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ESPN Revitalizes ScoreCenter App with a Second-Screen-Minded Redesign

ESPN SportsCenter app Scores tabESPN SportsCenter app News tabESPN SportsCenter app Now tab

For years, ESPN’s ScoreCenter app was a staple with sports fans looking to stay up to date on scores and happenings while on the go.  As time when on, many apps were release with similar functions and capabilities.  At the same time, mobile usage has boomed.  In Septeber, ESPN, for the first time ever, saw its number of unique mobile users surpassed the number of website visitors.  In an effort to stay on top of this trend and once again pull away from the pack, ESPN has rereleased a brand new version of the ScoreCenter app with the new title of SportsCenter app.  ESPN’s SportsCenter app is currently available on both iOS and Android.

This time around, developers of the app had a clear focus; they wanted to create an app more in line with SportsCenter’s brand and place a focus on second screen functionality.  They accomplished their first goal through the app’s design elements and renaming.  As for their second, the SportsCenter app has all the standard capabilities of its predecessor.  It providing scores, news, and the ability to select favorite teams.  What distinguishes the new app is the addition of the innovative “Now” tab.  The Now tab offers real-time social media feed, composed of experts, players, and fan discussions around the game.  From right within the app, users can interact with content, comment, and share.  This addresses one of the key challenges facing sports leagues today: many of the conversations around their brand are occurring through outside platforms, like Twitter and Facebook.  This solution increases functionality and keeps users within the app.  The app becomes a one stop shop for stats, news, and discussion during the game, making it an ideal tool for a second screen.  The other innovative feature is the SportsCenter app’s inbox feature.  The inbox provides users with a comprehensive multi-media feed, personalized to fit both viewing and team preferences.  All in all, the app looks to be a solid future-minded upgrade for mobile sports fans.

Watch as TechCrunch demos the new SportsCenter app:


Infographic: Exploring Today’s U.S. Tablet Owner

An infographic breaking down of demographics and psychographics of today's U.S. Tablet User

Many have noted that tablets are experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity.  Compared to smartphones, tablet use has grown ten times faster in the technology’s first two years.  From 2012 to 2013, tablet’s share of website browsing has grown 300%.  With the boom in this technology, many industries are struggling to understand and leverage tablet use.

The above infographic comes courtesy of the ComStore Data Mine, a place where the analytics company shares interesting tidbits found through their work.  The infographic provides some simple demographics information on U.S. tablet users and covers several of their behavior patterns on the device.  An important piece of information to notice on the infographic is the prevalence and activity of tablet users on social media sites.  Another key piece of information is the close relationship between tablets and ecommerce (further explored here).

So, how can tablets be leveraged for sports?  Tablets have value for sports as a tool for eCommerce and as a second screen.  In terms of eCommerce, tablets are a naturally fit for sports.  As the infographic above notes, two of the top three purchase categories on tablets – merchandise and tickets – are directly applicable to sports.  Today, 52% of tablet owners say they prefer to shop on their tablet rather than PC.  As a whole, tablet users have shown to be a desirable segment due to their considerable average household income, strong conversion rates, and prevalence in the 18-34 age range.  To get the most from tablet eCommerce, teams and leagues should, at minimum, ensure their website and store are mobile friendly.  Ideally, teams should make their merchandise and even tickets available through clean, commerce-focused apps, like the previously-reviewed Fanatics App.  It is also important for teams/leagues integrate mobile device use into the promotions, coupons, and rewards programs.  As for second screen potential, tablets again make a great deal of sense for sports companies.  For those who don’t know, a second screen refers to a device used at the same time as another device in an effort to enrich the viewing experience.  In sports, a common second screen situation is a viewer watching the sporting event on TV, while discussing on social media.  Since early in their adoption, tablets have been popular as second screens.  41% of tablet users report using their tablet at least once a day while watching TV.  Sports have a significant opportunity to create further engagement using broadcasts and tablet second screens in coordination.  This goal of this connection is to use the tablet to provide the viewer with a variety of situation-relevant content and an overall more immersive experience.  Given the social media-friendly nature of tablet users, broadcasts also become a great opportunity to get connected with viewers and foster discussions.  These types of tablet applications have been pioneered by others in the entertainment industry.  For example, the “Story Sync” feature of AMC’s the Walking Dead App exemplifies this type of socially-focused second screen coordination.  Whether it is in eCommere or as a second screen, sports has a lot to gain from a greater focus on tablets.

Beyond the Plays: The Other 169 Minutes of an NFL Broadcast

11 Minutes of Live Play in NFL Game

Eleven Minutes.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, in the average three hour NFL football broadcast only elven minutes of footage is live play.  So what makes up the other 93% of the game?  New York-based radio program, On the Media, recently put out two great stories on just that topic (the sound bites are available below).  The first story, titled “Game Time”, featured an interview with Bob Fishman, a game director for CBS Sports.  It covered both what takes up the time between plays and how the content is chosen/provided.  The second, titled “Stats Man”, tells the story of 75-year-old Marty Aronoff, one of the men responsible for providing the stats broadcast on game day.

