The growth of Australian digital sports platform 20Four demonstrates how audiences are consuming sport differently. And the company’s strategy suggests there are significant implications for brands and advertisers too.

According to 20Four, it has successfully capitalised on a gap in the market – “the uncoordinated and poorly commercialised shift in consumer engagement towards short form social content.”

The battle to digitise the sport sponsorship dollar is creating an increasingly contested market with companies like Players Voice also staking out turf, albeit with a different approach.

20Four gives sports fans “bite-sized and snack-able” content from their favourite athletes via its mobile video platform or website. And while fans get regular direct access to athletes, brands and advertisers like Netflix, Air New Zealand and MJ Bale, get their messages woven into content in front of a highly engaged audience.

There are 200 athletes on the platform including rugby league stars Billy Slater, Benji Marshall and aussie rules players Alex Rance, Tex Walker and Joel Selwood.

The company is now eyeing an ASX listing in mid-way through 2018 via a reverse takeover. Prior to making its ASX debut the sports-focused digital media company wants to raise a minimum of $1.2 million which would give it a $20 million valuation.

Leveraging athletes

20Four CEO, Chris Haigh, explained to Which-50 the value exchange between brands and consumers relies on the ability to attract enough athletes to the platform to drive scale.

“In today’s world, an athlete is a media asset, with a brand and significant reach. To efficiently commercialise that asset you need scale. That’s why we are bringing together more than 200 athletes, to work together as one,” Haigh said.

20Four CEO and Founder, Chris Haigh

“This business works on the basis that athletes, when used appropriately, drive real engagement and influence.”

The platform is an outlet for athletes to share their own story much like traditional social media. But 20Four also assists athletes with advice and “studio created content.”

“This is where we see a story or message that needs to be told, and work with the athlete to bring it to the surface; more often this is where you might see a brand or partner involved,” Haigh explained.

The appeal for users is a sports only community “uncluttered by the Kardashians and cat videos,” according to Haigh.

For brands and partners, 20Four is a “one-stop shop” offering access to hard to reach athletes and highly engaged user, Haigh said.

The advertising strategy

The 20Four mobile app

The platform eschews display advertising in favour of content marketing. According to Haigh, it is a more engaging, authentic and effective option for advertisers, compared to traditional digital advertising.

“We integrate brands into the actual content. We don’t do display ads, banner ads or any of the traditional forms,” Haigh said.

While initial inventory may not be as low of a price compared to programmatic models, advertisers quickly capture value through sharing and content amplification, according to the 20Four CEO.

“It can actually end up cheaper, as a really good piece of content (not an ad), knows no bounds in the social space, so once the content is shared and engaged with, the sky is the limit.”

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