Hammer Series delivers the digital numbers for professional cycling

This is a guest post by Mark Coyle, Head of Media, Velon.

One month ago, on Sunday June 4 2017, Tao Geoghegan Hart forced his way over the finish line to win the inaugural Hammer Series race in the Netherlands for Team Sky.

This was a race with a difference. This was truly a team race as opposed to the traditional format of professional cycling races such as the Tour de France in which a team works for an individual rider and then – if all goes to plan – that rider stands on the top step of the podium and the team basks in the reflected glory of the win.

As leagues, championships and governing bodies re-think their formats and use of digital platforms to increase fan engagement, there’s no question that Hammer Sportzone Limburg broke new ground in pro cycling.

Hammer is being delivered by Velon – which works with teams to create innovative content focusing on real-time rider data (speed, power, cadence, heart rate) and on-board video footage – in partnership with world-leading sports marketing company Infront.

A key objective is to drive innovation in the sport by incorporating features and perspectives not regularly seen elsewhere, among them live on-board cameras and access to pre-race team briefings where tactics are discussed.

All three days were streamed live around the world on Facebook and Twitter (Periscope). In addition, we created a partnership with GCN, which has more than one million subscribers to its YouTube channel. GCN live streamed our coverage – produced by Host Broadcast Services (HBS) – with a studio wrap and their own presenters providing context and their own brand of commentary.

Add in some of the world’s most experienced GoPro editors (watch Team Sky’s champagne celebrations) and it’s a winning formula.

The numbers are now in and they make impressive reading, more than justifying our decision to throw the virtual gates open to everyone, everywhere* and let them participate in this punchy new confrontation between the world’s best professional cycling teams – 12 of them in the WorldTour and four Pro-Continental teams.

  • Over the three days, the live streams had 2.2 million views
  • The “watch again” versions of the live streams had 408,600 views during June
  • Built highlights and key moments clips had 540,000 views during June
  • Total number of views during June = 3.2 million

The live stream was also carried by the video network Tout, which delivered the content to a range of websites. The average viewing duration was 6.5 minutes, nearly three times the figure Tout expects to see for a sport or special event.

From many conversations with riders before this first race, it was clear they were intrigued by the new format and the tactics they’d have to employ to have a chance of winning. The objective was to deliver thrilling, shorter form racing with the team – not the individual – at its core. The rules took some explaining but once grasped, the concept hit home.

Three days of racing – the Hammer Climb, the Hammer Sprint and finally, the winner-takes-all Hammer Chase, a pursuit with the gaps between each team determined by their earlier finishing positions.

A team had to get its fourth (out of five) riders across the finish line to win outright. Watch the thrilling finish created by this rule as Geoghegan Hart, the youngest Team Sky rider, broke the hearts of Team Sunweb in the run-in.

A critical measure of this first race was the riders’ reactions, which was positive from start to finish.

No major event goes without any glitches at all and each and every piece of feedback is being pored over by Velon, Infront and the local organisers. The first debrief took place on the morning of Monday June 5 and is continuing as part of preparations for the Hammer Series in 2018.

Just before the race in the Netherlands, we announced a race in Norway next year – Hammer Stavanger – and since it ended, there’s been keen interest from a number of potential host cities around the world.

It’s been said more than once – it is indeed Hammer time.

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