The iX.co digital subsidiary conceived by the Infront agency has brought in new business from what it calls the “sports adjacent” sector after launching as a single entity in May.
After being set up as a fusion of Infront’s in-house digital services unit and Omnigon, the New York-based digital services firm in which Infront bought a majority stake in January 2016, iX.co has been in the process of signing up new clients in recent months.
Speaking to SportBusiness, chief commercial officer David Nugent said that some of the new business additions stem from the sports equipment and fitness space.
He remarked: “We’re bringing best practices to the table on behalf of sports adjacent brands. Such as apparel and equipment manufacturers or those in the health and fitness space.
“Companies that understand the value proposition based on the success we’ve had in the marketplace…but want to do that on behalf of their brands when it comes to growing their audiences.”
In line with some of the work iX.co does on behalf of sports rights-holders, Nugent said that the companies “want to leverage the concept of the loyalty that gets developed via traditional fandom”.
In creating iX.co, long-standing Omnigon sports clients such as the PGA Tour, US Golf Association and Nascar were brought to the table.
These activities are now housed together with the operations of the erstwhile Infront Digital Service unit and its work in creating and redesigning apps and websites, developing OTT technology solutions and creating and distributing content via social media.
Infront’s digital client base has, like its rights business, been particularly strong in winter sports, football, mass participation events and motor sports. While Infront’s digital operation has been heavily involved in content creation, Omnigon, which was founded in 2008, was focused on developing experiences around the content to engage and develop an audience.
Having bought an initial 51-per-cent stake in Omnigon in 2016, Infront upped its shareholding to 72 per cent in February 2018 and then acquired the remaining 28 per cent in April 2019, paving the way for the launch of iX.co.
Since its launch in May, iX.co has added various new client projects.
These include the digital consultancy agreement with the French Rugby League (LNR), announced in November, but also a complete overhaul of the front- and back-end technology for Chelsea’s digital properties.
The digital entity was also recruited by Fiba to develop its official app for the 2019 Fiba Basketball World Cup in China and has launched new league and team websites for the new XFL professional American football league that begins in February 2020.
Video game developer Activision Blizzard is another client brought on by iX.co through its work to launch websites for Overwatch and Call of Duty esports leagues and teams as part of a wider deal that runs to 2020.
The esports sector is one in which iX.co is looking for more clients, according to Nugent.
He remarked: “We work extensively with some of the largest owners of gaming titles in the world and we see an opportunity to create really interesting content experiences around esports.”
Social media clips “can add to rights value”
Discussing rights-holders’ stance on near-live social media videos and if there remained any reluctance, Nugent noted that the changing media landscape had led stakeholders to realise that their properties require a direct fan relationship that such video clips encourage.
Nugent said: “In theory everybody now understands that this distribution of content is not cannibalistic to the rights dollar. It’s actually additive to it.
“That said, there are challenges as to what those rights deals look like on a property by property basis. The rights for Serie A versus the rights to the World Badminton Federation versus the Premier League rights are all obviously different.
“What you’re willing to do and what you actually can do does vary. The strategy when you do not have near-live clips, highlights or live broadcast is critical. How are you creating really meaningful content that engages users when it’s not a goal highlight [for example].”
Nugent offered up the example of Roma, a long-standing digital client, and its creative “storytelling” content around the transfer window, for instance, given restrictions on rights. He said: “Pushing the envelope in terms of what content can be leveraged becomes really critical when rights protection might limit your ability to use just sports highlights.”