According to Nielsen, sports events are something that 95% of us still tend to watch live. However, viewers can’t help but fiddle with another device in the meantime: in the USA, 45% of fans use the second screen while watching sports events on TV. This creates tremendous opportunities for brands, broadcasters, and media companies.

Read on to find out what makes second-screen development so appealing and how to create a truly successful second-screen app.

The Promise of Second-Screening for Sports

Fan Engagement

According to Momentum Worldwide, 58% of sports fans believe that posting updates and content makes watching a sports event more enjoyable. For brands, the bigger buzz means the broader audience and the bigger monetization potential. It’s a win-win deal.

Apart from sharing their opinions on Twitter and Facebook during the game, fans may want to find out additional information about the athletes and teams, check game schedules, or make in-play bets. For instance, the NGAGE app allows football fans to look up a player’s season stats, quick personal facts and trivia, buy tickets to games, and join loyalty clubs.


Money goes where fans’ eyeballs are. It may seem surprising, but fans who use second screens are less likely to miss TV commercials, because they usually stay in the room during the ad break. Even if they get glued to their mobile devices, brands can still turn this habit into a revenue stream by syncing second-screen ads with the ones on TV. On top of that, they can tap into PPC, interstitial and native advertising to diversify their campaigns.

Online fan stores and sponsorships present additional opportunities for monetization. Take PepsiCo, who partnered with the WinView prediction app during NFL games. The brand used a second-screen app to target their core consumers — young male football fans — who are usually hard to reach through TV commercials. According to PepsiCo’s VP of marketing, this campaign helped to have the brand associated with new products that reflect today’s always-mobile culture.

Micro-Moment Marketing

Sports events such as the Super Bowl, World Series and Final Four can be an excellent opportunity for brands to build up awareness through the so-called ‘micro moments’, when fans grab their mobile devices to text, post on social media, or buy something.

For example, the Esurance company leveraged Twitter — one of the most popular second-screen apps — to reach out to fans during the Super Bowl 2016. They promoted a sweepstakes campaign that generated 375k tweets and 835k mentions during the game. Fans had a chance to win $1 million while tweeting and retweeting under the hashtag #EsuranceSweepstakes.

4 Steps to a Successful Second-Screen App

4 Steps to a Successful Second-Screen App

1. Consistency with the First Screen

Missing a goal while scrolling and swiping is painful. Rather than forcing fans to switch from one screen to another, make your second-screen app directly related to what they’re watching. This way, you will have the viewers’ undivided attention.

A couple of years ago, Red Bull Media House and iPowow enabled soccer fans to participate in the live broadcast of Red Bull’s exhibition match between Bayern Munich and Red Bull Salzberg. People used their smartphones to respond to game-related questions and events. The results were displayed on the TV screen in real time. The app brought in more unique viewers and increased engagement, mainly because it complemented the broadcast instead of dragging viewers’ focus away from the first screen to something else.

2. Meaningful Content

Okay, you tailored your app to the first screen, and now it’s time to ensure that your second-screen content creates value and gets really sticky. Ask yourself two questions:

  • Do we give users what they want?
  • Is it something they cannot get elsewhere?

Put up an entertaining quiz, ask viewers what they think of the game, share some exclusive facts, behind-the-scenes video or photos. In other words, be creative about what you deliver in your second-screen app. For example, during the NBC Snowboarding competition, Red Bull together with Shazam created a campaign where users could watch the rides from a POV perspective on their mobile devices. Was it of high value? Yes. Was it exclusive? You bet.

Here is another example. Coca Cola launched a second-screen campaign called Polar Bowl, with two polar bears representing each team and reacting to everything that happened during the Super Bowl, even to the TV ads. The Polar Bowl engaged 9 million viewers, while Coca-Cola’s Twitter followers grew by 38% — in only four hours! Why? Because it was fun.

3. Great User Experience

High-value content should be easy to use. Whether immersed in the game or bored during an ad break, people will hardly spend extra time on figuring out how to use your app.

Often, companies ask fans to go through complicated steps — for example, locate their smartphones, install a plug-in, or confirm their e-mails. Consider integration with the most popular social media and make it seamless, allowing to post something on Twitter without leaving the second-screen app. Because once again, fans got no extra time.

Try to make the UI as simple as possible. Imagine, for instance, a time-sensitive app where fans predict goals when they are just about to be scored. In this case texting will obviously not work. Instead, you should introduce buttons and other visual elements so that a user can place a bet instantly.

4. The Right Timing

Invest in understanding your target audience and the timeframe when they’re using second screens. According to Octagon, the most popular times for soccer fans to engage with connected devices are during the game (35%) and during halftime (34%), in contrast to a couple of years ago, when people usually started searching something after the game.

The same research showed that posting on social media before and after a sporting event didn’t have much effect on second-screeners. However, do not limit yourself to a certain timeframe. If your application is mainly for fan engagement, you can always use the “idle” time to serve other relevant content, such as articles, exclusive facts, and photos.

Now Is the Right Time

Second-screen apps can make live sports broadcasts more interactive than ever. Apart from engaging fans, they create great potential for monetization and micro-moment marketing. The only question is, how do you build a truly engaging experience?

When pondering a second screen app, you should consider its consistency with the first screen, the uniqueness and high value of the content, the simplicity of UX, and the right timing. Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it? Let us know in the comments.