In Focus: Genius Sports - Powering the World of Sport
Founded in London in 2001, Genius Sports has grown to become one of the world’s largest sports technology companies. Employing around 1,600 people spanning five continents, they help engage sports fans and grow revenues whilst delivering the difference to make sure its partners win.
fcbusiness spoke to Judd Goldstein, Head of Sports Fan Engagement, EMEA to find out more about the company and how its helping sports organisations develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with their fans.
Can you give me a brief overview of Genius Sports and explain what kind of data you are collecting?
Genius is a live data technology provider that sits at the intersection of sports, betting and media. How that works in practice is we’re the official data partner to hundreds of sports leagues and federations like the Premier League and the NFL, and we provide them with technology and software that helps them collect and distribute their official live data and live video in real-time.
We then help these organisations distribute and monetise that data across broadcasts, betting, fan engagement, media and much more.
The data we capture ranges from official play-by-play statistics to incredibly rich video tracking data ingested and interpreted using AI technology. For example, through our Second Spectrum technology, we are the official tracking partner of the Premier League, capturing millions of data points for every movement of every single player and the ball. This data powers coaching and scouting insights for teams, and also powers enhanced content for broadcasters to surface to fans.
Another similar example is how during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we worked with FIFA and host broadcaster HBS to deliver an enhanced broadcast feed, that had the players’ names over the top of their heads in real-time. This was a great way for fans that weren’t familiar with the players to learn as they watched. Additionally, the broadcast showed how fast players were running, with lines tracking their runs, and a mini-map in the corner showing the positioning of all players at all times. All of this aims to make the broadcast more interactive and engaging for fans looking to get more from the viewing experience.
“We are in a period where personalisation is becoming key to all digital engagement”
How has fan engagement developed over the years?
When looking at fan engagement we like to see it as an all-encompassing term, covering everything from the match-going experience, to watching a game at home, and more. It’s how a sport or team stays front-of-mind for its fans, even outside of the match itself – across 365 days a year.
The growing challenge for fan engagement is the changing habits of sports fans, especially younger generations, who these days are consuming on-demand content in varied ways, and sport is just one form of entertainment that they’re interested in.
How do you engage with fans that are much more digitally native and oversaturated with the amount of content at their disposal? How does a sports organisation engage effectively in this modern digital landscape, and in a way that it sticks?
The first step is to understand how modern fans engage with content and meet them there. A recent YouGov report said 18–34-year-olds rank social media as their number one way to engage with sport above traditional broadcast, and that 46% of Gen Z fans use apps on their phones whilst watching live sport.
How are you adapting to these challenges?
Competition for fans’ attention is fiercer than ever and I think one of the biggest challenges sports faces is although they have fans, they don’t have them spending time on their owned and operated platforms. Sports know they have millions of fans around the world, but they don’t know who they are, and thus they can’t market to them directly.
This is why we at Genius have invested heavily into building out premium gamified digital products for sports. Free-to-play sports games – like fantasy and predictor games – provide fans with a clear value exchange – a compelling reason to sign up, share their first-party data, and repeatedly engage on the sports organisation’s platform, rather than simply consume content via social media.
Gamification also encourages fans to share and engage with their friends, creating a social experience and building fan communities, thus growing fan loyalty and leading to greater retention of fans on our clients owned-and-operated platforms.
A good example of this is that over the last couple of years, we’ve been working with FIFA to build out the FIFA Play Zone, which is a digital gaming ecosystem integrated seamlessly within the official FIFA app and website. It has dozens of gamified experiences, ranging from the daily ‘Who Am I’ player guessing game, to the official World Cup fantasy and predictor games.
Looking at ‘Who Am I’ game specifically, thousands of fans are signing-up and playing this game each day and sharing their performance with their friends, but also telling FIFA who they are, where they’re from and which club they support – whilst also giving FIFA permission to market to them. As these global fans engage with this platform, FIFA begins to develop direct relationship with them, with a rich understanding of who they are, and how they like to consume and engage with football. This is the foundation for growing real fan engagement and being able to effectively monetise a fanbase.
“The growing challenge for fan engagement is the changing habits of sports fans”
Why are personalised fan experiences so pivotal to the future of fan engagement?
We are in a period where personalisation is becoming key to all digital engagement. All of the most used apps and entertainment services are striving to provide a fully personalised experience – whether that be Netflix recommending you new shows to watch, or the TikTok algorithm showing you the exact content you’re most interested in.
Sports are at a real risk of being left behind in this hyper-personalised landscape, because of what I mentioned earlier, they don’t have the ability to build direct one-to-one relationships with fans. The one-to-many approach of social media content is not enough, and sports need to use their owned-and-operated app and web properties as a way of providing personalised content to fans. The issue is that in order to do this – you first need to get the fan onto your app or website, then you need to learn enough about them to be able to tailor their experience.
This whole conundrum is the primary challenge that the Genius Marketing Suite of services is designed to solve. It’s helping sports organisations reach their fans, acquire their data, and personalise their experience.
Similarly, when it comes to live broadcast of sport, our vision at Genius, which we are already delivering, is that fans should be able to watch a version of the live broadcast that includes the things they’re interested in. In the NFL for example, there’s the Nickelodeon broadcast which features cartoon slime in the endzones and other really cool fun augmentation – that is our technology, and it is providing a broadcast more engaging for kids. And then think about all the other target groups besides kids that we could be providing more personalised broadcasts for – whether that be bettors or fantasy players, or new fans who want to learn the basics.
The challenge is how do you get all the stakeholders – the leagues, the broadcasters, the sponsors – working together to provide these personalised viewing experiences in an accessible way for fans to have it at their fingertips. Unlocking and overcoming that challenge is going to be key in the coming years, as the technology is developing rapidly to enhance fan engagement in never-before-seen ways.
For more information visit: www.geniussports.com