Times have changed. Engagement for sports teams used to be measured in terms of tickets, merchandise sales and TV viewership. While those still factor heavily into the equation, today’s digital world is powering year-round engagement and revenue opportunities for teams. Digital fan engagement provides new opportunities for organisations to broaden their reach well beyond the playing field, court, rink, or stadium.
Worldwide, there are literally billions of sports fans. Football (soccer) claims more than 3.5 billion fans, while Cricket boast more than 2.5 billion. Two billion fans follow hockey, 1 billion follow tennis, basketball has 800 million fans, and baseball has more than 500 million fans.
But those numbers are just a part of the formula. With so many innovative resources available, there’s no reason why fan experiences have to begin and end with games. A 360-degree, 365-day fan experience gives teams, venues, and sports entertainment companies a bigger opportunity to establish and strengthen connections with their most loyal followers.
Fan Engagement: Definitions
What is fan engagement? It takes many forms, but it boils down to the connection fans have to your sports team or franchise. Depending on your goals, you may define fan engagement as:
- Stadium attendance
- Social media interactions and impressions
- Fantasy sports
- Immersive experiences
- Highlight watching viewership
- Second-screen viewing during events
- Contests and events
Ideally, there is a combination of engagement types to keep fans involved and each one offers the opportunity to enhance their experience and generate revenue. Engagement creates loyalty, excitement, community and a sense of connection with an organisation and fellow fans.
Every touchpoint across every channel has the chance to help build an emotional connection and value. However, organisations must have a clear understanding of how they define engagement and what it means to them to truly see its potential.
Importance of Fan Engagement
Fan engagement provides a wealth of benefits for organisations and not just during the season. Today, fan engagement is a year-round event, keeping fans involved with their favorite teams, no matter the time of year or the team’s performance.
Some of the benefits of fan engagement include:
Increased Revenue Opportunities
Engaged and loyal fans are more likely to attend games in person, buy merchandise and support team sponsors. All of this generates revenue. According to research by Deloitte, the most engaged fans are six times more likely than casual fans to spend more on their teams.
For example, excluding tickets, season ticket holders spend five times more than non-season ticket holders. They also spend twice the amount on off-season events.
This is especially important for Millennials, who are willing to spend extra for memorable experiences. For example, Millennials spend more on activities such as:
- Pre- and post-game events
- Player meet and greets
- Seating based on social interests
Today, revenue opportunities extend well beyond the playing field and in-game sponsorships. With more than two-thirds of advertising dollars being spent digitally in 2022, it’s clear that sports teams can monetise their digital products in a variety of ways.
The more engaged a fan base is, the more attractive teams will be for sponsors. Loyal fans are also more likely to participate in sponsor activations and promotions, providing additional exposure for teams and sponsors.
Greater Brand Awareness
When fans are engaged, they talk about teams and share information on their social channels. Social media is a prime driver of fan loyalty. According to Facebook, nearly 75% of sports fans said it’s the main reason they use social media.
Digital experiences help expand exposure and brand awareness. The most engaged fan bases drive online traffic for team websites, apps and other channels to help create and amplify a strong digital presence.
Loyal fans do more than just talk about their teams. They buy merchandise, wear jerseys, and promote the team in their communities. They become brand advocates and encourage others to participate. Recognising your most loyal fans and rewarding them can help promote the team and broaden exposure even further.
Understanding Consumer Behavior
Engaged fans will have plenty of opinions, and they are rarely shy about sharing. This feedback provides valuable information about what’s important to your highest-value customers. It can also help teams get to know their customers better and use those findings to engage in proactive engagement. When fans aren’t happy, they tend to spend less. Your fan base provides a constant measure of what people value and the data you need to plan future initiatives.
An engaged fan base can create a competitive advantage for teams, providing additional motivation for players to perform at their best. This not only helps teams succeed, but it can create even more loyalty for fans who help create excitement and enhance the experience for others at the venue.
Business Impact of Failing to Clearly Define Fan Engagement
Without a clear definition of fan engagement, it’s challenging to measure success. This leads to lost opportunities when it comes to monetising key areas. If you do not have a clear strategy, develop key performance indicators and measure outcomes against your goals, you aren’t optimising your potential – thereby missing opportunities to assess fan interest and identify new revenue streams.
Without defining fan engagement, it may be difficult to focus your marketing efforts and investments on the right activities or risk spreading yourself too thin to be effective. It’s easy to lose sight of overarching goals and watch fan engagement wane, brand awareness decrease and competitive disadvantages emerge.
Optimise Your Fan Engagement Strategy
Digital media has created so many new ways to connect with fans. The most successful sports teams are leveraging these opportunities to create new generations of loyal fans and new ways of generating revenue.
You need a technology partner that understands engagement and can apply cutting-edge methods to create and nurture brand loyalty — turning fans into fanatics.
Endava leverages next-generation technologies and domain expertise to create and strengthen customer and fan relationships. By delivering dynamic platforms and intelligent digital experiences, Endava helps organisations of all types with their ongoing digital transformation to produce actionable results and better outcomes.
Contact Endava today to discuss your needs and how we can help grow fan engagement.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, MEDIA & SPORTRobert Milner is a Business Development Manager based in London. He is responsible for Endava’s offering in the Sports sector. Outside of work, Rob keeps busy playing basketball, watching any sport that’s on and going to the cinema.
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