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Fortnite vs Wimbledon: how sports marketing has changed

Fortnite is redefining the playing field, writes MATT ARNOLD, chief engagement officer of VMLY&R South Africa

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The meteoric rise of eSports and professional gaming is nothing new, but as the industry starts to mature, we are seeing a dramatic shift in the tried and tested global sports formula. This shift affects multiple areas of sports including arguably the two biggest areas; viewership and sponsorship. As marketers, we are all very familiar with the shift from static broadcast channels to more dynamic and fragmented viewership, but you need go no further than eSports to see the pace of change and the impact this will have on the sports marketing industry.

We have recently watched two dramatically contrasting sports events unfold at different ends of the sporting spectrum; The Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament, and the Fortnite World Cup. These two unlikely tournaments have a lot in common despite their differing background and audiences, let’s look at some data:

WimbledonFortnite World Cup
Tournament heritage (years)1332
Winners Prize$2,864,000$3,000,000
Total Prize Pool$46,312,000$30,000,000
Spectator capacity39 00023 000
Participants (incl qualifying)79040 000 000
Online Mentions*164 991276 527
Final Viewership**9 600 0001 300 000
Primary PlatformTelevision BroadcastTwitch Streaming

*Mentions on twitter using related hashtags, sourced by Crimson Hexagon

**Wimbledon TV viewership calculated as total viewers, Fortnite Online viewers calculated as total concurrent viewers (CCV)

Despite the similarities in scale, the format of these events could not be more different. Tennis follows the traditional sporting mould, primarily focused on television broadcasting, while eSports makes use of online streaming platforms like Twitch. These streaming platforms provide their own fair share of problems, similar to the early days of internet advertising where everyone has different measurement parameters and tracking, making it difficult to compare viewership. This fragmented viewership makes it harder for brands to buy exclusive broadcast rights without angering fans, who are accustomed to the ease and availability of their favourite gaming streams.

The key difference with eSports is the accessibility, while I can easily count the number of times I have stepped onto a tennis court in the last year, I have played a significant amount of competitive games. We have a generation of players now who have grown up with gaming. They watch people play and they think they can get to that point when they play professionally themselves. If you watch a Wimbledon game, there are very few sane people who believe they can beat Novak Djokovic, but when you are at home and watching pros playing Fortnite or FIFA, a lot of people think, “I could beat that guy.” We can see this reflected in the 40 million players that tried out for the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers.

Of course, there are plenty of commercial sponsors and a never-ending array of opportunities, but the sports sponsorship takes on a different shape here. eSports fame is ephemeral. Players can be good one year and completely irrelevant the next due to gameplay changes, coaches leave to attend college and team names and ownership shift dramatically and often. All of this makes traditional sponsorship and team management difficult.

The players have grown up through internet fame and have tens of millions of subscribers before even reaching the heights of winning a big tournament. This results in a strong loyalty to those followers driving a stronger focus on authenticity, intimacy and content than in any other traditional sports setting. Brands that are wanting to wade into this world of endorsements need to be wary and ensure they do so in an authentic manner or risk alienating their prospective audiences.

As with all sports, commercial success is what drives the sport forward. Fortnite has a distinct advantage here with the underlying game (Fortnite) being owned entirely by a single entity, Epic Games. With over 250 million players globally, the game is an entertainment behemoth in its own right without the need for sponsors or broadcast partners. Epic Games have committed to investing over $100 million in prize money for Fortnite competitions this year alone.

With the world of eSports continuing to grow and the global scale and impact matching or even surpassing more traditional sporting activities, it’s important as marketers to keep abreast of these changes. The shift in broadcast channels, viewership patterns and mass participation lie at the core of the blossoming eSports industry, directly contradicting many of the established sporting monopolies. Grab your strawberries, cream and maybe a Red Bull to settle in to watch this fascinating era in sports viewership.

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‘Like’ at your own risk

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That video or picture you “liked” on social media of a cute dog, your favourite team or political candidate can actually be altered in a cyberattack to something completely different, detrimental and potentially criminal, according to cybersecurity researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

The researchers looked at seven online platforms and identified similar serious weaknesses in the management of the posting systems of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter does not permit changes to posts and, normally, Facebook and LinkedIn indicate a post has been edited. But this new attack overrides that.    

