Speaking at a conference in London on the eve of the NBA’s London fixture back in 2016, commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the potential of virtual reality as a fan engagement tool in sport.
“Probably 99.5 per cent of our fans are never going to have the opportunity to go into an NBA arena, and I think the notion that you can become part of that experience is phenomenal,” he replied.
Now during this era of Covid-19 when fans are locked out of venues worldwide, Silver’s words resonate stronger than ever.
The significance of fan engagement has increased tenfold.
In this age, the term ‘engagement’ has developed several meanings. For fans, it is no longer about what they see on the pitch or on the court, it’s also what they see off it, and quite often online.
Fans’ thirst for more access and content of their favourite teams and players has opened up new commercial opportunities for rights-holders and new ways to monetise their assets.
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing sports to be played behind closed doors, matchday revenues have dried up, which has made it crucial to find new revenue streams to leverage large fan bases.