Scoring with Sports Fans

Written by: Dan Shuftan

(Sales Director, Brands and Agencies)

Employee Voices


Welcome to October, where hope springs eternal for some of your favorite sports teams and a lasting memory of an amazing playoff run starts for others.  It is the quintessential month; the beginning of NBA and NHL, the continuation of College Football and NFL, and the start and finish of the MLB playoffs.  While a fantastic month for fans, there are only so many eyes that can focus on all of these games happening at once.  The real question is what are teams, leagues, and sponsors doing to earn the attention of those fans?

Quick background on me – I spent almost 15 years in the Sports Marketing/Sponsorship/Agent world before joining Telescope.  One of the things that brought me to Telescope was the unique and innovative technology solutions that could be an added value to the many sides of the sports world. I had seen their work in real-time, participated in their campaigns, and saw the amazing reactions it brought to the end-users and marketers. You see, sports fans are a changing demographic and it’s very hard to grab their attention.  Television ads are not working as well, paid spend has ad blockers, there is a proliferation of social media posts that cannot all be consumed, and the cost for ad spend and sponsorships is increasingly expensive.

For more than 17 years, Telescope has worked hand-in-hand with the biggest names in the sports world to increase audience engagement and find new and innovative ways to capture and deliver content.  We have the unique ability to target fans where they consume sports and allow fans to be incentivized by fun interactions with their favorite teams, sponsors, and leagues.  In this crucial month of October and all throughout the year, we can reach audiences via TV, on-site, and across social media.

In general, I am seeing the most traction in the sports world at Telescope around two themes: gamification and amplification.  Both of these elements are relevant for rights holders, teams, leagues, sponsors, and more.  They also help with many forms of an integrated campaign; tune-in, data collection, on-site and sponsorship activation, and much more.

October will have a multitude of sporting options – literally a fan’s dream of consuming hours and hours of impactful games or sports shoulder programming.  Every part of the sports world will do their very best to break through the clutter and get the most attention.  However, we have gone through a major paradigm shift as fans may tune-in to a game, but they may not watch the entire game.  One solution we are able to bring to the sports world is incentivizing and rewarding fans who watch a game or related show throughout an entire broadcast.

We have been working with the ESPN show, Around the Horn to provide fans with an immersive engagement experience alongside the show.  The daily show has a host, Tony Reali, who votes positively or negatively on how the guests respond to various topics in the sports world.  The guest with the most points at the end “wins” the show.  We created an interactive solution that allowed fans to score the guests in real-time along-side the host, making them the “at home judge.” ESPN then created an enhanced lower-third to spotlight the fans’ average score during the broadcast.  We strongly believe that fan engagement is incredibly powerful, especially when you allow those fans to see their results brought directly into the show; in fact, it is one of the foundations of our business.

Now on to the newest and most impactful change in sports for years to come… gambling.  Combined with a positive Supreme Court ruling, more states are quickly legalizing gambling to get the most impact.  What was once considered risqué is now the most talked about and desired enhancement in sports.  The impact is completely changing how we consume sporting events; both through television and streaming, but also how we consume games in person.  Every pitch, play, point and penalty can now make you a winner or a loser.  Both your team and your back pocket can win—who doesn’t love that?

Earlier this year, NBC Sports Washington working with Monumental Sports (Washington Wizards) came to us to with an ask—they wanted a way to give fans the opportunity to win cash prizes for predicting various parts of the Wizards’ games, while also finding a way to incorporate their sponsor, MGM.  Using our technology and products, we powered a predictive experience that lived on the NBC Sports Washington website and ran alongside the broadcast of eight Wizards games.  Fans were prompted to answer questions throughout the game for a chance to make it on the on-air leaderboard or win prizes, e.g. “Will Bradley Beal score more than 20 points by halftime?” and “Will the final score combined be an odd number?” NBC Sports Washington ran the prediction questions and leaderboard along with stats in the lower third of the broadcast and each night a lucky winner won a prize from an MGM property.  Considered a sweepstakes, this was ultimately a testing-ground for the gambling marketplace, as well as a great way of keeping fans tuned into a broadcast while collecting useful user information for the team and their sponsor.

Recently, we worked with the agency Intersport and the brand Adidas on a weekly live-streamed High School Game event called #FridayNightStripes.  We layered in concepts like Twitter hashtag heat maps to amplify the broadcast, displaying where the most interaction was being done with the content.  Along with that, our access to real-time social data through Telescope’s moderation platform , allowed our clients to select a various number of approved incoming tweets or social posts to further impact and enhance the broadcast.

One of my other favorite campaigns of ours (which is an oldie and goodie) was our work with Twitter during the 2014 World Cup .  We ran a world-wide vote to let fans predict who would win the final World Cup match, pitting Germany against Argentina.  The country’s team who generated the most hashtag votes had their national colors light up the Christ the Redeemer Statue for all the world to see.  The massive volume of comments and user generated pictures were an amazing extension of this campaign and a fantastic tool to give millions and millions of fans the opportunity to push for the extra special reward of seeing their national colors on the world-famous statue.  In a brilliant, unplanned twist, the German player who scored the World Cup winning goal even joined in and participated with the campaign. You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of amplification than this!

Recently, we’ve been seeing a large interest in layering this type of social amplification to a “hero concept” at sporting events or sports themed experiential concepts.  The combination of tools like user-generated content campaigns and live streaming lets the whole world see the overall impact.  I like to say, if an event happened and it didn’t trend on social, did it really happen?

So this October and for the many Octobers in the future (and every other month of the year), when you are sitting at home or watching a game in person and you see a new technology that allows for further amplification or gamification, there is a very good chance that Telescope is there working behind the scenes.  We want to make sports more fun, more interactive, more rewarding and of course, beneficial to everyone involved.