When most of us think about sports events, the first thing that comes to mind is the sport on show. The fast-paced action, the special bit of skill or the game-clinching winner. And so it should be – such memories enable the sport to become infused in people’s minds and turn casual viewers into long-term fans.
With that said, the time – from start to finish – that a sports event takes is, of course, far more than the time of the sports performance itself. While a football match may only take 1 ½ hours, fans will often be in the stadium for up to 3, including some time before the game, during half-time and after the game. In other words, almost half of the ‘event’ is not featuring live sport.
Other sports lend themselves to having even more gaps in live sporting action. The average American Football game, for example, is estimated to last 3 hours and 12 minutes. Of this, the ball is ‘live’ and in-play only for 11 minutes. The rest? Pauses, timeouts and reforming positions.
Why then is American Football so commercially successful? The reason may lie in the fact that their sports events are about more than just sport, they are an event. They provide a range of entertainment alongside the sport itself. The second the match pauses for a timeout, out rush an MC, the team mascot, a musician, magician or a team of cheerleaders. The most important match in the sport, the Superbowl, is maybe as widely talked about because of its half-time show than the sports result itself.
By hosting sports events, sports organisations have a tremendous opportunity to use the gaps in the play to further their goals. And these can be diverse. Whether it be providing new opportunities for commercial partners, engaging local communities or trying to diversify fan groups – all can be achieved with a clear strategy and careful planning and for the non-sporting aspect of the event.
Simply considering breaks a time for athletes to rest must now be considered a missed opportunity. And with modern technologies, the time of a singular MC coming out for the live audience should be considered outdated. How can fans watching at home also be engaged? And what is the story your sport/sports team can tell during the breaks?
American sports have led the way in answering these questions, but the same opportunity is there for all sports and all geographies. Over time, they may too have their own Superbowl half-time show.