Last week Kleiner Perkins released their annual Internet Trends report, covering everything from Chinese web usage to the impact of digital gaming and eSports. For self-proclaimed internet geeks like myself this is a highly anticipated report.

If you have the time, I highly recommend downloading the entire 2017 Industry Trends report. It’s jam packed with valuable insights but I can understand that a 350+ page report might not sound like the ideal way to spend your weekend.

Lucky for you this is the first iteration released since I started my career in sports, so I figured I would comb through it and pull out four key trends that affect the sports industry.

1. Mobile (and total) web time grows, signaling a need for more content than ever before.

Mobile and Overall Web Traffic Grow

If you have been a part of any internet-focused conversation during the past 5 years you have undoubtedly heard that mobile web traffic is growing quickly and that digital experiences now need to be mobile-first. This is certainly true, but the chart above illustrates an important point:

Users are not replacing desktop time with mobile internet time, they’re spending more total time on the internet.

More time with digital media means more content is being consumed. This translates into more opportunities for sports teams to engage fans. So while producing mobile-first web and digital experiences is still priority number one, producing more total content will go a long way towards capturing a larger share of the audience’s attention.

2. Advertisers are focused on driving engagement through content and social.


Social media is one of the largest distribution channels for original and developed content, and also one of the hardest to measure. This has left marketers in a bit of a tough spot.

Without the ability to effectively measure ROI – and by association the content being posted there – through social media, they are left to focus on engagement as the primary metric to determine the value of a given activity. It’s not that surprising but as sponsored and native content become a larger revenue driver for sports teams, partners will be measuring more than eyeballs or impressions as they review performance.

To provide real value for partners teams need to create digital content that drives engagement and interaction from fans.

3. Digital experiences drive engagement.

Offer Engaging Experiential Content

There’s no doubt that users are spending more time on the internet. Thanks to short attention spans caused by a multitude of content streams, it’s becoming harder to capture an audience’s attention for any extended period of time. Gatorade, one of the best Snapchat advertisers, recognizes this and has focused their content and ad development around digital experiences.

In the example above, Gatorade was able to leverage it’s partnership with Serena Williams to build a branded interactive game. On average users spend more than three minutes interacting with the content, and thus the brand. Not only is the user stimulated by the experience but it keeps the user engaged for a significant period of time.

Games and other digital experiences like the one above require some development, but with the right team in place and the proper strategy they can create valuable sponsorship opportunities.

4. As internet ad spend is set to overtake TV, it’s critical for teams to add value.

Internet Spend Overtaking TV Ad Spend

With internet users consuming more content across the board, it’s not surprising that digital ad spend is growing at breakneck speed.

Global internet spend is on pace to break the $200b barrier and overtake global TV spend, doubling from $100b in just four years. For an industry heavily reliant on revenue from TV deals, it’s critical that sports leagues and teams take notice. Capturing as much of that revenue – from a sponsorship and media perspective – as possible is going to be important as TV rating growth continues to decline.

While the current digital media offerings of sports organizations are incredibly valuable, Google and Facebook are responsible for 80% of the growth in that space due to the efficiency of their platforms. As those ad titans invest billions in developing their ad platforms it’s going to be increasingly difficult for sports teams to match that efficiency.

To continue the growth of those media sales and capture a larger percentage of the pie, teams need to find new ways to add value.

Conclusion: Sports teams need to start acting like agencies.

So how can teams create more content, drive engagement, capture a larger share of attention, create engaging experiences, and add value to digital media partnerships? Well, teams can start acting like publishers and agencies by building out and better leveraging internal production teams to expand their capabilities.

Bringing these capabilities in house also has the potential to drive revenue in each of the categories above. In-house production teams, through their expertise in creating sport- and team-related content and activations, enable the team to offer partners fully-baked content integrations.

In addition to driving revenue through content and production, teams can grow media revenue by creating additional demand for the distribution of branded content through their digital channels.

What did you think about the report? Hit me up on Twitter @MathewBernstein and let’s discuss.