Sports fans are hungry for information. In the Australian market there are numerous dedicated sporting websites including www.foxsports.com.au, the newly launched www.onehd.com.au and www.sportal.com.au, just to name a few.
Whilst the advertising dollar remains focussed on television and government media regulation for sport continues to leave online policy out of the fold (as seen with the proposed changes by the Federal Government to the Anti-siphoning regime), the engagement by sporting fans to major event websites continues to grow. The prime example in Australia is the year-on-year success of the Australian Open Tennis website, which is managed by global computer firm IBM.
IBM has been the official technology partner of the Australian Open tennis since 1993 and first launched the Australian Open website in 1996. According to IBM the 2010 Australian Open website attracted around 9.7 million unique users during the two-week tournament. This is not to mention the three million people who logged on to the Australian Open website in 2010 to watch the final moments of the men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray. These statistics are phenomenal and represent a huge increase in traffic for Tennis Australia for the two-week period of the each year’s first tennis Grand Slam.
More importantly this shows that online sporting websites provide a level of engagement from the fan that is not present from a fan watching the same event on TV. A TV viewer is engaged more passively in the event than an online user (and therefore exposure to advertising). One just has to listen to online Australian Open Tennis Radio or other online radio services operated by the major tennis grand slams to gauge the level of fan engagement around the world at any one time online.
The Australian Open tennis is broadcast on television around the world by Seven, Fox Sports, WOWOW, ESPN, Sky Sport NZ, SuperSport and Eurosport, just to name a few. Whilst this obviously provides fantastic exposure of the event to a large audience for Tennis Australia, the Australian Open website seems to provide another level of engagement for the fan which advertisers can seize on to drive consumers to the various products/services they are offering.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Australia’s Official Online Broadcaster Yahoo!7 saw two million unique users visit its Beijing site during the duration of the games. These visitors streamed around 4 million live and on-demand videos. This was on top of the 12.2 million Australians who tuned into some of Seven’s television coverage in metropolitan markets. NBC’s Olympic website for the same Olympics had 53 million unique visitors and 75.5 million video streams. These numbers are staggering.
Following the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics IOC Director of Television and Marketing Services, Timo Lumme, said
“Through our partners the IOC has successfully offered quality online coverage to sports fans around the world with record results. The depth and breadth of iconic sporting action which the Olympic Games can offer makes our event well suited to the digital age. In Beijing, over 5,000 hours of footage has been produced by the host broadcaster and our media partners have made an unprecedented amount of this coverage available online. The Beijing Games have proved that online broadcast has been complementary to television ratings, with record figures across both media platforms. Sports lovers have clearly been relishing having different options available to enjoy the action”.
The growth of online engagement for major sporting events by fans is growing at a rapid rate each year. Whether streaming videos during an office lunch break, checking the latest scores on a mobile app or looking for analysis of the day’s events on australianopen.com, the online sporting phenomenon is here.
This environment is a new and exciting way for major sporting events to engage hungry sport fans in a wealth of information (including advertiser and sponsor material), through a rich and easy-to-use user interface. The continued growth in usage of smart phone and tablet devices will only see this hunger for online information continue to expand as more people go online for sports news and results, more often.
The Australian Open is promoting the 2011 event as ‘A WHOLE NEW LEVEL’. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian Open website continues to break unique visitor records as online consumption of sport continues to stride ahead around the world.
For more information on Seven’s Australian Open coverage click here.
For more information on Fox Sport’s Australian Open coverage click here.