Sports Communities, User Interaction, & The Network Effect

Online sports communities represent ready-made niche markets that contain hundreds or even thousands of potential customers. That’s because these communities have devoted fans with a built-in audience. Even better, these audiences love to interact with one another, whether they debate a bad coaching decision in last Sunday’s NFL game or how an ace pitcher shouldn’t have left his curve ball hanging up in the strike zone. Tight-knit online sports communities embody the network effect and therefore are the perfect proving ground for new technologies.

The network effect is an important concept to your business. In a nutshell, the network effect increases the value of your product or service the more people use it. The internet is an example of the network effect. When the internet first started in the early 1990s, it wasn't very valuable as a tool because very few entities used this technology. As of 2017, the internet is extremely valuable because billions of people use it everyday for myriads of activities and many companies rely on the internet to earn profits. The network effect is the same type of concept because when you increase the amount of people who use your online sports publication, your business model becomes more valuable.

For online sports publications, the key to tapping into the network effect is a high user-interaction rate. Let’s say that someone with a user name “KCChiefsFan01” checks out your blog about the upcoming NFL draft. Your blog included some information or possible draft picks that no one else thought of among the many articles written on the subject. KCChiefsFan01 comments on the blog and then shares the blog article with three of his buddies. Those friends start to interact with the blog, share it on social media and leave their own comments. After a few days, your fledgling blog has 10 comments and 55 social media shares. Arrowhead Pride, a SB Nation site, is a great example of what this looks like successfully. 


The network effect is important here because the initial person who interacted with your blog tells someone else to go read the blog. Then, those people increase your users by telling their friends to read the piece, and so on and so forth. It’s like word-of-mouth advertising only for online sources. Social media shares only make it easier to increase the network effect as they discuss whether this year’s draft helps their team reach the promised land next season. When more people within a tight-knit online sports community find worth from your online sports publication, the more clicks your website receives. Consequently, advertisers notice your increasing clicks and they are willing to pay more to place ads on your website. Once your website reaches critical mass, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. 

Critical mass is when you have enough users who interact with your online publication to sustain your product or service on its own. You have enough returning customers within a sports community who look forward to your regular posts, fresh content and engaging takes on relevant topics in the sports world. Take for example Viva El Birdos, who have reached critical mass, allowing them to provide quality native advertisments to their audience. The bottom line is that you have enough return business to keep your advertising revenue flowing on an even keel from month to month. The hard work happens when you first start your online publication as you try to earn new customers.

Unlike trying to find customers through email lists or marketing blasts, tight-knit online sports communities offer the ideal situation for you to test out your new publication or technology. You can probably guess how many fans there are for each sports team based on market statistics that are already in existence. Tons of publications and analyses offer ways for you to examine market potential in each sports city. You can base your marketing metrics on television viewership, keyword searches through Google AdSense, sales of team apparel and attendance at games. The beauty of tight-knit online sports communities is that fans love to talk to each other, and that’s how you take advantage of the network effect for your technology or publication no matter what metrics you employ to jumpstart your business.


Online sports communities represent an ideal proving ground for your technology simply because you have all the ingredients of a built-in network already on hand. All you have to do is find out what makes people tick when they interact with online sports communities and then draw in early adopters. If those early adopters like what they see, chances are they tell their friends about your stuff after the next big game. Sports fans are your demographic, you just have to provide something that fans crave that no one else has. Therein lies the main key to your advertising revenue potential.

Maranda Jones

Marketing Director at SquareOffs #OnwardandUpward

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