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Smartphones: A game changer for sports consumption

How people consume sports has experienced a huge shift in the last three years

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Image: Unsplash

It’s not easy to ignore the way that smartphones have increased the connectivity in our lives. We use them to navigate, for news, staying social, for gaming and much, much more.

Smartphones have changed the way we interact with almost everything. But it has had a significant effect on the way we consume live sports entertainment and how our heroes and their fans interact.

From Google studies to sports betting, smartphone usage continues to rise

How people consume sports has experienced a huge shift in the last three years. A Google study conducted on sports found there were four clear ways in which smartphone video has influenced, or changed, how sports fans viewed their favorite sports:

  • 60% increase in searches for sports ‘interviews’
  • 90% increase in searches of football ‘highlights’
  • 30% of sports fans now stream live sports on their smartphone
  • 80% of sports fans use their smartphone whilst watching live sport to access more stats and information.

Those Google findings were backed up in another study which suggested that the adoption of smartphones had increased the ‘need to know‘ factor. This basically means that a smartphone has become the best tool to access the best-targeted information. With the bonus of useful social interaction too, it has become the medium of choice for sports fans.

This gathering of information also includes the way more people are using their smartphones for sports betting through apps. Some betting companies offer the option of watching live sport through their website or app and there is even an option to bet on virtual football through a smartphone too. And it is backed up with a never-ending source of statistical information for fans to access and make decisions based upon.

Is sports media also chasing smartphone views?

The increased focus on detailed analysis for sports fans and sports betting has helped fuel the rise of the digitalization of sports media coverage. This rise has peaked with the sports website The Athletic, which recently moved into the UK market and made plenty of headlines by poaching the top talent from a lot of its competitors.

Another example of this shift in sports journalism values can be found at Sports Illustrated too. Recent changes at Sports Illustrated have resulted in the replacement of traditional sports journalists by the individual ‘sports team’ journalist. These are essentially freelancers tasked with reporting to a greater depth on narrower topics, like individual teams or cities. But Sports Illustrated isn’t stopping there, it also tasks them to create multiple YouTube videos every week recognizing that those Google smartphone search studies are influencing sports search results.

How have sports stars themselves reacted?

The biggest sports stars themselves have been quick to realise the power that smartphones can have on improving (or controlling) their image. Big names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messiand Odell Beckham Jr can reach enormous worldwide audiences with images, videos and press releases disguised as Tweets as well as posts on YouTube and Instagram.

And it isn’t just the well-known footballers and NFL players that have monetized their image through smartphones. For many snowboarders, free climbers, ultra runners and others, whose sports aren’t backed by big money, YouTube has been a way for them to spread their brand and increase participation in their sports, as well as funding their own.

One example is gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, once an American national champion, who shunned elite gymnastics (and the Olympics) to concentrate on her college career. If anything, her fame has gotten even greater because of it, becoming a viral sensation for her perfect 10-floor routines for UCLA that have been viewed over 50 million times on YouTube. It has culminated in her appearance on ESPN’s Body Issue alongside Brooks Koepka, Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham Jr, and Alex Honnold.

For producers of sports coverage, sports analysis, and sports betting has become the number one focus. It has exploded well beyond the ESPN or Opta (for soccer) stats and now has fantasy sports sites delving far deeper into the stats of nearly all sports from golf, tennis, NFL, NHL, and NBA. If anything smartphones have not only made this possible but have also fed its own beast because the desire for more information doesn’t ever get sated.

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