Erica Kerner of the future of communications

Interviewed for a Society event in partnership with Facebook

ONE Championship is eight years old and very proud of the fact that they are more than likely one of only two global sports media properties born in the digital era.

They put digital first in everything they do and were recently ranked:

  • Fourth in global sports media property (behind WWE, NBA and the NFL)
  • 5000 for sports media brands in terms of online media viewership
  • They and we ranked number four only behind WWE, the NBA and the NFL

The company has a very engaged Facebook following with more than 20 million actively engaged followers as well as high presence on fellow social media platforms.

Erica goes on to explain how difficult it to market to Generation Y and Z is, who were born in the digital age, versus traditional millennials or baby boomers. It goes back to the fact that we were born in this digital age. If we look at other sports media properties like the NFL which is over a hundred years old or Formula One at 75 years old, these sports media properties have all had to pivot and really develop digital or social media strategies. For us, it is what we were born into.

When we think we think digitally first and when we craft our strategies, they are born from natural memory, and then is portrayed in the content of our sport alone. Imagine watching a full football match on your on your phone. It wouldn’t be easy, but if you watch an MMA fight. It is snappable. The, the rounds are short and punchy, they're almost made for watching on a mobile device. It therefore makes our sport fit for purpose for the digital generation. With this in mind, it might explain why mixed martial arts and eSports are the two fastest growing sports in the world.

How are traditional brands going to adapt and what lessons can be learned from this new generation of content marketing?

It is all down to consumer ultimately and it depends on your consumer for that sport to determine which strategy will work. Ultimately it is still marketing one on one. It is about understanding your channel and the type of content required for your consumer.

With all of these new technologies arising. What does ONE championship look like in a few years from now?

There is no crystal ball, but I think that the virtual reality world is definitely going to become a bigger part of what we do. That could be a variety of things from putting the viewer in the ring right by the action or perhaps the judge’s area. You could be sat in your living room, having that fully immersive feeling of being at the stadium.

On the other side, it could be about more dynamic commentating where the viewer might have the ability to actually be on the commentary board with the other judges, or it could be as simple as opening up the commentary where you can tweet live on screen.

There are so many ways that fan engagement might grow as an outcome from this pandemic.

In this new digital age, common consumers interact daily with influencers celebrities and especially sports idols. Do you think that will remain going forward?

This is one of the biggest changes that I have seen coming out of this period. It is not just in sport; it is across all celebrity and influencers. During this period of lockdowns around the world, our idols and celebrities have really given us a look behind the curtain on their real lives. In the past, I think, certain celebrities and influencers, had a public persona and maybe a private persona.

Very rarely would they let you into their homes and have a sneak peek at their real lives. I think that this new intimacy is going to be something that fans will not want to give up and I think that's going to be really exciting to see how that further develops.

What's your advice on how to bring digitalisation into a large organisation? One that was not born from the digital era.  

Working with ONE Championship as a start-up, means that we are nimble and can change direction on a dime. I think it's how do you bring that start-up mentality into a large existing organisation.

My piece of advice could be that you have always got to be an advocate for the consumer, because with consumer data which can present, enables to prove your case and push through your ideas. Always make sure you've got the data to back up your case. Be brave, be big, be bold and be a non-stop advocate for the consumer. I think that is the way to push things through.


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