Even before COVID-19 rolled into town and disrupted life as we knew it, there was a shift occurring in how consumers interacted with different markets. A transition toward a preference for digital interaction – online shopping, online communication, online gambling – had begun, but the pandemic served as a catalyst for expedited digital adoption. Now, there’s no turning back and a new report published by Stats Perform sheds some light on what lies ahead for the sports industry, sports betting and fan engagement.
Digital Is Here to Stay
Millennials and Generation Z-ers love digital. That was an established fact prior to COVID-19. The majority of the people that fall into these two categories, given an option, will choose digital solutions over all other alternatives. Given that these people are tomorrow’s older generations, it stands to reason that they’re not going to give up their digital preference as they get older. The global pandemic has been a catalyst for the expansion of digital options that target these consumers, but which has also attracted other age groups while everyone was forced into lockdown.
Stats Perform has released a white paper, the 2021 Fan Engagement Report, that shows trends in fan engagement as a result of the pandemic and how COVID-19 impacted the sports industry. What it shows is that the industry wasn’t just able to survive, but it has thrived, as well, thanks, in part, to digital solutions that could be offered. Now that the cat is out of the bag, more digital options and adoption will follow and, within only a few short years, an even greater amount of emphasis will be placed on digital alternatives across the board in all industries.
Stats Perform got in touch with 150 sports-related entities from around the world to learn how they were responding to the pandemic and the changes it has caused. The COVID-19, as problematic as it was and still is in some areas, proved to be a source of inspiration for the majority of the players, leading to changes in how they viewed their operations. 74% of those who were contacted revealed that their companies had developed new insight into the future of sports and 72% acknowledged that new technological investments were already being explored for inclusion in 2021.
New Markets Opening Up
The excitement and optimism are serving as additional catalysts for change. The pandemic has revealed the important role digital components play in the gaming industry, able to maintain operational integrity throughout virtually any real-world disruption. This, and an increase in popularity of online gaming, will bring about additional changes and help the industry evolve.
One particular highlight in the report shows a potentially untapped market that gaming operators are going to begin to explore. It would appear that 50% of the respondents acknowledged their desire to get involved in eSports coverage this year. That’s a substantial increase, and shows the important place eSports has in both the sports and the sports betting markets. Operators who don’t recognize the popularity of eSports are going to be left behind.
Nancy Hensley, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Stats Perform, says in the white paper, “It’s an exciting time to be a sports fan. Digital transformation has been reshaping content consumption for years now and we’re seeing that really come to life in sport. The overwhelming optimism from our industry demonstrates that there’s an excitement about where things are heading and about how we can deliver experiences enriched with data and insights sports fans so badly crave.”
Social Responsibility Takes Center Stage
Stats Perform’s report is also a valuable source of data on what companies need to do to stay relevant and how they are going to be expected to manage their operations going forward. As operators have explored the changing gaming space, according to the white paper, 40% of those surveyed acknowledged that improved moral and social responsibility isn’t just being stressed by regulators, but by consumers, as well. Since the customer is (almost) always right and no legitimate company would want to give up even 20% of its possible customer base, operators are going to have to listen to the consumers.