Many of us now couldn’t live without social media or even remember what the world was like before we started documenting our daily lives to friends, family and ultimately strangers in the digital world.
It makes your brain tick even thinking about it, right? In the Middle East, especially, nearly all internet users (that’s a good 95 per cent of the region) indulge in social media in some shape or form, with around 80 per cent of us checking and using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on a daily basis.
Whatsapp, as well, as you can imagine, is a hub for instant messaging and communication. Snapchat – another prolific social platform in the region and specifically the UAE – is also thriving.
If you’re not aware, it is a live and quickfire messaging application that allows us to chat with friends, share stories and ‘snap each other’ through rapid picture, text and video chats that disappear after a short while.
Like much of social media now, you can document every aspect of your life through Snaps and the app works especially well with sport as users track big talking points as the action unfolds.
In March this year, Snapchat again worked with the Dubai World Cup and Meydan Racecourse to bring Dubai’s biggest sporting event to life in more ways than one through its story-telling on the day.
From lush and extravagant outfits to seeing the lightening bolt speed of World Cup-winner Arrogate, if you were there in person or not, it didn’t matter as Snapchat had your experience covered.
“It’s really amazing what we have and what we believe, with sports, the best way to consume it is by either going to an event in person, watching on a big screen with a group of your friends or messaging people about it. With Snapchat, we can aggravate all of this user-generated content using our our Stories feature,” Ben Schwerin, Snapchat’s Vice President and Head of Sports Partnerships, told Sport360° on a visit to Dubai.
“They help to really give you the sense of what it feels like to be there – even if you aren’t – so it’s very experiential. We want to capture the excitement of what sport has to offer and bring it to you in the palm of your hands.
“We were really happy with the way our stories performed at Meydan and it’s a really special event with fun and fashion that people care about. But not everyone gets the opportunity to actually be there on race day, so if we’re able to show people what it feels like to be there I think we have succeeded and we’re been really happy with the impact we’ve had.”
While nothing beats being there when it comes to a popular social occasion, numbers would suggest users are snapping away more than ever and are just as engaged, wherever they are.
Through increasing data management and monitoring of habits, Snapchat have been able to crunch some big numbers. The mobile application boasts one million daily users in the UAE, plus a whopping seven million more in Saudi Arabia.
Globally, and for that matter, incredibly, over 2.5 billion snaps are created each and every day from over 158 million daily active users.
The fact that more than half of these are from outside the United States, the place of Snapchat’s origin, goes a long way to showing how regions like the Middle East have helped its audience to climb significantly.
With this kind of reach, huge engagement numbers and detailed knowledge of user habits, Snapchat are seeking further commercial and revenue-making opportunities in the region.
Schwerin added: “The Middle East has been important to us for a long time. Since 2015, we have been working on partnerships within sports here – whether it’s been the hugely successful Saudi Professional Football League, the Qatar Stars League or the Dubai World Cup.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities here, we’ve just opened an office in the region and we’re starting to sell advertisements too. I think there is a great opportunity to create revenue for partners and think sports is going to be a big part of our content strategy here.
“We’re now able to recognise if you’re someone who watches football or NBA content and we can allow brands to show advertisements to you based on the fact you’re a fan of a certain team.
“That’s really valuable to get information on what type of content you like and that’s made our advertisement business stronger knowing what users like, read, share and consume.
“Snapchat, in Saudi for example, is a very young audience with around 85 per cent of users aged 13 to 34. There’s millions of people actively engaging with the football.
“I think we just want to do more and we’re really just getting started in terms of localising content in the region – it’s about making sure the content is tailor-made and relevant to the user. Daily creation drives and fuels everything we do, our stories only work because people are going to sports events and sharing content. We are now helping them to share and it’s really about the community experience.”
Having the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona on board – the two best supported football sides in the Middle East – are also massive draws.
Snaps have helped to bring Real and Barca alive in the Middle East to a passionate fanbase, all who get to see their heroes from a different perspective; team filters, flags, faces – you name it – are at fans’ disposal.
While Serena Williams claims she revealed her pregnancy through Snapchat accidentally – the fact her news spread around the world so quickly was ultimately good for Snapchat’s brand awareness and demonstrated the power of the social platform.
Other sporting stars, like Usain Bolt – who documented much of his Rio 2016 Olympics experience through the medium, have helped to raise the snap bar further.
Indeed, sports fans, increasingly, are relying on in-house Snapchat club content and athletes to see real behind-the-scenes content. Its exclusive, through-the-eye-of-the-athlete access, goes way beyond what traditional forms of media and journalism can offer.
As you read, Snapchat are hard at work helping top sports stars make full use of their fanbases through top tips, tricks and insights.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and one of the most followed people on social platforms in the UAE, is now searchable through the Official Stories offering – which brings with it emojis and more searchable options, proving there’s really no limit to Snapchat’s social growth.
