Reinvention in the digital era is key
Facebook is of course the “in” social network. It has challenged, if not replaced, many of its competitors while complementing a number of cell phones and formats.
I don’t have a big FB account. I only have about 300 “friends,” most of whom are my former students (present students are not allowed because classroom business should be done largely in class). There are pictures and nuggets of wisdom and humor that are there for you to “like” or simply peruse.
One photo of an old PBA game featuring Crispa against Mariwasa Honda, circa 1970s, was posted by fellow Ateneo professor Gary Devilles. The black-and-white picture had Freddie Hubalde flying in the air at a packed Araneta Coliseum. It had the accompanying comment:
“Tuwing Sabado ng gabi, matapos kaming magsimba at bumili ng mani sa kanto, ang show na ito ang napapanood namin sa Channel 4. Hindi ko mawari kung bakit option ang channel na ito. Bukod sa basketball, si Marcos lang ang napapanood mo.” (Every Saturday night after church and buying peanuts, we would watch this on Channel 4. I couldn’t get it why this channel was an option. Aside from basketball, (President Ferdinand) Marcos was the only one you could watch.)
The Facebook entry triggered the reflection of how the PBA and other sports leagues are trying to build audiences in today’s mass media of telenovelas, cable channels, 24/7 news stations and social networks.
It was clear in the ’70s and straight into the ’90s that the PBA did not have to contend with the primetime dramas and Willie Revillame’s game show. TV ratings were at an all-time high then and programs were afraid to go straight up against the PBA.
The 21st century offers a different media landscape. The PBA is still a TV contender, especially on championship nights but other programs are no longer intimidated by it. The affordable sports magazines are practically gone and fans really don’t have formats they can physically clip, collect or share.
Sure, there are online versions of these but these are costly to maintain for consumers who want an up-to-date, constantly fresh website.
The edge of this generation of fans, though, is interactivity. Through Twitter, Facebook and social forums, fans express themselves and connect with their favorite teams and players. The level of interactivity is determined by the accessibility of the stars and the speed in which information is provided.
The PBA and other leagues are already there with their websites and quite possibly, these could be the new barometers for measuring its acceptability and patronage aside from TV ratings.
I wonder sometimes what the PBA of the ’70s would have been like in the Internet era. Crispa and Toyota would probably have websites but would the stars have Twitter and Facebook accounts?
Hard to imagine but it does make you think about it. I believe that the inaccessibility of the stars helped create the myths of the stars, and that’s why fans came out to see them at Rizal Memorial or Araneta.
Reinvention with new metrics for measuring impact is always possible and the Filipinos undying love for basketball will sustain the PBA.
Recently, my son Martin, who is in advertising, shared the Google Project Rebrief where four of America’s most iconic advertisements of the pre-Internet era were reinvented for the present.
The “I’d Like to Buy The World a Coke” was reconfigured by making people actually buy a Coke for somebody around the world via a vending machine that had an Internet connection.
Cool, right? Many more delightful things we like, including sports, are getting the same reinvention.