Our Plans for Enhancing the Grid League Fan Experience
To create bigger Grid League fans, we have to first think about the process of becoming a raving sports fan. Here is how we think about it logically.
The stages of becoming a raving fan:
The vast majority of people who know about Grid League and have the potential to become raving fans are in the first few stages. No sport is for everyone, but we believe, the percentage of the population with the potential to become a raving fan of Grid League is very high compared to other sports.
This article is about WHY we feel that way, how we think about it, and the plan to make sure the most possible “potential” fans become “actual” fans. Let’s dig in.
Having spent many years thinking about and analyzing what makes a sports fan become a raving fan, here is how I think about it.
The 3 “S”es of Sports Fandom
I believe these three aspects of a sport are the main drivers of what causes an observer to become a fan.
1. Stop the scroll
- AKA: “the hook”
- Grabs attention
- Creates a feeling
- Question: what is this?
NOTES – this is the most important “S” as without it, nothing else happens
- From “aware” to “care”
- Vested in player, team, sport
- Question: what happens next?
NOTES – the answer to why anyone should give a sh*t. All sports are meaningless games without it.
- Sports knowledge required
- Encourages debate
- Question: who can I watch with?
NOTES – when you have an opinion on how the game is played, you want to share it. Shared experience creates more connection.
I’m going to break down each “S” as it relates to Grid League along with a self-assessed grade on how we have done in that category to this point.
NOTE the grade is weighted to account for our limit in resources. We don’t have investors and we operate out of a single state (so far).
Stop the Scroll (Our grade = A-)
We get hundreds of millions of views on our short-form content a year. This is kind of mind-blowing when you really think about it. That exceeds many sports that have been around for a long time and many TV shows.
This is a strength for 2 main reasons:
- The sport is composed of short, fast races of a series of elements designed to require extreme athleticism. This was Tony Budding’s original vision for the sport and one that has proven a true asset as it easily creates compelling short clips.
- We’ve placed a lot of significance on this aspect of the sport. If no one stops the scroll (on social media OR flipping through the channels), none of the other stages happen… so we have put a lot of thought, focus, and effort into maximizing the potential of this “S” to this point.
Action plan – At this point, we are in more of a “maintenance mode” in relation to this “S” as we put more resources into the other 2 and work people up the stages of true fandom.
Story – (Our grade = C-)
Anyone who has read this far into this article already knows how important stories are to being human. Sports are an important part of society in large part due to the fact that they are story factories pumping out endless opportunities to create meaning for observers.
The 3 main types of stories in sports:
1. Player Story – every sport has incredible player stories within it. The advantage that Grid League has over traditional team sports is that it has stories featuring both men and women which doubles the potential audience that would deeply resonate with a story being told as it relates to gender. Grid League players are also diverse in other human characteristics beyond gender so there truly is a player story for almost anyone to see themselves in and relate to.
Action plan –
- Create more player features and with better skill behind them.
- Shine a light on more reasons for people to be impressed by player performance (stats).
- Better document performance and player history (Player award history, yearbook, sports writing)
- Give players more tools to tell their own story (free media, interviews, better player pages, guidance on how to do so)
2. Season Story – While every sport has a season story to tell (the quest to win the championship), this might be the single biggest advantage the sport of Grid League has and the MAIN reason we believe such a big percentage of the population has the potential to become raving fans.
Having men and women together on the same team creates new types of storylines that perfectly speak to modern entertainment interests in drama and reality TV. There is no better example than the more frequent creation of (and destruction of) romantic relationships. Never before in team sports has romance been commonplace in a sports setting. I usually only hear rumors and 3rd hand stories of what goes on in the player community in this regard, but man, when there are people devoted to uncovering these stories… an explosion of mainstream interest is basically inevitable. IYKYK
NOTE: I am planning a podcast spilling the beans of some of the romantic stories and rumors I hear about being in the sport for years now. If you want to hear that subscribe now.
I think about this in the context of popular sports today. As a big Eagles fan, imagining the scandal of finding out an Eagle is dating a Cowboy and the attention that would bring. It’s pretty easy to see how that could become the new pop culture as the separation of males and females in sports breaks down. We feel men and women together in sports is a concept that is inevitable whether Grid League is at the forefront or not. It’s the direction of society. Yes, some will call us crazy for believing that. People thought it was a crazy idea for women to vote at one time too.
The best part? We’ve just barely scratched the surface of this aspect. This is the golden egg of Grid League just waiting to be uncovered when the right partnerships or resources become available to do so.
Action plan –
- Incentivize more coverage of the sport for people already involved and third parties.
- Increase internal focus and volume on behind-the-scenes and sports writing.
