BWF’s three innovations to establish badminton as “entertainment business”

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Badminton World Federation is adopting new innovations to transform badminton from “sports entertainment business” to “the entertainment business”.

Any sport needs better fan connect for commercial growth. Badminton World Federation, the world governing body for badminton, has taken a leaf out of more professional sports’ book for commercial development of the shuttle sport.

The professionalism is not limited to television presentation or amending the rules to make the sport more  broadcast friendly. The three innovations experimented, or introduced, at the BWF World Championships in Nanjing, China, have been borrowed from the sports which are recognised for their commercial prowess.

Not just the players, but the BWF is also ready to play to the galleries. Or, to catch in the galleries what is makes more professional sense on television than the non-action on the court during breaks.

Here are three experiments the BWF has implemented during the World Championship in Nanjing to drive badminton towards “the entertainment business”.

KISS CAM

This is a common sight during the baseball and basketball matches. The BWF experimented with this additional camera – kiss cam – catching couples in the stands and displaying their video on the giant screens during the match breaks.

An old practice for baseball and basketball, it is intended as a light-hearted diversion to the main event during a timeout, television timeout, or similar downtime. The “kiss cam” scans the crowd, and selects a couple, their images being shown on the giant screens in the arena. A kiss is traditionally rewarded by applause, clapping, cheers and whistles, whereas a refusal to kiss is booed.

When the kiss cam is in action, the audience are normally alerted by a specific music or song or an in-arena announcement. The crowd then pay attention to the marked “kiss cam” video screen.

So powerful and impactful has been the “kiss cam” that former US President Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama were recorded kissing for the “kiss cam” during a basketball game in Washington DC, USA.

The kiss cam tradition is believed to have been originated in California in the early 1980s to fill in the gaps in play during professional baseball games.

POM-POM GIRLS

Pom Pom girls, or the cheer girls, animatedly celebrating the key moments in a match are a common practice for fan engagement in professional sports. India has seen the cheer leaders motivating their respective teams with invent of the Indian Premier League. The BWF during the Nanjing World Championship has experimented with the Pom Pom girls to create an atmosphere more friendly to broadcast cameras.

POP MUSIC IN ARENA

The BWF, competing for people’s time and attention as per its own secretary general Thomas Lund, also experimented with loud pop music in between the games and matches at the Nanjing World Championships. The exercise does not just engage the audience but also keeps them cheered up for a vibrant in-stadia experience. This brings more energy to the floor during live broadcast.

For spectators, that means more than just loud music and the fancy spotlights that rake over the audience between matches.

The music is also played during the video decision review to keep the fans engaged.

The badminton has been growing professionally ever since the advent of the Indian Badminton League in 2013. There is more prize money, better commercial contracts for the players and bigger sponsorships for the sport’s governing bodies. Now competing with other sports for commercial attention, the BWF has tried to rope in tried and trusted “entertainment” formula into the sport.


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