Sports is all about big excitement, big crowds, and big business. But the sports industry is also missing out on a BIG opportunity.

Sports make up a $650+ billion global industry, including everything from ballpark concessions and merchandise to media rights and sponsorship — and most of that revenue can be attributed, either directly or indirectly, to diehard fans.  But there is a far larger audience of casual sports fans who have greater access to sports than ever before — and they are being left out of the conversation.

A casual sports fan might only attend a few games each season. They often don’t pay attention to sports until the playoffs begin or if there is a major event on TV. They will glance at the sports section in the newspaper from time to time and may even “like” a sports related story when it appears in their newsfeed. While they love sports, their interests are different from the die-hard sports fans in that they mainly view sports as just entertainment or an opportunity for social engagement.

Casual fans are hungry for knowledge about sports and would like to engage more fully – but are afraid of appearing uninformed. It doesn’t help that die-hard fans are often critical of casual fans whose awareness and appreciation for sports is more limited. When casual fans become more educated and aware, their willingness to attend events, buy merchandise, consume media and share their sports experiences increases. That means more media being consumed, more awareness and attention paid to brands, and more revenue for leagues, teams, athletes, and everyone involved.

To engage casual fans you can’t simple dumb down the existing ways we present and talk about sports.  Casual fans want to know more than just the score. They are more interested in the overall game experience, a specific team or athlete, not wins and losses, statistics or history. They want to understand the basic strategy and appreciate the action as it unfolds. And when it comes to digital and social media, they are just as likely to enjoy a game with their laptop or mobile phone close at hand, but casual fans are asking questions and sharing cultural observations not debating the quality of the officiating or trash-talking their rivals.

I want to challenge the existing ways of thinking about sports.  I want us to appreciate all the different ways technology and digital media can be used to inform, educate and ultimately help casual fans become more connected to the games, the players and the sports experience.  This conversation is long overdue.  Bring it on.

p.s. I have proposed a session about this topic at SXSW… I hope you will throw a vote in our direction (before the deadline tonight) to help make sure it happens:


By BrianReich

Brian Reich has spent nearly two decades providing digital and communications strategy, analysis, and support to brands, nonprofit organizations, political groups, media companies, and startups. He is the author of two books about the impact of technology and media on society. Brian writes and speaks regularly about sports from the standpoint of culture, society, economics, and politics. He argues that ballparks and stadiums are staging grounds for some Americans’ most unique and powerful experiences. In 1997, Brian drove the country and visited all the major league ballparks. He has analyzed the impact of stadium construction on communities and argued that baseball ought to be considered a form of religion. As a Seattle native, Brian is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders. He begrudgingly adopted the New York Knicks as his basketball franchise of choice (but only because the Seattle Supersonics were re-located to Oklahoma City). Brian contributed (as a dedicated student and fan) to the University of Michigan’s 1997 National Championship in football and was a coxswain for the Columbia University Men’s Heavyweight rowing team. He remains an passionate supporter of both the Wolverines (Go Blue!) and the Lions (Roar!). He lives in New York City with his wife, Karen Dahl, and their two children: Henry (age 4) and Lucy (age 2).