This topic forces one to question: why are televised NFL games so popular when the vast majority of the broadcast is just filler?  The answer, as OTM explains, is that this filler actually adds to the games.  It provides context.   Sure, there are commercials and the occasional shots of cheerleaders, but the vast majority of content provided between plays is valuable to the viewer.  Think about instant replays.  Instant replay technology has largely taken the guessing out of close calls.  Fans get the same view as the official under the hood and they are able to formulate their own educated opinions; good call or blown call, fans will know.  Reaction shots are another huge portion of NFL broadcasts.  Cameras capture every moment of touchdown celebration after a big play, while at the same time, they also catch the player at fault loafing to the bench after a key mistake.  To paraphrase Bob, there’s a goat and a hero on any given play.  Cameras are also notoriously good at catching conflict.  Be it a coach chewing out a player after a blown assignment or two player getting into in on the bench after a miscommunication, cameras keep the audience in the know – and it’s not by accident.  It is Bob Fishman’s to keep the audience informed on both on-field and off-field action during the game.  He tells his team of camera operators the exact shots he wants for each particular play.  Through this constant flow of information, Bob is able to shape the storylines of the game.

As much as the on the field action matters in the NFL, such a huge part of the game is the storylines that develop from week to week.  Part action movie and part soap opera, the NFL provides a continued supply of ups and downs for players, coaches, and teams.  Fans know when a team has lost six of its last seven games in December.  Fans know when an upstart backup quarterback becomes the first such player to throw two TD passes in each of this first three games.  Fans know when a coach is only two wins short of a franchise record.  Just as skillful camerawork helps to bring these stories to life, so does the timely statistics of men like Marty Aronoff.  Marty is responsible for feeding in the statistics and trends that the broadcasters communicate to the public.  Have the Redskins missed three of their last third downs? Have they been bad this season? This year? Throughout their history?  Marty keeps on top of these trends and makes them known.  This type of context draws back the lens on current plays.  Whether the outcome coincides with the statistical trend or goes against it, the play becomes a story.  Did the team continue their issues on third down or did they manage to fight for the first downs when they counted?  These developments are what makes the SportCenter news the following morning and becomes the water cooler conversation at work.  These storylines are what keep people enamored with the NFL.

As much as it may seem shocking that an NFL broadcast contains only eleven minutes of live play, it is important not to look past the other interesting content.  Replays, reactions, statistics, trends, and storylines help to paint a more complete and interesting picture of a given game.

           Game Time Play Button Game Time                Stats Man Play Button Stats Man


Turkey and Statistics?

Thanksgiving NFL Infographic

The NFL took a creative approach to promoting its traditional Thanksgiving Day football games.  The league created a turkey-themed infographic covering a brief history of Thanksgiving success by team and a schedule for the upcoming games.  Sent out through the official NFL Twitter and Facebook accounts, the picture was a quick hit with 377 Favorites, 655 Retweets, 1154 Shares, and 5120 Likes (at the time of writing this post ~5:00 eastern).  The full infographic can be viewed here.

It was good to see a high-profile league finding a place for infographics in promoting some of their most iconic games of the year.  Though it may sound like an odd pairing, inforgaphics are a naturally fit with the holidays.  They allow brands to communicate important facts and numbers in a digestible yet festive manner.  Kudos to the NFL.

Under Armor to Buy MapMyFitness: What Does it Mean for Sports Technology?

MapMyFitness is now part of Under Armor

On November 14th, sports apparel brand, Under Armor, announced its acquisition of MapMyFitness.  Based in Austin, Texas, MapMyFitness is a digital technology company that is currently operating one of the largest online fitness communities.  The company supports these communities through website, social media, and mobile applications.  Lead by its flagship applications of MapMyRun, MapMyRide, and MapMyWalk, MapMyFitness has reached over 20 million registered users.  Moreover, the company counts 9 million users active monthly and 700,000 users active daily.  The app offers users the ability to map, record, and share their exercise routes and workouts.  Additionally, users have access to a database of over 80 million global routes and additional fitness and nutrition tools.  At 83 million installs between iOS and Android, MapMyFitness ranks among the top five in sports and fitness app developers.  The company is only projected to grow with 200,000 new users signing up each week.

So what does this mean for Under Armor?  Firstly, this move places Under Armor in a much more competitive position in terms of fitness technology.  Competitors Nike, Adidas, Jawbone, and FitBit have already rolled out branded wearable technology, devices with sensors, companion apps, and, in some cases, social media integration.  Nike in particular has seen success with its Nike+ social platform and FuelBand fitness tracker.  The acquisition of MapMyFitness provides Under Armor with the user base and expertise to get on top of this growing market.  “Athlete biometric measurement is a new business we’re just getting behind,” said Under Armor CEO Kevin Plank in an interview with Forbes.

The sales of wearable fitness technology is current a fairly niche market, but it is rapidly expanding.  This year, the sales of fitness devices, apps, and services are expected to reach $1.6 billion.  According to market research firm Gartner, these sales are expected to triple to over $5 billion by 2016.  The industry is moving toward wearable devices with range sensors, biometric monitoring, and cross platform integration.  MapMyFitness provides Under Armor with the cross platform communities, as well as the ability to integrate range sensors and biometric monitoring into the current app.  It will be interesting to see how Under Armor chooses to connect the dots between its apparel and the MapMyFitness app.