How the Pandemic Is Fueling the Digital Transformation of Sports

Similar to most commercial businesses, the sports industry is in flux. Organizations are pivoting toward offering new digital opportunities for fans during the COVID-19 pandemic. While device and software-based interaction was available before the health crisis swept the globe, its presence is increasing and one thing is clear: digital transformation (DX) in sports is here to stay.

The explanation is simple: more and more sports organizations are realizing they can capitalize on their audience’s desires through customized experiences and user-friendly tools.

Organizations are turning to DX strategies because traditional mediums like television don’t seem to be making connections with fans like they used to. For example, when sports briefly came to a halt in early 2020, viewership fell flat for media outlets across the world. USA Today theorizes that a sports overload of rescheduled games, matches and other events airing closely together, coupled with lifestyle changes, caused numbers to plummet.

There is no better time than the present to achieve engagement on a more individualized level. Let’s take a look at how some of the biggest (and smallest) sports entities implement DX tools to achieve new engagement.

1.) Leagues, associations and companies are creating immersive fan experiences

Thousands of cheering fans once sat in football, basketball, baseball and soccer stadiums that are now empty or only partially full. But the stands are starting fill up again through virtual offerings (in addition to the goofy cardboard cutouts we’ve all had a laugh at.)

For several sports in the United States, Microsoft has been crushing the competition by fulfilling the need for immersive fan experiences. Fan mosaics now appear during broadcasts on jumbo screens and in the endzones of National Football League (NFL) stadiums throughout games. Large video screens also surround National Basketball Association (NBA) courts. Those fans are benefitting from tools like Microsoft Teams “Together Mode” to interact as if they were at the game.

In fact, one event that was run entirely by Microsoft Teams was the 2020 NFL Draft. The DX tool brought together fans, teams, league ownership and prospective draft picks and their families on one platform, with both public and private channels.

But it’s not just leagues and associations that are getting in on the action. Companies are too. uses ARISE to create in-depth viewing experiences through augmented reality and virtual reality systems that showcase statistics, performance elements and more.

2.) Monetization through digital audience behavior is a lasting concept

Teams across a wide variety of sports are now able to capture more information about their “at-home audiences” through social media, Google Analytics and many other digital tools. They can use those tools to turn loyalty into profits. While new fans can provide tremendous moral support for teams, increasing revenues is the main goal of sports organizations. Sports are big business, with billions of dollars in revenue brought in by leagues and teams around the world.

Their strategy is complex, yet straightforward. First, sports companies and organizations become large providers of entertainment that master the art of conversions. Then, they use the analytics collected from those buyers to monetize the content.

According to SearchBusinessAnalytics, teams are collecting audience data through surveys and by offering media content.

Here are a few examples of how the sports industry is monetizing digital audiences:

  • By eliminating intermediaries with direct to consumer (D2C) sports content and offering additional content at a cost that is repurposed with enhancing add-ons, such as a team or league-specific over-the-top (OTT) streaming service.
  • By pairing sponsors with social media audiences through promotional strategies that feature their sponsors. Look at how professional soccer teams do it through training, goal, match and MVP photos with sponsor logos or sponsored content.
  • By investing in esports, which is now a $1.1 billion industry. It’s a growing trend across the world with major financial support from brands, like Louis Vuitton, who are playing the game with partnerships and event collaborations.

Now that these concepts are proven revenue drivers, they will only be expanded upon, even measures that were created or enhanced because fans couldn’t attend live games. In fact, in-person attendance might not even be that important in regard to a sports team’s overall financial picture as only about 1% of sports fans ever actually attend a game.

3.) The evolution of sports betting and fantasy sports will only continue to rise

The return to sports stadiums with any resemblance of normalcy will be slow and uncertain. The engagement opportunities presented by the digital transformation are not new, but they all expanding. Examples include sports betting, fantasy sports and fantasy sports betting.

Sports books used to be largely confined to betting facilities. Online sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet and many others have risen to mainstream prominence through digital partnerships, particularly during the pandemic.  

DraftKings announced this year that they would enter into a co-exclusive content integration agreement with ESPN with “links across ESPN digital platforms will connect fans to DraftKings’ products and services.”

Some teams are even agreeing to direct sports betting partnerships. The Tennessee Titans announced earlier this year that they would start a collaboration with BetMGM, which includes betting options on their app, but also incorporates the company’s branding in-stadium throughout games and on other types of media content.

Fantasy Sports

A DX push toward attracting online fantasy sports users and those who wager on them is continuing to rise every year. The Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association says that 19% of Americans over the age of 18 participate in sports betting and the same percentage play fantasy sports.

These users consume almost everything on a more frequent basis than the general population. The report shows, “sports bettors (56%) and fantasy players (57%) use Instagram far more than the general population (34%).” Fantasy players and fantasy sports bettors also use Snapchat more frequently.

With consumers continuing to choose digital options, opportunities for conversion are prevalent.

The sports world (and those who benefit from its revenue) continue to implement new DX measures to capture digital audiences. has extensive experience helping companies funnel those users through powerful digital marketing tactics. Every day is game day when it comes to growing your business in an expanding industry. Explore our selection of Digital Marketing services and contact us today!

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