The Best Ways to Engage with Fans
I will discuss different ways to initiate or increase fan engagement and offer advice while avoiding overused expressions such as “be creative and innovative”. Engagement of a sport fan is usually seen through following their favorite team by attending games, watching them on TV, purchasing team products, reading about it in newspapers or just talking about it with others. With the higher level of engagement, we tend to see fans go out of their way to help their team by motivating other fans to actively participate as well. Display of sport fandom and word-of-mouth are initial acts of consumer-to-consumer helping behaviors in fan communities that benefit teams.
of fans in the US choose their favorite team based on location of their hometown
The key component of successful fan engagement is appropriate interaction. Having a great form of interaction with your fans creates a higher performance tolerance which is crucial in sport industry. Club’s interaction with supporters is highly dependable on club ownership structure. Publicly owned teams tend to naturally have greater success at this than privately owned clubs do.
From a business perspective, having loyal fans that understand club’s long-term well-being always has to come before individual games revenues from ticket and merchandise sales. If you succeed at this like Borussia Dortmund did, then TV rights and sponsorship deals will increase and be more constant over time. Any success on the field will just add to it.
Considering 40% of fans choose their team based on where they are from, that leaves us 60% of people that can be captured with the right marketing strategy!
The biggest secret of the Bundesliga – Promotional video dating from 2011 that visualizes “the medical phenomenon” of Borussia Dortmund’s fans and the strong bond they have with their club. Such promotional activities from 5 years ago resulted in continuous growth of demand since then.
Responsiveness to followers is an emerging factor that leads team’s interaction to engage fans. Retweeting or sharing their posts about your club makes those creative individuals feel appreciated and show other fans that they can get their spotlight as well. By doing this, not only will the fans engage more but you are more likely to attract neutral people who might not even be fans. You can find out more on how Borussia Dortmund interacts with their fans and continues to engage them in a previous article on our blog.
Top teams around the world compete for fans not only in their country, not even on their continent, but on a global scale.
Likes of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda playing at Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan showed us how these clubs used players from Japan to capture a greater chunk of Asian market but perhaps the greatest example in football is Mohamed Salah, Egyptian winger playing for AS Roma.
Salah’s transfer to Roma shows the importance of being adaptable with the way clubs approach fans. According to number of fans on Roma’s official Facebook page after his purchase, 3 out of top 4 cities come from Egypt with Rome coming in 2nd.
As he transferred to Chelsea in 2014, the amount of comments from Egypt on their official FB page literally forced them to create an additional Arabic page.
Organized watching of away games for fans or so called watch parties are another brilliant contemporary idea that helps teams create a greater level of engagement with their loyal supporters and also attain more of their marketing potential. I turned my TV on to a Cleveland Cavaliers – Golden State Warriors game just as Curry nailed another 3-pointer. Screen directly switched from Cleveland to San Francisco where Oracle Arena seemed to be packed with people watching the game collectively.
Fans’ tendency to traditionally watch games in bars or in certain cases at squares shows how mass watching creates a greater excitement level. So why let someone else profit from it? In addition to this, I can’t stress out how significant is the fact Warriors donate some of the proceeds to the foundation that helps youth in the community. Giving back, and specifically to the youngest, helps them ensure longevity of fan engagement.
Considering that fans that played the sport at younger age have 50% more chance to be fanatic and passionate about the team, Golden State’s future seems bright as they are investing in both future players and fans.
Fans that played the sport at younger age have 50% more chance to be fanatic and passionate about the team
Other notable examples of authentic ways to improve fan engagement is creating fan contests or polls in which supporters directly decide the outcome and they get the positive experience of their loved team acknowledging their input. In my previous article I wrote about Professional Futsal League’s fan contest.
Fan voting is often used for the end of year individual awards when supporters pick out player of the season but the most unique example comes from Duquesne University’s basketball team that got stuck in snow and had fans vote on who will be pushing the bus.
Another original form of interaction with fans that does wonders for fan engagement comes from Croatia. A so called ‘Ćakula’, that could be translated as chitchat, is an informal meeting that Football Club Hajduk Split uses to explain their members what is going on behind the scenes and help them better understand the vision of their club. It is a specific way of approaching supporters that works much better for publicly owned clubs as you want to keep your shareholders happy.
To sum up these examples, social media allows the most individual and intensive approach to fans yet. This being said, it is easier to capture greater audiences that will now be more diverse than ever and it creates a great challenge to be able to please everyone.
With rise in number of stadiums that provide Wi-Fi, I predict there will be greater fan engagement on all social media platforms. As younger generations tend to use wireless network more, one app that will benefit in particular is Snapchat and I believe it is one of the greatest contributors to fan engagement as fans themselves are the ones creating the story. Wi-Fi introduction will generate a greater use of club-developed mobile apps as well. Except for these direct consequences of technological advancement, clubs also have to stay up to date by following shifting trends in society.
The key is not to follow the trends but lead them. There are many other good examples of great communication clubs achieve with their fans that is used as foundation for greater engagement. Adapting to the market in the most authentic way possible that will reflect everything a club represents is essential to meeting the fans’ needs. If a club succeeds at making them feel special, the benefits will just multiply.