#SportsBizSummary: Nielsen’s 2016 Year in Sports Media Report

Since acquiring Repucom in June 2016, Nielsen has been ramping up it’s presence within the sports measurement marketplace, bringing their heavyweight expertise within broadcast measurements and blending it with Repucom’s sports background to form Nielsen Sports – a dedicated division for sports measurement, evaluation and intelligence.

From a client facing perspective, the nascent ‘FANANALYTICS’ platform from Nielsen has been enhanced with Repucom and Pointlogics solutions, so expect a real increase in depth of analysis for those of you working with them. The outcome of this upgrade platform? The recently published Year in Sports Media report (available here).

The report is well worth a read (and 40 pages long), but for those of you looking for a short synopsis of the key trends, I’ve outlined the salient points below, as well as adding some of my own thoughts. As always, I’d love to hear fellow #SportsBiz colleagues thoughts on the report; so don’t be shy and leave a comment!

Trend 1 – Esports go mainstream

  • 76% growth in US fan base (45.3m compared to 25.7m)
    • 256m reported globally by Newzoo.com (up 13% YoY)
  • Increased investment from non-endemic brands
  • US colleges getting heavily involved
  • Increased crossover with pro sports
  • New content for linear production

Nothing too ground-breaking here; growth has been steady for the last few years and will continue to grow as awareness and interest peaks with more mainstream coverage. The key element here in sponsorship. A huge proportion of revenue within the industry (70-80% depending on who’s data you  believe) comes from sponsorship, an incredibly unstable situation. The next 12-18 months will prove to be a turning point, with more and more non-endemic brands looking to buy into the space. They will be looking over engagement data and viewing figures like hawks, sure to squeeze every ounce of value from their investments, so the whole industry needs to tighten up and get savvy to presenting themselves effectively; from players to organisations.

Trend 2 – Winning Partnerships are built on content 

  • Top 20 sports sponsors earn between $2-3m media value per team, per season
  • Facebook is the most valued platform (sheer volume of users), whilst Instagram is the most efficient in driving sponsor value
  • Average sponsorship value per post:
    • $2,723 – Instagram
    • $2,108 – Facebook
    • $421 – Twitter

If you ever doubted the value of your team or league’s social media, here’s the nail in that coffin. Driving big media value and delivering authentic fan-focused content go hand in hand with many of the top sports sponsors, so expect more authentic partnerships and content activations this year.

The surprise here is the sponsorship media value per post on Instagram. The platform’s clear focus, perhaps being diluted as Facebook seek to add more features, is still a winning formula for sponsors, and gives fans a great BTS glimpse into everyday life at their favourite team or sport. Facebook’s increasing grip and openness to pivot platform direction continues to offer opportunities for creators, whilst Twitter has suffered a bleeding of it’s key sports execs over the last few months, with a number jumping over to Snapchat.

Watch Facebook’s value rise as Live video and new features around sports become more prevalent across the platform. Plenty of teams are driving some fantastic exclusive content, with the network rewarding content creators in the news feed (if not monetarily if reports are to be believed). Little context is provided on channels outside these three, but expect Snapchat content to be on the rise this year with a raft of new product features that will provide teams and leagues with increasing ways to deliver unique, valuable content to fans.

Trend 3 –  More devices, more platforms, more content consumed

  • Media consumption grew 13% in 2016
  • Live TV viewing is down across all demos except P50+, but the decline is slowing
  • US adults aged 18-24 spend 57hrs a week consuming media, with 36% on their mobile devices
  • We are watching more sports outside the home, with our friends in bars and on our devices

‘TV is dead!’, many proclaimed last year, to great glee. Whilst not dead, live TV is still in decline, but slowing. In fact we only spent an average of a second less watching TV in 2016 than in Q4 2015. A 45% increase in time on mobile, tablets and PCs certainly helps explain that, but the two can still co-exist. A 300% increase in app usage on a daily basis in the last 2 years indicates the demand for second-screen experiences still exist, as well as the need to create responsive applications (or HTML5 web apps) across the huge proliferation of devices in market.

We are spending more time every day on our devices, highlighted by perhaps the most pertinent section of the entire report:

‘This was the first year that consumption on mobile devices surpassed television across any demo’

Expect teams and leagues to scramble to find even more ways to engage with fans across mobile devices and grab a piece of the action. We’re no longer marketing to millennial ‘cord-cutters’, but in the case of the esports demo, the ‘never had a cords’. Catchy.

The big technological question? With increasing devices to develop more and a huge fragmentation in content delivery methods, will the era of the app start to wane? Is HTML5 (and the looming HTML6 release) the way forward for delivering content and dynamic features at scale?

Will we see the first ‘Netflix-for-sports’ we have expected for so long? Forgetting broadcast right challenges it seems logically, and is already happening with industry heavyweight Perform Group’s latest product DAZN.

Trend 4 – The ability to highlight ROI is becoming easier

No hard numbers here, but it wouldn’t be a Nielsen report without a not so subtle pitch for their own product. As discussed in Trend 1, sponsors are becomingly increasingly savvy at going beyond the time-honoured metrics of brand exposure and screen time to dive into the nitty gritty of whether their sponsorship deals actually drive increased revenue and purchase behaviour.

Nielsen believe they’re able to do that, and who’s to argue? They’re certainly in a great position to lead in the space, given their well-known and relied upon TV viewership and purchase behaviour data. 

Trend 5 – Data, data, data

To quote the report:

‘data is becoming a driving force in optimising fan relationships and maximising revenue’

Over the last few years, teams and leagues have spent millions of dollars on restructuring their data warehouses, optimising customer flow and pouring over customer touchpoints. 2016 was the year we saw this coming together, and it’s only going to get more in depth in 2017.

Fan segmentation and personalised messaging is just the start, with plenty of teams and leagues refining the experience further through technology solutions that group, crunch, analyse and automate marketing flows in realtime (or close to it). The lifetime value of a fan is becoming increasingly important as we look to hook the next generation and adapt to their purchase and content consumption behaviour.