sports

Why apps have become a crucial part of the sports event experience

Dedicated sports apps are increasingly popular at events of all shapes and sizes.


The long awaited FIFA World Cup 2022 is over. Once again the tournament brought the world together – with up to 5 billion estimated viewers, and 3,4 million in live attendance.

As always, fans were seeking information, entertainment and connection both during and in between the games. To fulfil these needs a vast majority of the viewers were using their phones and mobile apps, both at stadiums and at homes. In fact, Google saw its highest traffic peak ever during the final.

And it’s not just the World Cup. Apps are increasingly popular at sports events of all shapes and sizes.

But why? Let’s find out.

Sports fans use a second screen

Following sports with another device is common, practically universal, as 96% of us use a second screen. For 74%, that device is their mobile phone. 

During the game, fans browse social media to engage with other fans watching the game. They want to see others’ commentary and highlight clips of the match in real time. It’s also common to look for related information, like player bios and match results – as is evident by the Google traffic record.

When sports event organizers offer these functionalities through their mobile app, they can fulfil the fans' needs on their owned media rather than letting them go elsewhere.

When operating this way, the organizers can serve their fans on two screens at once. The app can also feature a live stream of the game in itself, focusing all content on one screen.

Apps serve the fans at the stadium

Whether there’s 1,000 or 100,000 attendees, a mobile app is the simplest communications tool at a sports event. Everyone has their phone and accessing apps doesn’t require many clicks. All content doesn’t even need a working internet connection.

In a sports event – and especially in a bigger tournament – there’s so much information that it’s useful to put it into one place:

  • Schedule and matches
  • Venues and directions
  • Topical information on practicalities
  • Background information on players, teams, et cetera
  • Scores and statistics

Apps simply handle these jobs better than other digital channels would do.

Also, the event organizer can insert in-app purchases into the app, so fans could easily buy food, drinks, merchandise or tickets with their apps.

If there are real-time changes, organizers can react quickly and reach their fans no matter where they are by sending a push message. The messages can for example remind about a topical event or offer promotions – so fans get the most out of their event experience.

Apps take the story forward before, during and after the event

It’s not just about what happens during the match. Fans like to watch the highlights, read stories, and talk about the game afterwards. With a mobile app, a sports event organizer can bring all these stories together to the fingertips of the fans.

Organizers can also entertain fans with different activation tools, like:

  • Contests
  • Voting
  • Player or team reviews
  • Countdown
  • Feedback surveys
  • Promotions
  • and many other types of engagement

These tools entertain the fans and engage them with the organizing brand.

Grow the sports brand

One of the obvious reasons why sports organizations – and other businesses – are establishing their own mobile app is to grow their business. The app offers many new sources of income for sports organizations, like tournaments, leagues, federations or clubs.

Sponsorships and ad space

For many sports organizations sponsorships are their main source of revenue. Sponsorships are also effective, according to Nielsen’s 2021 study 81% of people trust sponsors who are visible at sporting events.

A mobile app brings in new ways to showcase sponsors, also in creative ways. Some activations in the app can be branded after your sponsor, like “Coca-Cola Man of the Match Vote”.

Sports organizations can also offer main visibility to one of their sponsors, starting from the welcome screen. Smaller partnerships can be placed in other spots.

A mobile app can also be used as ad space, where the ad feed is brought inside the app. For advertisers, the app offers clear visitor and usage data.

Merchandise and tickets

A sports mobile app should also feature seamless access to the ticket store and fan merchandise store. Once the fan is in the right mindset, it is much more likely to sell them merchandise or tickets to the next game. This can be further reinforced by using push notifications with timely offers.

Collect subscriptions and 1st party user data

For a sports organization a mobile app is one great option to collect and own data of its users. Where social media data is held by the platforms, this is the type of data that a sports organization will get to keep no matter what.

Direct your existing fans to the app, collect data of their engagement with the app. Learn what works, what doesn’t, and iterate. With a mobile app you can also collect leads easily with activations, surveys and polls. On top of that, the sports event can also offer a premium subscription.

Get closer to the fans

If you’re a fan, the app is your icon. You get to make a deeper connection with the team that you follow. In the app, you will have everything you need from schedules to tickets and social media accounts.

Mobile apps are seen as premium products. Thus an app is also a status symbol for the brand as well. And the mobile app is the easiest way to reach the sports brand, when measured in clicks.

At the same time, the cost of producing a mobile app is going down. Thanks to no code technology and drag-and-drop builders, more and more companies can produce their own apps. The trend is very similar to what happened with the growth of websites 10+ years ago.

Conclusion

There’s a number of good reasons why mobile apps fit so well with sports events. 

People are already using phones and apps to support the event experience. Thanks to the ease-of-use, apps are such a natural fit with sports events both on and off site.

Our prediction is that in the future, apps will become even more popular in sport events, big and small.

A good example of this is Helsinki Cup, the third biggest junior football tournament in Europe, where the tournament app has become the most popular communication channel among the visitors. Read more about Helsinki Cup in our case study.

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