Yahoo! talks brand strategy at Global Sports Forum

Spain: Rich Riley, Yahoo! EMEA senior vice president and managing director laid out his vision for how sport flagship content can shape a brand in a multimedia world at the Global Sports Forum held this week in Barcelona, Spain. And with 640 million users, 15 billion advertisements served each day, and 2.6 billion minutes spent consuming Yahoo! sports content globally each year Riley knows of which he speaks.

“Our offering is about science plus art plus scale,” he says. “You need the science for precision ad and content targeting, art to take advantage of digital media, and the scale to have large enough volume to move the business.”

For Yahoo! the key to sport content is striking new deals that constantly expand the range of sport offered. Whether it is a long-existing deal with Eurosport that gives Yahoo! exclusive rights to English Premier League football highlights, 71 expert blogs across the European content, or rugby, cricket and other sports the provider is always looking for more deal.

One recent deal that vastly expanded Yahoo!’s sports offerings was the acquisition of Associated Content, a crowd sourcing service that has 500,000 users submitting content on events Yahoo! otherwise would not be able to cover. And with the help of those 500,000 bloggers Yahoo!’s sports offerings are now comprised of upward of 20 percent original content.

“We partner with as many sports content providers as we can as well as advertising and agencies on how to deliver marketing messages in an additive way. An optimal experience for the consumer is the goal although Riley says one constant desire, allowing more personalisation, is not as easy to do as once thought.

“There is always the chance of massive content overload and while it is cool to do a search and find two million results the challenge is how to filter it and make the content personally relevant,” says Riley. “And over the years we have developed mass virtualisation [for personalisation] but very few people actually configure how they get content. So we have our content on a grid and algorithms that learn what people like and what they don’t like and serve it up in realtime.”

There is also the need to infuse the content into the user’s digital experience that goes offline and includes viral activities and, that, says Riley, is the real challenge. A World Cup site last year, for example, had integration with Flickr for photos and was infused in Yahoo! mail, an online game, and other sections on Yahoo! The acquisition of Citizen Sports also expanded Yahoo!’s offline presence by making it easier for fans at Yahoo! to connect with other Fans across iPhone apps, Facebook, and other platforms.

“You need to be everywhere,” he says. “Mobile was a dream but two years ago, with the introduction of the iPhone, mobile Internet became very real for consuming sports content. And there will be more than one billion mobile phones in the world by 2013 so how to make mobile Internet a core experience is important.”

Yahoo! has also launched an app for the Apple iPad called Livestand that makes it easy for sports fans to browse through content. “It also allows advertisers to deliver an optimum experience and they are embracing it…and now here comes the iPad 2.”

The iPad is just one of many screens that Yahoo! is taking advantage of. Another? IP-enabled TV sets.

“We want to deliver the Yahoo! experience to fans no matter what screens they are using,” he says. “We want to get our services onto TV screens and figure out how to complement TV programming and not take it over.”

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