Trends & Features

Why faster formats are revitalising global sports for younger fans

An emerging sporting trend has been gaining traction and is revolutionising traditional sport into faster, louder and more engaging formats with younger audiences turning up in droves.

Red Bull Bassline 2021 gave tennis fans a glimpse of what the future holds for the sport when Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas’ brainchild enjoyed a successful debut in Vienna and Red Bull Half Court Neymar Jr’s Five also thriving. It’s clear that these innovative and more engaging formats in sports are crucial to luring in younger generations. Here is all you need to know:

– Red Bull Bassline came from the minds of 2021 French Open finalist Tsitsipas and his agent, who wanted to inject more fun, fast play and music into the often staid experience of watching traditional tennis.

– Backed by an elite field that included new Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie and American Reilly Opelka, Tsitsipas and the other seven players treated the indoor crowd in the heart of Vienna to a thrilling series of best-of-three tiebreak matches backed by enthusiastic MC Andi Brewi and DJ playing music.

– There are no umpires, and line calls are automated. At the same time, the players themselves are present on the sidelines throughout the evening’s entertainment for fans to interact with to create a more engaging and vibrant atmosphere.

– Tsitsipas declared: “This competition offers explosiveness, intensity and competitiveness. Many years ago, I went to an NBA game, and I really liked the energy and the music, and that is how Red Bull Bassline was born. I want to bring young kids into the sport and make it fun.”

– It comes at a crucial time for global sports as they face more competition for people’s time with all the TV streaming options, let alone a plethora of other cultural events they can choose from at the drop of a hat.

– Faster formats are not a new thing, of course, with cricket successfully luring in a fresh, younger generation of fans on the back of their shorter Twenty20 (T20) format, which debuted back in 2003 and went on to become a worldwide phenomenon.

– Not content with the T20 boom, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) introduced The Hundred last summer with even more families and younger people attracted to watching cricket alongside musical acts in an electrifying evening environment.

– Neymar Jr’s Five has been a huge success around the world since 2016 for the Brazilian football superstar with a format consisting of 10 minutes of intense action, no goalkeepers and teams losing a player every time the opposition scores seeing 400,000 players from more than 75 countries and six continents lining up.

– Neymar Jr explained: “The objective was transforming Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five into a reference for football players whenever they think of 5-a-side games, and I think we’re on the right track. It’s very cool to see more female teams and women involved in the tournament at the highest level.”

– Five-a-side football is nothing new either; however, the new spin that Neymar Jr’s Five puts on the world’s biggest participation sport have given it a new lease of life, something that 3×3 basketball has also done with around 450 million people playing hoops recreationally or in competitions.

– Red Bull Half Court has energised basketball in recent years with the high-octane offence deployed in the 3×3 half-court format drawing the crowds in and the Own the Court Bonus twist, which is awarded to the team in each group that has scored the most points cumulatively across the games.

– With the world’s best men’s player Dušan Bulut leading Serbia to the title on the back of a last-gasp shot in the Rome World Final and the Russian women also winning, the only way is up backed by colourful, artist-designed courts and the funky mix of music and MC chat.

– Bulut enthused: “It’s simply amazing. Especially when you play in this kind of park, you see that the passion for the game is here, and you want to give a show to the crowd.”

– Golf and swimming have also tested out shorter events to entice new fans – whose attention spans have become more and more compressed.

– As traditional sports seek new ways to bring in younger audiences, it’s these innovative formats that are driving higher engagement. Developing faster games and integrating high energy, greater audience engagement, DJs, and artist-designed venues are tapping into the core of what younger audiences seek. It’s this type of innovation that’s steering a new course in the future of sports.

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