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Digital Content and the Power of Data in Storytelling

By: Oliver Hopkins

If there’s any positive sport can take from this unprecedented period of uncertainty, it’s how much it is missed. Sport’s ability to attract, engage and retain fans from all demographics is unparalleled.

Content creation is facing an uphill battle and fans are left fishing for content on social media platforms, consuming virtual recreations of sporting events that were meant to be happening live and trying to satiate their thirst for sport by watching esport tournaments.

Those covering sport have been deprived of the regular, unrelenting drumbeat of live action with which to engage their worldwide audiences.

There are, however, alternatives to timely and live content.

In sport, historical context is everything

One of sport’s richest components is its history. It’s not only the singular wins that keep fans engaged and invested. The stories of the teams and players woven through the years keep us invested and connected at a deeper level. It’s this history that broadcasters and digital publishers can fall back on when the stream of new action stops.

Historical context is key. It matters that no team in NBA finals history had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit because it’s what made LeBron James’ 2016 performances with the Cleveland Cavaliers all the more remarkable. It matters that when Michael Vaughan lifted the Ashes Urn in 2005 he was the first English captain to do so in 18 years. Historical sectarianism sets the background for the fierce rivalry between Celtic and Rangers football clubs. History is what fuels the greatest sporting rivalries and history is made, broken and made all over again in every Olympic world record.

Pivoting the content strategy

Broadcasters and publishers alike are being forced to pivot their content strategy and rethink the types of content they produce to reflect the sudden disappearance of live games, opting for a mix of reruns, analysis, throwback infographics and coverage of the virus’ impact on sports leagues. Arsenal have launched a new campaign, Arsenal Reloaded, a series where customers can watch the full 90 minutes of a classic match from their recent history. Elsewhere, broadcaster Sky Sports ran Monday Night Football Retro, where pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher teamed up to analyse Leeds’ 4-3 win over Liverpool in 2000 and Manchester United’s 6-1 rout of Arsenal in 2001.

Content creation which drives audience across all channels 

In this new world, publishers face challenges building audiences across almost every channel, whether that’s through search engines, social media or influencer marketing. The benefit here is that potential customers are as aware of the lack of live sport, so their digital habits have adjusted accordingly and content creators have a unique opportunity to respond to this change and produce quality content for their target audience in new formats, whether that’s infographics, webinars, podcasts.

But when audiences already know the outcome of events, how do those in digital media make historical sporting moments engaging enough to grow brand awareness? The answer lies in storytelling. And storytelling needs data.

Using Stats Perform’s historical database

With so many companies competing for audience interaction, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. In a bid to distance yourself from the noise, data can be a massive differentiator. It helps build new angles and new stories by uncovering novel insights. These new stories build interest amongst audiences. Back that up with continued data-driven insights that tell the reader something new, and fans will stay longer and keep coming back for more.

For major rights-holders, broadcasters and digital players, investment in digitally enabled storytelling and digitally enabled services can lead to larger, more engaged global fan bases and the monetisation of these audiences.

Stats Perform’s unique historical database gives clients access to a treasure trove of data not available anywhere else. Our sports database boasts statistics and advanced metrics as far back at 1876 that provide broadcasters and digital media companies with meaningful observations designed to keep fans engaged.

That data, coupled with our global data insight team’s ability to generate stories and insights from the numbers allows our clients to uncover new perspectives, enhance their coverage and provide audiences with compelling and exclusive sports content not available anywhere else.

To illustrate this point, last year Stats Perform’s Legends Series examined footballing greats through a combination of traditional and advanced analytical metrics. Using metrics such as Expected Goals (xG) and sequences, the series used data to bring more meaningful insights that explained why these players were so successful. This series is a great example of how our deep historical database can be utilised to better analyse the attributes of key performers.

As Ibrahimovic’s career has progressed, so has his xG per shot. This highlights an increasing intelligence in his shot selection.

It is not just domestic football that our historical database covers. We’ve analysed international men’s tournaments as far back as Euro 1980 and World Cup 1966 collecting detailed XY coordinate data and advanced metrics across every game. This unique database enables clients to compare greats of the past with the stars of today, revisit famous moments from previous tournaments and unearth new insights.

Stats Perform’s European Championship database goes back as far as Euro 1980.

Stats Perform has been enabling our clients to tell engaging digital stories for decades. England men’s national football team’s fixture against Montenegro in November was their 1000th senior men’s international. To mark the momentous occasion, the BBC used our historical database to look back through the annals of time to identify the key names and numbers in England’s journey. Below is England’s complete record ahead of the fixture against Montenegro last year.

Win %
*World Cup and Euros 

It’s not just football where our breadth and depth of data can help clients tell stories. On the eve of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Stats Perform and The Times collaborated to produce an analytical piece that looked at how the game of rugby has been revolutionised in recent years. Our data helped The Times unearth new and surprising angles about how the game of rugby have evolved in the modern era.

The game has undergone major changes — professionalism, lifting in the lineout, touch judges who are permitted to officiate in the game, but perhaps the biggest of all of these is in the style of play. The data reveals that there are more tackles, more carries and more rucks than at any point in the history.

Stats Perform’s extensive historical rugby database dates back to 1987.

In a current climate where differentiating your output is more critical than ever before, the use of data to enhance storytelling capabilities is paramount.

To find out how Stats Perform’s historical database can help with your digital marketing strategy, get in touch today.