- Increase subscribers of the “Insider” newsletter where more involved stories and information is dispersed about the sport
- Investigate possible partnerships that extend our ability to find, detail and communicate the stories that exist in the League throughout the season
- Increase the stakes of what it means to win in the Grid League Season
3. Sport Story –
- What is the positive impact of the sport itself on society?
- Why should anyone care if the sport itself exists?
- What is the history of the sport?
I feel I myself could have done a better job of this to this point and is a big reason I give ourselves a C- rather than a higher grade in general storytelling. All of us involved in leadership roles in this sport are passionate about the sport itself. The reasons why may vary, but we all have them and they are POWERFUL. They have to be because running a team and a league in a brand-new sport is f***ing hard.
I know that if more people truly understood why we are all so passionate, more would be passionate as well.
I pledge to do a better job moving forward and this article you are reading right now is part of the action plan to serve this objective. That said, there is so much more to tell.
Action plan –
- Invest more in PR (public relations)
- I will post at least once a week on my own social media, podcast, or YouTube with this in mind. If you consume one of them and it meant something to you please let me know! We will invest more in and elevate the best stories to the FGL platforms for broader consumption.
Strategy – (our grade = B- )
When people truly understand a sport and how the game is played, they develop opinions about how it is executed and can share those opinions with others. That (in my opinion) takes fandom from an individual experience to a community experience and elevates it to create a much easier path to raving fandom. Everything is better with friends and family.
The sport of Grid League is the first ever (that we know of) TEAM sport where the format is designed with the spectator experience in mind rather than the player experience.
With most sports, wide-scale participation pre-ceded any form created for the spectator. Grid League was designed for the opposite.
The advantage: people without a true understanding of the sport will still watch it more easily and frequently than other sports they also don’t have a true understanding of.
The disadvantage: there is a higher barrier of entry for participating in the sport (because of limited knowledge of how to play), which limits people with a “true understanding” of the sport.
A true understanding of a sport as we define it – understanding the rules, strategy, and details in performance that contribute to the outcome.
“True understanding” of the sport is the basis by which opinion, debate, and community experience can develop. I believe this is why the CrossFit Games exploded in popularity alongside the explosion of CrossFit itself. People who do CrossFit have a true understanding of the sport and can appreciate stellar performance in it, and debate about it with others in the gym. Personally, I believe this is also the reason the Games (of which I am a fan) has not grown in popularity into a mainstream sport. The format is not easy enough to pick up on for someone WITHOUT experience participating in it. The format is long, it’s harder to see who is winning, and the scoring is confusing. What IS simple about it is the concept of “The Fittest on Earth”. This is super compelling and is the reason I believe it will stay around for a long time to come.
So short term, Grid League may have a harder time building “big” and “raving” fans due to the current lack of participation… but long term we have a structure and format that has a broader appeal because it is simpler, more engaging and has a faster payoff within a single event. Its season structure is more familiar and comfortable as well, following a traditional team sport format with a regular season, playoff, and championship. We believe this creates a way for an observer who is not a participant to get hooked on a path to a true understanding of the sport.
We actually have a lot of evidence to support this belief, but that is another topic on its own. Some of it relates to the UFC as another sport that started in the modern era (the 90s). I will break this down in the next insider report.
In the past two years we have invested a lot in helping people develop true understanding of the sport. We’re seeing the payoff with comments about the quality of the explanation on live streams, arguments about strategy, and (my favorite) when people ask questions about how the sport works random people respond with the answer before we can. Few things get me more fired up than that.
SIDE NOTE: I’ve never thought about stat collection and how it happens before this year, but let me tell you, the amount of info the NFL collects and has on easy recall is INSANE. Just collecting a few simple stats this past year was an incredible undertaking. I’m proud of the effort we made as a team and we learned a ton. Much more to come.
- Maintain baseline stat collection and presentation established in 2023
- Increase the sophistication of graphics in livestream
- Incorporate a “split screen” in live broadcasts
- Investigate live scoring for ladders and all races
- Increase frequency of education content in short form feeds
- Increase opportunity to participate in the sport.
- Free giveaway for gyms to run Grid League events in house
- Additional organized events to allow anyone to sign up and play
Conclusion (the important stuff)
Relating this concept back to more people PLANNING to watch live matches, I think if we had done “A” level work in storytelling and developing a true understanding of the sport, we’d have a higher percentage of the millions that know about Grid League less dependant on the algorithm to watch matches. I have no hard proof, but it’s just a gut feeling. It’s got me thinking a lot about what we could have done better and will do better moving forward.
If you’ve read this far, THANK YOU. We appreciate the interest and care around the sport of Grid League. Stay tuned.
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Article by Mather Wiswall
Grid League Commissioner
Mather Wiswall is a lifelong designer and marketer. He has over 10 years of experience in running sports competitions.
Articles by Mather are generally about rule updates or the business behind the Grid League.