For a sport that sees high divers plunge from heights of up to 27 metres at speeds approaching 90 kilometres per hour into water, it seems odd that this form of diving hasn’t yet scaled the heights of Olympic Games inclusion.
Away from the sky-high platforms that have been in full swing during the Abu Dhabi leg of the FINA High Diving World Cup at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend, the extreme sport is fighting its own version of vertigo – the battle to make it part of world sport’s biggest event.
Indeed, it’s a challenge FINA, the international governing body that administrates six disciplines of aquatics sports, is facing head on.
FINA recently announced it submitted a proposal for high diving to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as a separate, new discipline to that of indoor, springboard and platform diving we have become accustomed to seeing on television at the Games.
Ultimately, the final decision over whether we will see it in Japan rests with the International Olympic Committee and a verdict is expected to be made later this year.
Indeed, the IOC have the power to decide whether high diving should be added to the Olympics roster – either as a new sport or an extra discipline under the diving umbrella. Simply put, the latter is the most likely route into the Games for high diving given that many new sports receive IOC recognition – but that doesn’t necessarily mean an Olympics green light comes with it.
High diving is not what you would class as a globally-competed sport and this is a huge criteria for the IOC to decide whether it merits the Olympic nod or not. Basically, the more countries and athletes competing, the better in their eyes – and understandably so.
However, the fact the item is now firmly on the agenda is excellent news all round for diving and highlights further signs of progress for a unique activity that is already part of the World Aquatics Championships (debuting as a sport in Barcelona in 2013).
“High diving is an extreme sport and will certainly bring an added value to the Olympic programme. Since the introduction of high diving in the FINA programme in 2013, the evolution has been amazing, and the moment has come to go further,” Cornel Marculescu, FINA executive, said earlier this week.
The success of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series – high diving’s thrill-seeking and more dangerous sibling if you like – has also boosted the profile and glamour associated with diving.
One thing is for sure, as a spectacle, there are few sports that spark the adrenaline rush of seeing athletes fly through the air at a serious rate of knots.
“The Olympic Games is the dream of any athlete really, it’s the pinnacle – it’s the biggest stage you can perform on. That’s of course a big driving force for me and all the high divers to see our sport at the Olympics,” Gary Hunt, who is proclaimed as the world’s best high diver and is defending champion in Abu Dhabi, told Sport360.
The Briton, who resides in Paris – one of the bidding cities to host the 2024 Olympics – is one of the faces of his sport and known for his complex dives. Hunt won the FINA High Diving World Cup last year, adding to his 2015 world title and six Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series crowns.
He may not possess anywhere near the same status as the likes of Roger Federer or Valentino Rossi, but for Hunt, helping to raise the profile of high diving with ambassadorial work and doing his bit to make it an Olympic sport is just as important as how he performs himself.
“I definitely feel that the sport has been on the up since Barcelona, it’s really been a domino effect. Lots of different and important people have opened their eyes to high diving,” the 32-year-old said.
“It’s becoming more and more popular and as I see more and more extreme sports getting accepted into the Olympics, it seems inevitable to me that we will be part of it in the near future.
“In my eyes, it’s just a matter of time and I’ll do everything I can to help push the sport as far as it can go.”
The second and final day of the the FINA High Diving World Cup takes place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Admission is free for spectators.
Taking place on May 24 and 25, the fifth edition of the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters will see elite stars battle it out for the top prize at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
Defending champion, and World No2, Gary Anderson broke the three-year stranglehold of World No1 Michael Van Gerwen in last year’s final and they will be among the names to feature in the two-day competition.
The event will also see former World No1 Phil Taylor take to the oche in Dubai for the final time before retiring from the game at the conclusion of December’s World Championship.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Taylor, a 16-time world champion. “All the players enjoy going to Dubai and it’s a fantastic event, everyone looks after us brilliantly and it’s an amazing place.
“The tournament’s a different challenge because it’s outdoors but we’re used to that now, and it would be a really special event to win this year.”
Previous editions of the tournament have proved to be a massive hit and next month’s is set to be no different.
“The Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters is a wonderful event and provides a fantastic two days for fans who attend at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and watch on television around the world,” said Barry Hearn, chairman of PDC Darts.
“This is a unique championship and it’s a wonderful event to kick off the 2017 World Series of Darts.”
Colm McLouglin, executive vice-chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, added: “We are delighted to once again sponsor the Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters.
“With eight of the world’s top players participating and a great ticketing offer, we think that the UAE crowd will enjoy this unique outdoor darts event which will be shown all over the world.”
The first day (Wednesday May 24) sees all eight players in quarter-final action while the semi-final and final will be played the following day.
General admission tickets start from Dh150, while VIP tables, sold individually (from Dh150) or as a table of 10 (from Dh7,999) are also available.
VIP Tickets include table seating with selected food and beverages, with general admission tickets for the tiered seating.