NHL Bets on the Second Screen
The NHL released an app called Preplay for the playoffs which asks fans to predict various outcomes within a live playoff game. The range of “bets” you can make is staggering – winner, score, first to score, first player to score, face-off winners, next to score, score at end of periods, etc. While using it I thought that the UI was pretty slick and intuitive. There’s also a leaderboard, prizes (virtual trophies), a forum to talk trash to friends, save percentage, and a tie in to offline activity (a guide to local bars showing the games).
I’m not sure what sort of engagement/loyalty rates the app has seen in its first week in existence, so it’s tough to say whether it’s a success or not. I do, however, think it’s a great idea because it taps into two broader behavioral trends.
Second Screen Activity
With the release of this app, the NHL is making a bet on second-screen activity. The twin growth of mobile devices and social media has triggered in people the desire to multitask constantly. People turn to a second screen to get more information/utility/entertainment out of whatever primary activity they’re taking part in. Some of this second-screen activity is complementary (checking Twitter streams during a basketball game to see what other fans or writers are saying, posting on Facebook about the Oscars during the Oscars, checking in on Get Glue when Mad Men comes on) and others are substitutes (playing Temple Run during the Office, checking your Twitter stream for political news while watching Project Runway).
Attention is diverted. Individuals want entertainment/utility/information and will look to multiple sources simultaneously to find it.
So, you can see, that a branded app is an interesting solution to this situation. It’s an opportunity for a brand, like the NHL, to capture a fan’s attention on both devices (TV and mobile/tablet).
Rick and I have been fascinated by the idea of expertise. What makes someone an expert? Ideally, an expert should be someone that is right about their subject matter more often than not (far more often than not, in fact). People love being right – they’re irrationally convinced that they know more than they do.
Predictive polling puts that to the test. By asking people to predict outcomes and tracking those results, you can actually figure out who knows the most about a topic. Now, many of the NHL bets in PrePlay are simplistic – I don’t think you know that much about hockey if you guess who scores next in a playoff game – but questions on a larger scale do provide insight.
Regardless, I think this is a fascinating engagement tool because it feeds people’s desire to be correct and prove how smart they are. And it uses that as a hook to get them to watch the game.
Ultimately, I think that sports leagues can do a lot in social media and with digital initiatives. Unlike some brands which struggle with name recognition and products that people have a hard time getting excited about, sports leagues have an amazing comparative advantage: rabid fans, national exposure, natural affinities, human drama.
Those experiences can, and should, be translated more and more through a digital lens.
- I do think that social apps/media are a natural fit for sports leagues given the fact that fans have strong bonds to their teams (natural affinity groups), there’s constant and varied content every night, and the brand recognition is already there.↵
- Obviously, there are a lot of risks in creating a branded app that someone has to download. Return rates are pretty low – many apps are used once and then never used again. And there’s the initial hurdle of getting someone to download the app in the first place. Perhaps a mobile-optimized site could do the same trick and substitute for the app. Either way, the NHL was smart to co-brand this with Molson to share the financial burden/risk/reward.↵
- Granted – the reasoning behind predicting outcomes is often just as important as the prediction, but still…If you’re an expert and you’re not predicting the future right, then you’re not an expert in my book. I’m looking at you EVERYONE ON EVERY SINGLE ESPN PROGRAM AND WEBSITE.↵