In my Decade Review, I posted these words, "As we are almost through the first month of a new decade, I'm struck by my wonder of the next 10 years of racquetball, particularly, the feeling I have that things will not, at all, look like they do now.". I'm struck at the intense understatement of this. Four months into the new decade, we find ourselves amid the biggest global health crisis in living memory. Social distancing, self-isolation and flattened curves are what first find their ways into our consciousnesses every day. For professional sports, continuing on in this cultural stand still, so to speak, is to operate in a "strange limbo"... to quote something I read.
It's been interesting for me to follow how people are thirsting for their particular sports. Sports nostalgia is carrying people through this time, as it is added to binge-show and movie watching and also rediscovering hobbies and interests on YouTube. Sports entities, like everything and everyone else, are stuck between maintaining the sensitivity of the time and the deep desire to return back to the way things where. But sports are coping with this in some creative and fun ways.
I follow a few sports, and those are the ones that have remaining in my view, as I myself, like everyone else, am coping media-wise. The Professional Squash Association and the UFC in particular are following the trends that most big global sports are following right now, which is deep diving into their video vaults to repurpose video and create content bites as well as engaging their athletes in Stay At Home fitness and skill challenges. YouTube keeps me well-saturated with it. We see some great Stay At Home stuff in plenty with racquetball, pickleball and all other niche sports in general.
What I Would Like To See As A Fan
I haven't seen a serious repurposing of all the video the professional racquetball tours have. I mean, I've seen an occasional mention of a past match, or others pointing to archives, but I haven't seen a deliberate work of key rallies or match revisit compilations, with players commenting on what their specific thoughts were on those specific moments. Or banter between players as they reflect on what they were thinking when they played each other. You would think that now would be the time to string together highlight reels, with new voice over work by players or commentators with hindsight built in. Anything.
But I do like that the racquetball tours are engaging in appointment viewing with players and talking to them. It gives diehard fans a chance to hear from the players and participate with asking questions. It serves a portion of their base well. And it's authentic. In this time of a flood of short at home work out vids, indoor skills vids, etc., it serves as an optional opportunity for fans to interact directly with top pro players.
I saw a spark for the tours. A small spark in the woods. Now, if I stand back and look big picture style, it presents a Searching For Bobby Fischer - "Don't move until you see it" moment. to me. Note the photo below.
This is, of course, a screenshot of The International Racquetball Tour's "Outside the Rally w/Dean Baer" live interview with Kane Wasalenchuk. And for the benefit of moving on with this post, the Pinned Comment is the Knight to C8. Now in observing the analogy, I won't argue who in this scenario is Bobby Fischer, because I can argue about that on both sides.
Again, with big picture style thinking here, I'll pose that the tours are basically event based companies. Their product is packaging and showing up with the world's best racquetball players. Right now, a ton of thought and work is going into live streaming of the events. Rightly so. The ongoing issue is funding individual events with prize money and how that money is actually raised. I talked about how the PSA built up a similar product in my post, "Both Tours With One Click; Merging IRT/LPRT Efforts". I mention this post because in it I mention that the Chairman of the PSA began his endeavors to assist Egyptian players that may have been struggling with lack of prize money. So, in this line of thinking, the wait until you see it moment is an alternative view of just looking to increase prize money.
This particular "Outside the Rally" is rife with authentic content marketing. It was a specific, actionable moment with the greatest racquetball player in history talking about movement as it relates to training for mobility. He was talking about taking on years and his thinking process and the training to be able to get low and stable even when he is off balance. Very specific issues that related directly to a product, that helps with those specific issues, linked in the Pinned Comment. It was a "direct to the player" moment. It was fundamentally different than the IRT just mentioning what racquet is being used during a rally, or just mentioning the product during a match or post match interview. Let me point out why I feel it is substantially different in this case.
The IRT produced this particular live event specifically to talk with Kane. They specifically talked about a product and had a live link to that product that was directly benefiting to Kane as he related it to his training. Authentically. And while the live conversation served to keep a certain segment of diehard fans engaged, it tangibly produced an actionable moment that benefitted Kane, the IRT's Golden Child, directly.
Now, let's look at the live match streaming for a moment. Super important. No doubt. It takes numerous people to produce a good product. Yet, it's super limited by logistics, production value, money, locations, etc. But producing video content of individual players is relatively much easier in consideration, especially in light of production value, quality, authenticity and return. If focus to building commercial opportunity for individual players was deemed just as important, if not more so, in contractual partnership with players, then that is a whole new type of business model. One with significantly more upside than the present model.
Cloud based businesses will tell airlines they need to be tech companies before they are airline companies. I'm making the case that the pro tours need to be content production companies before they are event based organizations. Research has been showing, year after year, continued growth in the movement of internal content creation by organizational marketing teams. The trend is to maximize content.
Don't move until you see it.