Sports industry tries to win over millennials

The sluggish pace of American football has not always been an asset, but Sky Sports executive Barney Francis thinks it could be key to the game's success with emerging youth.

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Francis' sons, ages eight and 11, seem to be in natural sync with the American game's short bursts of activity, which are interspersed with endless pauses, time-outs and referee decisions. They are more drawn to the game than soccer, which is a mainstay in Britain.

"They concentrate for five seconds of time and then they drift," said Francis, managing director of Sky Sports.

The appeal of bite-sized content to an increasingly smartphone-dominated society was a key takeaway from proceedings at the Leaders group's Sports Business Summit in New York.

Participants, including teams, agents and advertisers, are still looking for the secret to keep the big money flowing in pro sports in an era of media flux.

They rued declining attendance at many live sporting events and the effects of the decline of traditional media business models.

Youth "are using devices more than ever before. Their spare time is more pressurized than ever," Francis told AFP on the sidelines of the event.

"They want new things all the time."

Digital revenues lag

CBS Sports has enjoyed success with other youth-culture mainstays, such as Twitter and Facebook feeds prepped in tandem with sporting events, or short behind-the-scenes segments on rising millennial golfers like Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus.

"Social media is a big opportunity with the millennials," he said.

However, McManus described a tricky calculation with the bulk of the company's advertising revenue still coming from traditional broadcast and cable.

"The fact of the matter is the NFL gets the lion's share of its revenue from broadcast television and from basic cable television," McManus said. "It is still a challenge to monetize the digital media.

Iconic football team Real Madrid is beefing up its smartphone app so that fans will be more engaged at games. The team is also keen to amass as much data as possible on its fans' social media tendencies, said Begona Sanz executive vice president at Real Madrid.

"This is where we are now - trying to create a platform which automatically gets the information to try to get the intelligence so that we can offer them what they want," she said.

Olympics sponsor Procter & Gamble plans segments profiling athletes of the 2016 games. However, the episodes must be easily clickable and easy to view when customers desire.

"We need to learn how we can be better at providing exactly what they want to consume at the moment she wants to consume it," said Janet Fletcher, a brand director at P&G.

One upside of the flux is a greater willingness of star athletes and entertainment celebrities to take risks with a campaign if it seems original enough to break through the clatter, said David Droga, founder of advertising firm Droga5.

Sports apparel maker Under Armour supplied workout gear for actor Matt Damon for a movie trailer for the hit, "The Martian." The brand's distinctive "UA" logo gets star treatment in a way that is "seamless" to the ad's minimalist look, Droga said.

Droga said some celebrities are even willing to accept lower compensation if they are convinced of an idea.

"Doors are open when everyone agrees there's an avenue to explore," he said. "No ask is too outrageous."



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