“Imagine watching and ‘liking’ a cute kitty video in your Facebook feed and a day later a friend calls to find out why you ‘liked’ a video of an ISIS execution,” says Dr. Rami Puzis, a researcher in the BGU Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering

“You log back on and find that indeed there’s a ‘like’ there. The repercussions from indicating support by liking something you would never do (Biden vs. Trump, Yankees vs. Red Sox, ISIS vs. USA) from employers, friends, family, or government enforcement unaware of this social media scam can wreak havoc in just minutes.”  

In this new study, published on arXiv.org, the researchers explain how they penetrated individual profiles and groups in several experiments and how the Online Social Network (OSN) attack, dubbed “Chameleon,” can be executed. The attack involves maliciously changing the way content is displayed publicly without any indication whatsoever that it was changed until you log back on and see. The post still retains the same likes and comments. 

Click here for Facebook demo. The picture and video of the candidate change every time you click on it or refresh the page within 30 to 60 seconds.

“Adversaries can misuse Chameleon posts to launch multiple types of social network scams,” says Dr. Puzis. “First and foremost, social network Chameleons can be used for shaming or incrimination, as well as to facilitate the creation and management of fake profiles in social networks.”  

“They can also be used to evade censorship and monitoring, in which a disguised post reveals its true self after being approved by a moderator. Chameleon posts can also be used to unfairly collect social capital (posts, likes, links, etc.) by first disguising itself as popular content and then revealing its true self and retaining the collected interactions.”

Facebook and LinkedIn partially mitigate the problem of modifications made to posts after their publication by displaying an indication that a post was edited. Other OSNs, such as Twitter or Instagram, do not allow published posts to be edited. Nevertheless, the major OSNs (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) allow publishing redirect links, and they support link preview updates. This allows for changing the way a post is displayed without any indication that the target content of the URLs has been changed.

In Chameleon, first, the attacker collects information about the victim, an individual. The attacker creates Chameleon posts or profiles that contain the redirect links and attracts the victim’s attention to the Chameleon posts and profiles, in a manner similar to phishing attacks. The Chameleon content builds trust within the OSN, collects social capital and interacts

with the victims. This phase is very important for the success of targeted and untargeted Chameleon attacks. It is similar to a general cloaking attack on the Web, but the trust of users in the OSN lowers the attack barrier.

BGU researchers have notified LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook about the identified misuse. Facebook and Twitter run open bug-bounty programs, which often pay significant sums for disclosing vulnerabilities with the purpose of bettering their systems and eliminating system bugs and malfunctions. LinkedIn has a closed team of white-hat hackers, but also accepts reports from outsiders without paying bounties.

Despite this significant issue, with wide-ranging consequences in a well-targeted attack, the responses from all three social networks are concerning, as far as protecting billions of platform users worldwide. 

“Facebook responded that the reported issue ‘appears to describe a phishing attack against Facebook users and infrastructure’ and that ‘such issues do not qualify under our bug bounty program.’

Twitter acknowledged the problem and stated in an email, “This behavior has been reported to us previously. While it may not be ideal, at this time, we do not believe this poses more of a risk than the ability to tweet a URL of any kind since the content of any web page may also change without warning.” Twitter relies on URL blacklisting implemented within their URL shortener to identify potentially harmful links and “warn users if they are navigating to a known malicious URL.”

The LinkedIn support team were willing to investigate this issue. After receiving further requested details they started their investigation on Dec 14, 2019. “We are waiting for updates any day now,” Dr. Puzis says.

To mitigate these issues, the BGU team recommends practitioners and researchers immediately identify potential Chameleon profiles throughout the OSNs, as well as develop and incorporate redirect reputation mechanisms into machine learning methods for identifying social network misuse. They should also include the Chameleon attack in security awareness programs alongside phishing scams and related scams.

“On social media today, people make judgments in seconds, so this is an issue that requires solving, especially before the upcoming U.S. election,” says Dr. Puzis. 

The BGU researchers will present the Chameleon attack paper at The Web Conference in Taipei, Taiwan on April 20-24.

Note: The Facebook demo will stop working when Facebook fixes the problem or, more likely, when the account that operates the demo is locked. In that case, a new demo will be provided.

