The top ten sports in the world have a combined following of approximately 13 billion fans (that includes fans following more than one sport, for the mathematically challenged like our Creative Director!) For many, sports is a religion. So getting fans to check out sports apps for the teams and brands they love shouldn’t take that much legwork, right? Well, getting users to an app if there is a massive fanbase gives the app a clear advantage. But just like any mobile experience, keeping them there and maximizing their engagement on the app takes effort.
Over the last 15+ years, we’ve learned some valuable lessons from building the mobile experiences for some of the biggest brands in sports. And now, we’d love to pass some of those learnings on to you!
Fantasy sports in and of themselves are a multi-billion dollar industry. For the unfamiliar, here’s what a fantasy league looks like: participants assemble teams of real players (or sometimes imaginary) from a professional sport and “compete.” The points are calculated based on the results of the real-life games, and since the score is compiled from real-time performances, the participants get instant gratification. They play over a period of days, weeks or even entire seasons to win fantasy leagues for prizes. The “team owner” can also have a taste of what it would be like to manage a sports team, with drafts and player trading as part of their responsibilities.
Since every sport league has a different set of rules and guidelines, creating a virtual sports fantasy tournament is like opening a floodgate for sponsorships and in-app purchases.
And the fantasy league doesn’t have to be a standalone app – Bet365, ESPN, Cricinfo, GOAL and more are all popular sports media coverage platforms with fantasy league features.
This one won’t be a surprise. Social media integration is critical for sports fans to be able to connect with other fans quickly and easily through a sports app. I won’t beat the obvious to the bush, but integrating with social media helps increase engagement, discoverability, and paves way for easier signups. The only important thing you’ll need to remember here is not to make social integrations mandatory.
‘Federer’ can be typed entirely with the left hand. An average golf ball has 336 dimples.
Sports fans are statistics junkies. Fans want to be fed stats while the games are being played, during breaks and everywhere in between. So incorporating statistics at various points is wildly popular among sports apps.
Naturally, for an app to be able to keep up with this need, it’ll need a ton of data. But fortunately for app builders, there is a ton of data to work with. Often, fans don’t want to just see a statistic spit out to them, though – they want it represented graphically with visual representation.
And importantly, if you’re offering statistics at numerous points within your app, your users will appreciate being given the option to opt out!
Ball-tracking or Hawk-eye integration:
It’s common for fans and players to second-guess or doubt a referee’s call. Advancements in technology show lines to guide fans to the exact path of the ball, allowing them to evaluate each instance themselves.
Such technologies are popular to integrate into apps, and having a ball-tracking view accessible to fans increases engagement and helps them better understand the game.
Fans don’t stop once the game is over. Post-game chatter finds its way— Messi should have played it a little to the right, a slower serve would have deceived Nadal, ABD (a popular cricketer) at mid-wicket would have caught that. Fans love to discuss strategy.
And the game experienced itself is enhanced when a fan gets points for their in-app activities. When the counters calculate everything from taking part in conversations, to participating in pop quizzes, to making predictions, the self-gratification factor will keep them coming back to check their scores. Gifts, goodies, and more games and point opportunities will keep a fan engaged and continuously checking their favorite sports apps.
These are some good features to start with, but they don’t stop here. Keep in mind that is easy to throw in random feature additions than it is to actually execute them well. That’s why it is important to have a dynamic structure to keep improving the app experience and features. Look outside the frameworks and don’t settle!
And of course, once the features are there, they need to be continuously managed.
At July Rapid we’ve worked on apps for ESPN, the NFL, the NBA, and more.
Want to talk sports apps?