Sports brands are first and foremost brands. The media and marketing departments of sports teams, leagues, and publishers are vying for our attention and hearts. And many have come to realize that the way to the heart is through the ear, and are creating compelling voice and audio experiences to connect with fans and consumers.
So we decided to take a look at audio innovation in this space and started by asking three questions:
- Starting a podcast is easier than ever, and most sports brands already operate at least one. But is it innovative?
- With more than 400 million smart speakers already sold, Alexa Skills and Google Assistant Actions provide a unique opportunity to insert a brand into consumers’ homes and – have brands overcome the technical challenge to create a truly native experience?
- What else is the brand testing in audio innovation around navigation, accessibility, UI, etc.?
Here are our three winners.
Team: New England Patriots
This six-time Super Bowl winner is also our top audio experiences winner.
The Patriots have inserted themselves everywhere in the audio world with live global radio, a unique Amazon skill, and not one, not two, but 7 podcasts.
The aptly named Patriots.com Live Radio gives the football team a direct way to interact with the audience. Listeners tune in from Boston or hundreds of other locations to ask live questions.
The podcasts, which include pre and post games analysis, interviews with players, and other exclusive stories, allow the team’s marketing department to reach new audiences. It also provides team sponsors another channel to connect with consumers (with additional revenue for the team, we assume). The Amazon skill provides a 360 audio experience – with a constant flow of game information and schedules, fun facts, and easy access to the radio show and podcasts.
One thing is clear – the New England Patriots refuse to be sidelined and have a clear audio game plan.
Commercially, The National Basketball Association holds a tight rein on its 30 teams, which is why all of the team websites can be found under nba.com. This gives the NBA the opportunity to be greater than the sum of its parts, as the website includes podcasts of all the teams and some podcasts about the league itself. For podcasters and basketball lovers, there’s almost too much to choose from.
In terms of voice experiences, we really liked the fact that you can listen to an entire NBA game via Amazon Alexa if you add the NBA Alexa Skill.
But it’s no slam dunk, as the NBA app, quite surprisingly, has no audio yet.
Most sports publications have an audio arm, but ESPN took it a step further with probably the best experience, including dedicated social media accounts for live radio.
In addition, the ESPN Alexa Skill, which allows users to listen to the ESPN content without touch. This skill is one of the most well-enabled Alexa skills in the Sports category. But it’s no home run – some reviewers complain about buffering issues and a lack of updates.
The ESPN app experience is not ideal for audio lovers. It lacks a voice user interface and while a “listen” section does exist, it’s tucked away.
To summarize, sports fans deserve more.
Reading about your favorite team or watching a video is so 2015. In 2021, sports brands need a game plan that allows fans to consume content while doing other activities, whether it is cooking, exercising, or driving.
The NBA, New England Patriots, and ESPN are all heading in the right direction. Others will need a Hail Mary pass to win.
Luckily, Audioburst is here to help. If you want to unleash the true power of audio, drop us a line and we will help you win the audio game. In the meantime, check out our sports news playlist:
(Note: if you think we missed a great audio experience provided by a sports brand, please let us know).