The BGU researchers from the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering who also participated in this study are: Aviad Elyashar, Sagi Uziel and Abigail Paradise.

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Why loyalty programmes remain relevant in retail

By ANDREW WEINBERG, CEO of Retail Engage and 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year winner

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The first commercial loyalty programme appeared as early as the 18th century, with some US merchants starting by giving their customers copper tokens to redeem future purchases. This type of loyalty programme became more popular during the early to middle 19th century, with the concept really taking off with shopkeepers. Since then, loyalty programmes have become commonplace and have even been incorporated into multiple sectors as a means of trying to drive sales and encourage brand loyalty by consumers. 

After all these years though, are loyalty programmes still relevant and effective in the retail sector? 

In short – yes. However, the mechanics and channels of how loyalty programmes are run and who they even target has most certainly changed over recent years. In the retail landscape specifically, a number of external factors and developments have transformed this landscape. Some of these factors include the increased access to information via cellular phones, as well as the overall major advancements in technology to capture and mine data. Not only have marketeers seen a shift in consumer behaviour and buying patterns within the retail space, but even the focus of efforts by retailers and brands of who they should be targeting to see growth in a depressed economy has changed. 

54% of the South African population falls between LSMs 3 – 6, with there being an estimated 13-million shoppers in the independent and informal retail sector. These consumers are not traditional, bottom-end or emerging, they make up the ‘main’ market of South Africa. Previously it was the higher LSMs of eight to ten bracket that was targeted by brands through loyalty programmes and other advertising and marketing touchpoints, with 70% of spend being focused on this elite and yet smaller audience. South Africa’s main market (commonly also referred to as the ‘mass market’) didn’t even feature with over 81% of households not being proactively engaged with. Fortunately, in recent years we have seen first-hand how this approach and strategies by brands has changed through the introduction of loyalty programmes like bonsella, that successfully targets 10 million shoppers and consumers in the independent ‘main market’ sector in South Africa. 

To connect with this audience effectively by meeting the needs of the consumers to want to participate and engage with loyalty programmes, while still providing retailers and brands with access to valuable consumer insights critical to brand decision making and driving market share and sales – technology has proven to be key. 

A report authored by Jan Stryiak and Mayuran Sivakumaran, released by GSMA Intelligence earlier this year, revealed that at the end of 2018, 5.1-billion people around the world subscribed to mobile services, which accounts for 67% of the global population. Furthermore, the report revealed that of the 710-million people expected to subscribe to mobile services for the first time over the next seven years, half will come from the Asia Pacific region and just under a quarter will come from Sub-Saharan Africa. This mobile growth trend is not a new one and it’s this insight of the continual growth of consumers accessing and utilising their mobile phones on a daily basis that shaped bonsella as the leading digital platform for brands and retailers to reward customers in the main market. 

With the development of bonsella we focused on the currency of what the main market receives or redeems through this type of loyalty programme, which traditionally is deemed different to what resonated with consumers in higher LSMs. Every cent matters to the main market so we knew our loyalty programme needed to meet the consumers’ needs of doing their regular shopping while saving money on their monthly airtime spend. 

We have found great success in rewarding shoppers with instant airtime to their mobile phones for products on promotion in-store. We have seen participating stores realise increased sales revenue and increases in average basket size and foot traffic, while brands achieve a significant increase in product sales per campaign.

For the retailer, the benefits among others are access to a multi-million shopper loyalty programme, increased purchase value and turnover, the ability to communicate with their shopper base and dynamic reporting and analysis. bonsella is active in over 150 stores across South Africa, with over 1,2-million registered members to date. We recently launched a paid tier programme called bonsella Gold in SA, offering communities an array of services and discounts they would not normally be able to access in exchange for a minimum monthly investment. Our intention, through our parent company 2Engage, that currently operates in 14 African countries, is to launch bonsella into countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Malawi, as well as investigate further expansion into other emerging markets in South America and Asia.

So not only do I believe that loyalty programmes still have an important role in helping brands realise growth in market share and sales under conditions of severe economic pressure. But we are putting our money where our mouth is that loyalty programmes that deliver instant rewards to consumers and leverage on the developments of technology are the solution to bringing value, experience, trust and connection between brands, retailers and consumers in the main market space. Not just across Africa, but globally.

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