Media & Entertainment

Bridging the Gap Between In-Game and Digital Engagement

Marty Mercado By Marty Mercado Apr 8, 2024

At this year's South by Southwest (SXSW), a distinguished panel gathered to delve into the evolving world of customer engagement in the sports industry. The session, titled "Bridging the Gap Between In-Game and Digital Engagement," brought together Myles Kleeger, President and Chief Commercial Officer at Braze, Lisa Leslie, Hall of Fame former Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player, Paul Liberman, Cofounder and President of DraftKings, and Andrew Yaffe, Executive Vice President, Head of Social, Digital & Original Content at the National Basketball Association (NBA). They discussed the transformative strategies reshaping how fans connect with their favorite sports, teams, and athletes in an increasingly digital world.

Reimagining fan engagement in a digital world

The digital era demands a reimagined approach to fan engagement—one that transcends physical arenas to create an immersive experience for fans worldwide. Andrew highlighted this shift, stating, "99% of NBA fans across the world will probably never set foot in an arena. And so, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we bring that in-arena experience to our fans, wherever they are." This ethos drives the NBA’s strategy as a league leverages digital platforms like the NBA app and its social media channels, as well as virtual reality to deliver the electricity of live games directly to fans, no matter their location.

The challenge and opportunity lie in making the digital as palpable and exhilarating as the physical—a tall order, but one that technology is increasingly capable of fulfilling. It’s about bringing the roar of the crowd, the tension of the final seconds, and the triumph of victory into the digital experience, making fans feel they're right there, courtside, from thousands of miles away.

Harnessing AI for personalized fan journeys

In the quest to deepen fan connections, personalization emerges as a non-negotiable element. Enter AI and machine learning, technologies that are quietly revolutionizing how fans engage with their favorite sports. Paul shared, "One of the most innovative ways that we use data is actually on the responsible gaming front...leveraging machine learning to identify and help people set limits on their playing and action." This nuanced use of AI exemplifies the broader potential of technology to tailor fan experiences, ensuring they are meaningful, responsible, and, above all, personal.

DraftKings’ story of blending AI with sports betting offers a glimpse into the future of fan engagement—a future where technology anticipates and responds to individual fan behaviors, preferences, and needs, crafting unique experiences that resonate on a personal level.

The NBA's innovative use of AI to curate and translate content exemplifies the forward-thinking strategies employed to captivate a global audience. "We're using artificial intelligence to edit and curate video, producing 10-minute recaps of every game that are posted within minutes of the conclusion,” Andrew told attendees. “It's about using AI to natively translate that content so that fans in any market can consume in their native language." This technological prowess ensures that the NBA’s global fanbase experiences games in a way that resonates personally and across cultures.

Amplifying the voice of women’s sports

The rise of digital platforms brings a golden opportunity to amplify women's sports, bringing deserved attention and engagement. Lisa Leslie’s passionate advocacy for women in sports is matched by her excitement for the digital age's potential to level the playing field. "The digital age is breathing new life into women's leagues...It's about engaging a new generation of fans and dismantling long-standing barriers," Leslie said, capturing the transformative power of digital engagement.

This transformation isn’t just about increased visibility—it’s about creating a community, celebrating achievements, and inspiring the next generation of athletes and fans alike. It’s a testament to how far women’s sports have come and a roadmap for where they can go, powered by digital innovation and inclusive storytelling.

A call to action for empathetic, engaging marketing

The SXSW panel serves as a clarion call to marketers and brands, urging them to innovate with empathy, to engage with authenticity, and to personalize with precision. The future of fan engagement isn’t just about leveraging new technologies; it’s about using these tools to understand and connect with fans on a deeper level, acknowledging their desires, needs, and challenges.

In this new era, every game, every play, and every moment offers an opportunity to engage. By harnessing the power of technology, acknowledging the rich tapestry of fans’ needs and preferences, and embracing the digital landscape’s vast potential, the sports industry stands on the brink of a new frontier in fan engagement. The insights shared by Andrew, Paul, and Leslie at SXSW shine a light on the path forward—a path marked by innovation, empathy, and a deep, unwavering commitment to the fan experience.

In this dynamic landscape, the question for marketers and brands isn’t if they will adapt to the evolving realm of fan engagement, but how swiftly and effectively they can embrace this change. The insights from SXSW offer not just a glimpse into the future of fan engagement but a blueprint for building deeper, more meaningful connections in the digital age.

Want to check out what else we got up to at SXSW? Follow us on Instagram @Braze and LinkedIn @Braze.

To learn more about Marty Mercado and the 427° Innovation Lab, download Melting Points.

Marty Mercado

Marty Mercado

Marty Mercado is a Lead Creative Strategist at Braze.

Related Content

Media & Entertainment

January 2024 Bonfire Marketer of the Month: Sky’s Voula Dimitrak

Read More

Media & Entertainment

How the NBA Uses Push Notifications to Celebrate History in the Making

Read More

Embracing Life-Centric Experiences in the Fast-Moving Media & Entertainment Landscape

Read More

Customer Engagement

The State of Customer Engagement for Media and Entertainment Brands in 2023

Read More