The Bubble Life. The #MLSisBack tournament is into the Knockout Stage, both the MLB and WNBA seasons along with the PLL tournament are now underway, and NBA & NHL play is set to start in the coming days. As fans, we’re getting a bit more familiar with watching sports played in the bubble, but as producers and marketers, it presents unique challenges.
From virtual videoboards to remotely produced live shows, producers have creatively involved their audiences and leveraged cloud-based production alternatives to the fullest across each league. Their ideas and innovation are some that we can all draw inspiration from.
Fans Still Have a Voice (Even If They’re Not Physically There)
Getting fans involved in the game and broadcast production is an essential part of any show, especially when they can’t attend in person. It’s how you transform a few talking heads into a collective conversation among an entire community. It’s how you make the athletes on the field feel like they still have the support of their fans behind them. It’s how you give your fans a voice and enhance the overall experience.
Throughout the #MLSisBack Tournament, this voice has come in the form of social commentary and photos featured on virtual screens, that makes fans as much a part of the broadcast as the action on the pitch.
If you need a good laugh, check out this video of a fan taking a jab at Shaq on social media. One of the industry leaders in engaging programming, Turner Sports picked up right where they left off as NBA on TNT returned ahead of the NBA season restart. The Senior Director of Social Media for Turner Sports told us on #Storyteller they think of fans as the “fifth talent” on the desk. “We don’t let anybody get away with anything on this show,” said Matt Wickline. “We are all going to make fun of ourselves and what better way to do that than to let fans do it too and be a part of the show.”
While the MLB doesn’t have one set bubble location, teams are getting creative to make fans still feel like they’re “in” the stadium, and to make players feel like they still have support behind them. The Chicago White Sox specifically, are looking to their fans for video & GIF reactions after every big play and bringing that content to life on the stadium screen.
High Quality, Complex Programming can be Produced with a Simple Setup
One of the more challenging feats associated with “The Bubble Life”, initially at least, is how to produce high quality, complex shows without access to a full-fledged studio and control room. By leveraging cloud-based alternatives like Tagboard Graphics, broadcasters and teams alike have found ways to effectively run their programming remotely from the bubble.
In daily programming that requires 40+ unique informational graphics per show, the MLS team took to the Tagboard platform throughout the #MLSisBack tournament to aid their remote production. Whether these graphics are pre-made, or built on the fly for post-match reactions, their team has the flexibility to produce dynamic programming from multiple locations around the country without skipping a beat.
Social Media can Both Entertain an Audience and Tell a Powerful Story
While many think of social media as a primary source of entertainment, it has recently taken center stage as a platform to amplify important conversations and voices, on larger social justice issues across the world. Throughout the return of live sports, we’ve seen teams and leagues highlight and share these conversations, creating effective and impactful programming.
The MLS, both as a league and on the club level, has not shied away from the powerful messages and statements made by players and teams. Though these messages often come in the form of non-verbal actions on TV, they are amplified through social media.
In pre and post-match programming, Atlanta United FC not only involved their audience in the show through a social lower third, but they utilized social media to tell an important story about the late Congressman and civil-rights icon, John Lewis.
The show must go on. Despite the numerous challenges that “The Bubble Life” creates, teams and producers have kept their virtual audience involved every step of the way, and by utilizing technology available to them, they haven’t sacrificed the quality of their programming.
Looking ahead to the NBA/NHL restarts, and the NFL season, I envision we’ll see even more innovative ways to incorporate fans and produce impactful, complex programming. If you want to get started on one of these ideas, or you have your own that you want to collaborate on, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a line on Twitter @Tagboard.