3 Ways to Engage Supporters

During summer, a lot of supporters like myself are pretty anxious and thrilled to follow and see how our favorite clubs are working to sign or release players before the upcoming season. I am a big fan of Liverpool FC (English Premier League) and Djurgårdens IF (Swedish Premier Division), and it is quite scary, but still very exciting, to see if any great players are going to be signed by those two clubs. Or perhaps if any of the best players are about to leave. Wouldn’t it be dissappointing to lose your team’s best player? As a supporter you might lose your hope of a successful season, and if you’re not a dedicated season ticket holder, how can a sports club make sure to satisfy your needs despite this?

No matter what, it is quite important to engage supporters in order to have a full stadium and gain revenue, but also to attract media and sponsors in order to even get even more money. As you can see in the quote on the right, Schnater had a look at The Economics of Fan Engagement and pin pointed the main issue with engaging supporters.

There is one central conclusion: clubs and leagues which fail to put fans first and do not engage their fans with the sports product are thereby not only neglecting their social roles, but are in fact limiting their own profits! It appears that the business paradigm of fan engagement includes all of these effects and therefore should be considered by more clubs and leagues.

Bas Schnater

Fan Engagement & CRM, AZ Alkmaar

With this being said, I will show you three different ways to engage your supporters, and I can already tell you that a lot of it is about “känslor” (“emotions” in Swedish).

During the off season, a lot of things can happen within a sports club and what I just brought up could be a big challenge for season ticket marketing. On the other hand, it can also affect potential fans who might have not planned to purchase a season ticket. Knowing that their favorite team won’t be as good as it was last season can be tough on supporters’ feelings, but there is always a way out if you have a good marketing strategy. That is key!

1. What am I talking about? Tell a story and engage!

FC København, the best football club in Denmark (maybe the best football club in the Nordics at the moment), has made a very nice and emotional farewell video for one of their great defenders, Ludwig Augustinsson (playing in the Swedish national team by the way). They used memories and emotions to create their story, and by doing so they attracted a lot of attention. When it comes to emotions, we as humans are “built” to respond to them. This is also why posts with photos or videos are getting more attention and likes than plain text does. Our brains are simply programmed to react to this type of content. Below you can watch a farewell video to Augustinsson, which was smartly ended with a CTA (call to action) which reminded FC København fans to purchase a 2017/18 season ticket!

“After 2,5 years in the club, Ludwig Augustinsson is continuing his career in Germany. In this video he looks back at his amazing time in FCK with a lot of titles and great cross passes – and also, listen to his plan of coming back together with Delaney in FCK TVs favorite portrait here! What are you especially gonna remember about him?” – F.C. København

Why is this important?

The battle for people’s attention requires emotions, and one way of doing this is by sending a message to fans with an image or, better of, a video. Also, it is very important to add value and focus on CTA, which in this case is season ticket sales. Watching this video might encourage you to buy a season ticket, or at least make you think about buying it.

2. Start early and “breed” new fans!

During a weekend in June, partners, contributing organizations and others involved in the “Clubs and Supporters for better Governance in Football” project, gathered at Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirschen, Germany (the home ground of the football club Schalke 04). This is a two-year project coordinated by Supporters Direct Europe, and is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and UEFA.

This was the first time the Swedish champions Malmö FF participated in this project and they presented how they engage their club members. Thanks to a tweet (below) from SupportDirect Scotland, you can also see what Malmö FF offers to their members.

SD Europe is an organization that assists democratic supporters’ groups in achieving formal structured involvement in their clubs and associations, and developing member ownership of football clubs. SD Europe works with football governing bodies, leagues, UEFA, and European institutions.

Supporters Direct

Why is this important?

Malmö FF is the best team in Sweden, they have an amazing atmosphere at their home games, and this is a great look at how champions engage their members. Members of Malmö FF have, in addition to membership certificates and voting rights at annual meetings (AGM), a yearbook, a pin, a scarf, newsletter, the opportunity to pre-purchase an annual card and attendance rights at member meetings. But one of the best initiatives that Malmö FF management mentioned at this event were their birthday cards to fans. They send birthday letters to all of their members every year. This is very appreciated among the members. Also, notice that their youngest member is one month old, while the oldest is a 100 years old, which could mean that being raised as a member from your birth can give you a long lasting and engaging relationship between a club and supporter. Great initiative!

3. Support your supporters away!

Lastly, and we will stay in Gelsenkirschen for this one, is the Schalke 04 making sure their fans feel appreciated and supported at away games!
https://twitter.com/SDEurope07/status/876019375131828227

Schalke have 145,000 members making them one of the top 5 clubs in the world based on membership.

SD Scotland

Why is this important?

By establishing this kind of a relationship with your supporters you are making sure that the team is always there for your them as they are always there for the team. This is a really nice way to engage your supporters despite the fact that the team isn’t playing at the home stadium. As the tweet (above) is saying, Schalke 04 have a thing called the “Infomobil“, which is basically a bus that follows the team during training camps, certain events, as well as all away games, and making sure fans have an information point, and a place to buy club merchandise and tickets. The focus is on “supporting the fans“. No wonder that they are one of the biggest clubs when it comes to members!

This is what Bart Wiley, COO of the MLS’ Seattle Sounders, said about Toronto FC’s strategy regarding the importance of supporters: “They talked about the importance of having an open dialogue with fans, of allowing them to look behind the curtain every once in a while. They pointed out, ‘Fans will love the clubs; you have to love the fans‘.”

Conclusion

Engagement is all about emotions. Like telling a story or sending a greeting or always being around fans. Initiatives I wrote about in this text are just some ways of marketing to and with supporters. It’s important to provide a communication platform to talk to your fans in order to keep a long lasting relationship. Always engage with your supporters and help build the next generation of supporters. Supporters could/should be a professional sports club’s most important target. Without loyal supporters you will lack media attention, sponsors’ attention, and, in the end, revenue.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to contact me or anyone at Overtime if you have questions or need advice!

 

Jakob Wikenstål

Jakob Wikenstål

Overtime Sports Marketing

If you have any questions about sports marketing, feel free to contact me at jakob.wikenstal@gmail.com

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