Engaging Fans, the Digital Way 25th October, 2016

In an age where digital plays a vital part in keeping individuals connected with what is going on in the world, the sports we consume are becoming increasingly delivered through our smartphones via live updates, streaming, betting or apps. With this in mind brands and rights holders are now focusing on engaging fans through innovative ways, rather than deploying their resources on stagnant marketing activities that don’t acquire significant ROI – it is all about plugging the gap between reaction and action.

As traditional forms of advertising near extinction, brands are figuring out how to link marketing, social media and the second screen, to create compelling, memorable experiences across all advertising and social platforms. Rather than having a logo plastered along pitch side LED’s in the Premier League, brands are using hashtags to provide incentives, exclusive content and rewards to consumers for taking part in their marketing.

In 2014, 76% of adults used a second screen while watching a sports match on TV, this stat has no doubt significantly increased over the 2 years since. Companies like Kwangl were born out of the concept of engaging fans with what they see on TV; through the device they are holding. Jonas Olsson, the West Brom star used Kwangl to increase his engagement with the team’s fans. Using two incentivised hashtags (#JonasOlsson3 and #JonasOlssonWBA) to run multiple competitions, fans taking part could win a signed pair of boots and a signed shirt in what proved to be a successful way to reach out and connect with them.

As fans participate in marketing campaigns through a unique call to action – they are in fact seeing a tangible result for being aware of the brands marketing, a win-win for all parties involved. The issue with this though, is does it take away from the spectacle of the event as fans are more involved in the marketing ploy.

As media technology improved, teams found it increasingly difficult to fill stadiums as fans preferred to catch all the action through ref cams and slow-mo on TV. Fan engagement is being used to drive crowds back into the stadiums and isn’t just about on field action, smart arenas are becoming the norm enhancing the fan experience in new ways to keep them engaged. The new Sacramento Kings arena, Golden 1 Center, has a mobile app for check-in, ushering you to your seat, indicating shortest bathroom and concession lines, seat upgrade options (much like what has been done in the airline industry), cashless commerce and in-seat wireless charging. With this sort of experience, why wouldn’t you want to fork out for season tickets.

It is vital for rights holders to understand how to correctly engage fans, ensuring they find the right touch points in order to connect on the right levels. Smart arena’s as an example, allows fans to always stay connected enabling use of their second screen to have live stats updates. When fans are completely engaged, the end product being delivered is that much better so they feel they are getting the most out of the experience.

Sports sponsorship no longer means simply attaching a corporate name to a stadium. Rather, it has become a triangle of association between the team, the sponsor, and the passionate fan. It involves taking two products and creating an affinity between them, largely through social currency. It will be interesting to see sports evolve with the increase in accessibility through technology such as virtual reality and how it could play a role in the way we consume sports. Watch this space!