Kobe Sets The New Screen…

The opportunity for athletes, teams and coaches to engage with fans seems to ratchet up with each passing week. What was once doable only by going to a game or an autograph sessions or “sports night,” has elevated from “influencer parties” to chat rooms to text messaging to customized and targeted voice and email to tweet ups to text chats to Facebook engagements to message boards, where fans from around the world can communicate in real time with their willing sports and entertainment figure of choice.

The most recent flavor of the month is of course, twitter, where fans can follow and interact with their engaged athlete in short bursts. Into the twitter mix in a big way the last few weeks was the LA Lakers Kobe Bryant, who went from silent to carefully engaged in the platform I a matter of days. This week Bryant took his engagement one innovative step further, offering to watch and then tweet in real time his thoughts and responses to the replay of his 81 point game on NBA TV.  The response to Bryant’s outreach was very strong, and it got the NBA some tremendous buzz while opening up a whole world of engagement possibilities on twitter for any athlete or performer looking back on a memorable event. President Obama reliving his thoughts at the inauguration? Why not. Lady Gaga reviewing an HBO special with her fans to tell her thoughts about the process? Why not. The events are taped, the thoughts can be poignant and the fan would enjoy the give and take.

While the twitter engagement is nice, it really only scratches the surface of what may be coming to take this type of interaction to another level. For example. Google has had some success with Google hangouts for over a year…a way for anyone to engage via streaming video in real time with friends or bold face names. It has the power of one of the greatest promotional platforms behind it, and can pull in big numbers of people from around the world to talk to whoever the subject is.

So why not take Bryant’s interaction on twitter and overlay the live video component to it with an engagement tool like Google hangouts for a taped event. It could even be housed through the NBA’s home site on NBA.com, or even on multiple sites to help drive traffic. Better yet, how about taking a live game and dropping former stars or coaches into the hangout to give fans an insider’s view as to what is going on in a game. Both instances bring a sponsorable, unique real-time overlay to an event and create additional value that a fan cannot get with a primary screen.

Would it work for every game? No. Sometimes without the right “star” the chats can become silly and mundane and a distraction to what the consumer is watching. You don’t want someone to miss something going on in a game because they were focused on a mobile device or a laptop. Yu want to add to the experience, whether it is a live event or a memorable night being replayed. It also lends well to some events where there are natural breaks n the game like soccer, baseball, cricket and even football more than the fast paced environment of hockey for example.

Sure the idea of the second screen has been tried for years to some extent. However the speed of technology and live video today has made the opportunity for broader engagement more possible and less obtrusive than ever before without detracting from the overall experience.

Bryant’s massive tweet experiment this week showed the value of stars with that platform, now it’s time to make video the next part of such an engagement…cleanly, effectively and globally. It certainly isn’t live tweeting or micro cameras with reactions as the game is going on, but with the right experts involved…retired players, injured players, former coaches…the ability to keep growing the fan experience will continue to rise.

Nice score this week by Kobe and his team, let’s see what comes with the next shot.

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