The spring semester at Georgetown University is now fully underway.   I’ll be teaching “Sports Marketing Strategy” to undergraduate students in our McDonough School of Business on Monday nights and “Digital Sports Media” to graduate students in our Sports Industry Management program (School of Continuing Studies) on Tuesday nights.

In our initial session for both classes, I noted that there will very much be an emphasis on the impact of Digital Media in the sports industry.  Each week — in our classes as well as for this blog — we’ll discuss and review the changes taking place in sports.

This week we’ll focus on what is often called the “next generation fan.”   What is the next generation fan?  It’s the sports fan who consumes sports in a much different manner than the traditional fan.  The “traditional fan” would primarily go to watch the action on the field, court, ice or arena.  But, the “next generation” fan consumes sports in a much different manner.  Instead of just watching the on-field action, the next generation fan is constantly multi-tasking.  They are also watching the big scoreboard / big screen as well as using their smart phone to text, Tweet, take photos, check-in, post to Facebook, etc.

In the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend sporting events in two of the greatest sports venues in the world.  In late 2009, I went to the famed Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (one of the three greatest soccer venues in history) to watch Flamengo play a league match.  And, in the spring 2010, I went to see Arsenal play Porto in a Championship League match at their new beautiful Emirates Stadium.   The passion of the fans at both venues was remarkable and bone-chilling.  But, it was also clear that they were there for one thing … to watch the action on the field.

Contrast that to the American sports fan in the US.  Go to nearly any professional sports league game and you’ll witness a good number of fans multi-tasking.  I think back to Feb 2010 — at the NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.   I’ve never seen a more spectacular sports venue.  Wow.  The place is simply amazing.  In particular, the high-definition screen that runs 60 yards long will simply take your breath away.  What’s interesting is that the picture is so clear that often times you find yourself watching the big screen versus the live-action on the field.  Then, of course, the fans are on their i-Phones, Blackberrys, Androids, etc to tell their friends about the spectacular venue — snapping photos and posting on Facebook, posting tweets on Twitter, checking in on FourSquare, texting and emailing, etc.

I do love the purity of watching the soccer / football matches in Rio de Janeiro and London, but as a sports marketer, I marvel at how sports venues in the US, such as Cowboys Stadium, create so many more meaningful ways to create revenue.  The sponsorship opportunities alone are staggering.  But, also, the advent of mobile apps will continue to help sports fans consume in even more engaging ways.   There’s a number of apps that help fans follow their fantasy sports teams, order concessions, change seat locations, follow other teams and sports, look at traffic reports, check on weather, etc.

Sports has always been one of the key content areas to drive the adoption of new technologies.  This “next generation fan” will continue to multi-task in more and more ways as new applications continue to be developed.  Yes, the US is probably leading the way since it’s the large consumer sports market, but many of these lessons will be shared — and fans in the UK, Brazil, China, Australia, India, Russia, etc will also consume sports in a different manner.  This also means that leagues and teams will also be able to create new incremental revenue streams.  It will be interesting to watch this play out in the coming years.  The game — or “watching the game” has changed.  And, those that embrace it will be the ones who can most benefit.