Sports Fans.”

Panelist and WNBA President Lisa Borders twice said, “You have to be everywhere,” referring to the universe of digital platforms and social media outlets. The league’s 20-year relationship with ESPN was boosted about a year ago with live streaming via Twitter.

Today’s fans are definitely changing the game for live sports, said session moderator Chris Ariens, ADWEEK, engaging a panel that comprised a league, a venue, a local TV station and a relatively new “product” on the market, Glory international kickboxing.

In addition to Borders, panelists included Raul Gutierrez of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Sheila Oliver with KMSP-WFTC in Minneapolis and Marshall Zelaznik of Glory Sports International.

Gutierrez’ appearance was topical: Just a few weeks ago the NHL team Las Vegas Golden Knights, who play at T-Mobile Arena, became the first true expansion team in the four major U.S. sports to win its division in an inaugural season. He credits the fan engagement effort of the Golden Knights with making the team’s first year an arena success story.

Zelaznik echoed the importance of a good event host: “The venue partner is the most important partner as a promoter … every detail including internet infrastructure at the venue really matters.” Glory Sports kickboxing is a niche product; Zelaznik said that with a fragmented media market and so many ways to reach an audience, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

“You have to think about every level of distribution in terms of segmenting rights and figuring out how to speak to each particular audience.” Glory is an international product that actually has more events outside the United States than within, but Zelaznik emphasized that as far as content was concerned, a lot of effort goes into local aspects. He said Glory was efficient at going into a local market and tripping the right wires via social media and in other more traditional ways.

“The social media platforms are definitely the new megaphone of today, but you need traditional media for sure.”

An example is a regular program centered on the University of Minnesota’s colorful new football coach P.J. Fleck.

Oliver also stressed the importance of keeping players engaged with social media. “We are number one in social media in our market,” said Oliver.

And every platform matters. “If you’re not looking at every platform, you’re missing out,” said Borders. Gutierrez said T-Mobile Arena has had numerous requests to hold esports events. “People are filling arenas,” he said. “Esports is coming and how we embed and monetize it is key.”