5 ways to enhance sports fan engagement

Sports sector is one that is entirely reliant on its fans. They play a huge role in making a team, a player, a brand a true success. No industry has such intense and loyal fans as sports.

Never has there been a better time to be a sports fan than now. With new technology changing the way we experience and view sports, there are many ground level changes that are enhancing the way brands, broadcasters and teams are engaging with sports fans.

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Now that both in-person and broadcasted live events to sports gamification – are all in themselves a large sector the globe, there is a huge scope for brands to generate revenue from sales of tickets, AR/VR events, merchandise, food & beverages, venues, and much more. With so many avenues for the sports fans today to explore, what keeps them loyal is how as a brand you engage with them. Here are top 5 ways in which you can help enhance your fans experience and increase their engagement:

1 Fan engagement goes beyond the event

Key is to stay connected with your fans throughout – even if there is no event, as much as before and after the event. While social media is one great way to interact with your fans consistently, here are some other options:
A. Fan engagement app: Apps today are a crucial part of your engagement process. Encouraging fans to interact with your brand via their mobile should be a key factor for brands. This can be done via offering them online gaming on the app, online trivia and other event based and athlete-based content.
B. Feedback: Ask for feedback from your fans via social media platforms. Ask them to engage with you via putting across easy to answer multiple choice questions that offer data points in the form of feedback.
C. Online fan clubs: Fan clubs from the start have been a great hit, they allow for fans to stay connected with each other, find common grounds for interaction and like-minded fans that share the same excitement for games and events.
D. YouTube: Give your fans a behind the scenes access, this offers them a personal connection with the club and its players. FC Barcelona is a great example of the same.

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2 Build Reward based loyalty systems
One of the top few priorities of a sports brand based on fans is to build a reward and loyalty-based system for their ticket holders, members and return visitors. It is vital to factor in all kinds of visitors in this regard so you reap the most benefits out of their return.

From season ticket holders to all return visitors – they should be offered some exclusive perks that helps to enhance their overall fan experience and encourages their engagement with your brand. Here are some great ways to do the same:

A. Access to early ticket bookings, seat selection, merchandise access, free parking to free wifi at the stadium.
B. Loyalty points: One of the most common ways adopted across sectors is offering loyalty points. This can be implemented for fans based on the number of times they visit the venue, buy merchandise, F&B and more items/ services. These points can act as credit they can use for future purchases.
C. Membership programs: A great way to capture information of your most loyal fans is to build an exclusive membership program. This program can offer priority bookings services, guaranteed premium seats, exclusive food and beverage packages to many more interactive opportunities to the fans.
D. VIP sections: A great example of this is to offer season ticket holders access to VIP areas and activities that are otherwise restricted to other guests.

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3 Personalize communication
AI has enabled us to learn how each communication with our customer can be personalized. This helps brands to get to know who their fans are, further building unique and personalized communication.

In sports, we already know that a group of sports fans are usually more diverse than we can imagine. Targeting each one might result in reaching no one. Here is how you can reach your fans to help enhance their engagement:

A. Fan segment: Segregate your fans based on how you will target them based on your marketing plans. This can be based on their demographic – area they live in, age group, number of times they visit your website or venue and many other elements. The more you have segmented data – the better your communication can be built to target the specific crowd.
B. Modes of communication: When you have different fan segments, you will be able to analyse who responds best to which mode of communication. A certain age group may be more receptive to videos on Tiktok or Instagram, while another one would prefer email communication. Keep in mind, knowing when, where and how to target your audience is crucial for them to make the decision towards purchasing or engaging with your brand.

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4 Build interactive – immersive experiences, engage with technology
Sports today has many tech-based advancements that need to be adopted for the best results – both for performance and fan engagement. From data collection via optimal tracking and wearables – that are offering fans insight into teams and athlete performance to VR headsets that are building unique immersive experiences like never before – interactive experiences via the help of tech are a great way to engage your fans.

A Data collection: When a large amount of data is collected on athletes’ performance, fans that play online games like fantasy football to fantasy cricket and more – can build their own teams based on relevant – real-time data. This is a unique way to keep your fans engaged on your platform.
B Virtual Reality: Using 360-degree tech, fans can enjoy the full atmosphere of sporting events, even from the comfort of their own homes. All they need is a VR headset and an internet connection. VR is fast gaining traction in the sports world and is sure to become a very popular way for fans to engage with their favourite sports.

5 Connected stadiums
Smart stadiums are on the rise. From accessible high-speed Wi-Fi access to being able to check how long the F&B line is, everything is happening in real-time now.

-The Levi’s Stadium, home to San Francisco 49ers – allows fans to use their phone to scan their tickets, locate their seats and even order food to their seats. They can even use the app to watch instant replays and plant the fastest route back to their homes.
– Etihad Stadium in Melbourne is known to have installed luxury leather smart seats in few areas that have built-in tablets to watch HD replays, access to Fox Sports, and view a live scoreboard feed. The big screen in this stadium allows for fans to tweet their photos and messages to be shown on the big screen.

We can understand from almost all points how crucial technology is to engage with fans and how it is being used more and more in sports across services to improve fan experience, assist with maintaining and growing clubs and leagues. Many stakeholders are investing millions to help make this happen and sports fans are the sure end of reaping the benefits. If your goal is to improve fan engagement, tech is one sure investment you must make along with a long-term marketing strategy that encompasses tech, sales, future events, and all aspects of the business.

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Author: Mankiran