Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Fan engagement has long been a priority for sports rights holders. Yet has it ever been more important, or different, than it is today?
The needs of sports rights holders are changing. Indeed, the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions have not just emphasised the importance of fans but driven all sports stakeholders to completely reexamine and amend their approach to engaging with them.
The combination of in-live venue experiences not currently being possible and the insatiable fan hunger for news and interactions with the sports and names they have been separated from have caused more resources to be channeled into maximising online engagement and the potential revenues. The digital market has therefore become even more competitive.
For rights holders, owned fan engagement platforms, be they websites or mobile applications, provide the answer to the question of how to maintain and build fan engagement in this saturated market.
Here are five key reasons why developing your own ‘digital stadium’ is worth the investment:
1. It’s in the data
It may be common knowledge but it’s importance cannot be overstated - fan data and insight gathering is vital for generating new digital revenue streams. Even more so in the current climate.
Although the data cannot be directly monetised, having an owned digital platform hosting fans can give a rights holder a far stronger, more reliable understanding of fan demographics, behaviours and needs. The invaluable information can also be integrated into CRM systems, opening an avenue to communicate directly with them.
For example, Formula 1 has transformed itself in recent years, in large part due to the depth of insight it has accumulated about its global fanbase. This has subsequently been factored into key decisions, such as an understanding of the need to connect with a younger fan base leading to the launching of their online platform F1 Fan Voice, for which 40% of users are now under-25.
2. A personal touch
Having this rich data enables rights holders to find innovative ways to engage specific fans and groups. One of the most invaluable is to leverage it to provide fans with experiences more personalised to their demands during and outside of the sporting action. This can have a transformative impact by enabling the right fan to receive the right experience from the most suitable channel at the best time and place. These can manifest themselves in a range of ways from push notification messages to content and gamification.
A fine example came right at the start of 2020, when the German Football League partnered with Amazon Web Services, to use the latters machine-learning services to create individualised, real-time recommendations and to offer fans personalised features including game footage and marketing promotions.
3. A social balance
There is no denying that social media channels are essential for communicating with fans. However, the prevailing ‘walled garden’ of the dominant social platforms means a limitation on how much of this crucial personal data is shared and readily available. For example, as no or very limited integration with client CRM systems is provided, the most rights holders can get are aggregated benchmarks. What’s more, if your fans are just on social channels, it is only those channels that own the rights to monetize them.
Having an end-to-end owned fan engagement solution is an excellent way for rights owners to get around these problems. As the platform owner, the rights holder has the access to this data and another potential revenue stream. Ultimately, an owned and operated platform can offer the ideal balance, providing personalised and strategic content alongside the immediacy of social media. It can also conveniently drive app users to engage with those same social channels.
4. Taking ownership
An owned platform usable across devices also enables a rights holder to effectively respond to the myriad of online touchpoints and sources of information a fan can now have with a sport or team. Crucially, it offers the opportunity to own the fan experience, rather than relying on a third-party platform to do it. With the increasing demands for regular content and communication, being able to do so at the optimal time via different streams and channels in a targeted, data-backed way is also a far more efficient use of the resource, be it time or money, required to create it.
The development of the English Premier League’s Fantasy Football mobile application is a case in point. The integrated service now provides a range of features to keep the user connected and excited throughout the week, not just during match weekends. On top of in-game notifications, it provides alerts and access to archive videos, league and team statistics, analysis, new broadcast schedules, the latest team news and links both to the brand’s podcast and social channels.
5. Building the community
As stated in a previous blog on fan activation solutions, the modern sports fan is looking for a sense of community as well as a personalised connection across devices. This desire has naturally increased during a time when we are unable to attend matches. As shown by the likes of BT Sport, an owned platform can be intelligently used during this ‘new normal.’ A ‘Watch Together’ feature was built into their mobile app, enabling subscribers to see and chat with friends in a split screen mode while watching a match. These fan engagement platforms are helping to fill a void, as well as driving up brand loyalty and deepening a feeling of connectivity.
Are you a rights holder, interested in understanding more about fan engagement solutions Then take a look at the SportsTech Match marketplace here.
Photo credit: Daily Mail