When a game is in full swing, no other brand can match a sports club for fan engagement. But as football legend Emmitt Smith wisely said, winning isn’t about one moment; it’s about every moment.
In an incredibly competitive market, where a proliferation of media, TV, and gaming makes it easy for individuals all over the world to access new teams and sports, the potential commercial value of each fan is diluted. Supporters can consume their team anywhere, anytime, so sports clubs must deliver much more than a great performance on the field to keep fans loyal. Fan engagement is distinct from customer engagement as it is based on human emotion. In the age of personalization no fan wants to be just a face in the crowd; they want each interaction to reflect their own passion for the team.
So what can sports clubs do to foster fan engagement before, during, and after the action?
Get to know each and every fan
Sports fans now expect interactions with their favorite club to make them feel inspired and valued. Whether on the website, at the stadium, in the shop or via social channels, fans leave a footprint of who they are and what they need every time they interact with the club. These insights are invaluable in building detailed fan profiles, indicating for example whether supporters are local, from overseas, first-time fans, or from families who have been loyal to the team for generations. By using geolocation technologies and identifying the content being consumed, teams can discover who their fans’ favorite players are, their match and competition preferences, and their hospitality and retail needs.
By listening to and understanding their fans, clubs can deliver real-time value by serving relevant and appropriate content and conversations tailored to each individual. This data can also be used to identify and nurture the fans of tomorrow, ensuring a successful long-term future for the club.
Connect outside the stadium
Fan engagement is no longer about filling a stadium and providing a great on-site experience. Clubs today should make every fan feel involved in each match – even if they’re on the other side of the world. Relevant media and news should be available to fans so they can absorb the brand across any channel, at any time.
Major League Baseball is now using SnapChat and Facebook to give fans increased access to their favorite teams in real time. However the challenge is to provide a seamless and connected experience across the entire fan journey, connecting all interactions to really build fan engagement.
Align the club around the fans
Sports clubs must bring every part of the organization together – from employees, to tech, to infrastructure – to put the fan at the center. According to CRM expert (and author of ‘CRM at the Speed of Light’), Paul Greenberg, The Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team’s fan club is united in building fan engagement. From a personal greeting at the game to rewards for early-bird renewals, the club’s unified attention to detail results directly in ticket sales and secures funds for the following season.
There’s no question sports teams take the lead in fan engagement when players are on the field — but there’s always scope to raise the game. If clubs want to push engagement to the next level, they need to understand who their fans are, what they need, and how every action — regardless of time or place — can be tailored to meet their requirements. For clubs who get it right, this approach can pave the way to strong fan relationships that reach beyond the limits of the stadium doors, making the difference between a fleeting victory and a real win.