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Partnership Trends and Immersive Experiences

Partnership Trends and Immersive Experiences


As sport becomes ever more social, brands and rights holders are having to adapt at lightning speed to meet the demand for content.

A recent study by Media Chain found younger sports fans are moving away from traditional TV to social media, with 64% preferring social sports coverage compared to traditional channels like TV. 41% are using Instagram whilst watching the match, particularly younger audiences.

The research also found younger fans want to see the action as it happens and will sacrifice quality for speed. 57% would prefer to watch goals immediately rather than wait for broadcast quality coverage later.

This evolving audience trend creates a headache for broadcasters and content creators, as a ‘one size fits all’ approach no longer works.

The challenge is fulfilling younger audiences’ thirst for instant gratification and always-on social content, whilst not forgetting the core sports fan who still wants to watch sporting highlights in high quality on TV.

Working to stay ahead of this curve is Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 – a self-confessed “event junkie” on a mission to meet these ever-evolving consumer trends.

I caught up with Jon to talk about the need for digital adaptation and how the Rugby League World Cup 2021 is embracing immersive technology.

“We’re part of a digital revolution that’s happening before our eyes. How people are consuming sport and entertainment is changing tremendously. The behaviour of Generation Z and Millennials is something that people such as myself have to understand and make sure that our offers are suited to that particular audience,” Jon explained.

“We also need to understand Generation Alpha – the children of Millennials – and how they will consume sport. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Jon continued: “Not everyone wants to sit down and watch 80 mins either on TV, on a tablet or at a venue. We’ve got to make it interesting and different.”

He believes adapting to audience insights is key: “We want to create an incredible, world-class immersive experience; using LED boards, our digital inventory and people’s phones that they bring into the stadium. We’re really interested in how innovative we can be and how far we can push that boundary.”

At a recent sports tech event, there was so much talk about pushing boundaries in digital technology that I was left feeling concerned that the simply pleasure of a live sporting experience would be lost on young sports fans of the future. Is there a danger that as Generation Alpha children grow up, they won’t be satisfied by anything less than a fully immersive experience?

Jon offers some reassurance: “I’ve seen some fairly radical changes in my career. But the one thing that is still compelling is live sport and people gathering to watch that incredible sporting moment, whatever it might be.”

eSports is another rapidly growing sector that Jon plans to have an offering in, by launching the first ever eSports Rugby League World Cup. Also known as electronic sports, or professional gaming, eSports is the fastest growing sport in the world and has projected its gaming competitors to superstardom, with global revenue from eSports predicted to top $1billion this year.

Jon comments: “It’s a phenomenon. The growth has been exponential. Sports teams and rights holders are now investing in that space and we want to be right in the middle of it to deliver a proportionate offer that really showcases the Rugby League World Cup across the globe.”

Online gaming channels such as Twitch, the Amazon-owned and so-called “social video platform and community for gamers,” present another massive opportunity, attracting massive audiences who want to watch their gaming heroes.

The challenge for the industry is clear; keeping up with young fans’ appetite for ‘the game around the game’ whilst ensuring they are still motivated to enjoy live sport for what it is and, crucially, to encourage future generations to participate in the sport itself.

Hear more from Jon in my interview with him here.

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