Fan Experiences Fan Journey Fan Engagement

This Time, the Game Can't Go On

By Mary Sloss on March 13, 2020
Mary Sloss

Mary Sloss is a marketing expert who blends creativity and insights to bring brands to life. As the marketing director for FanThreeSixty, she oversees the company's brand strategy and market position as the leading provider of remarkable fan experiences fueled by data.

For sports fans, game day is more than an event. The players aren’t just a team; from the mascots and the bands to the coaches and athletes, game day is part of fans’ identities. They bring the rowdy and they make the atmosphere.

And likewise, teams, leagues and conferences realize that they are nothing without their fans, which is why they made the difficult decision to cancel, suspend or postpone tournaments and regular season play due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have an obligation to safeguard the health and well-being of their fans, players and everyone else connected to the game.

While everyone understands this is the best decision for the overall wellbeing of society, it is still difficult for everyone—from the diehards to the casual spectators—to comprehend these next few months without sports. March is no longer filled with the madness of buzzer-beater upsets and the constant chatter of brackets and bets. The Sunday tradition of binge watching the Masters isn’t going to happen this year. This is our temporary reality.

However, just because the physical sport is paused doesn’t mean teams and leagues should halt efforts to engage fans. If anything, they should drastically ramp up efforts to keep fans more connected to the team than ever before. Give the fans what they crave during a tough time, when they would normally turn to sports as an escape: access to the team.

Create Content. LOTS of Content.

Use this time to develop exclusive content that incorporates players, coaches and other key staff. Typically it may be difficult to pin down a behind-the-scenes moment with top talent, but right now, teams have more opportunity to deliver this content to fans. Host player Q+As that let fans get to know their favorite players on a more personal level. Have the coach create a quick video from his own phone, giving the fans a quick shoutout. These human elements will mean a lot during this time when social distancing is encouraged.

Re-share highlight videos from the season that trigger their emotions and remind them of memories made during the game. Bonus: by building this library now, you’re not only giving fans a way to connect with the team, but you’re also stockpiling content to re-share throughout the entire year.

Show Fan Appreciation

Fans want to know you care. Send regular status updates or just create simple, short communications that say, “We’re thinking about you.”

Create a “fan of the week” or “fan of the month” campaign that features your diehard fans, such as one of your longest-holding season ticket members. Have them answer questions about why they love the team and the game, and include a few photos of them in their team gear throughout their life. Make the engagement even sweeter by providing an incentive like a jersey or signed memorabilia.

Continue to Run Promotions and Giveaways

Launch promotions and campaigns for discounted team merchandise or other offers and giveaways. For example, incentivize fans to take selfies in their gear and tag the team, rewarding a lucky winner with free tickets or a unique game-day experience when the season resumes.

Make Relationships Matter

It’s times like this that remind us why the relationship between teams and their fans matters more than anything. Game day is not the totality of fan engagement; for most teams, in-season is only a quarter of the year. This is what we mean when we use one of our favorite phrases—every day is game day. Teams, leagues and conferences can use this time to deepen the relationship and create meaningful connections with their fans so that when the game comes back, the experience is more remarkable than ever before.

In the meantime, at FanThreeSixty we’re right alongside your fans, still cheering for you...with cleaner hands.

For the latest updates on the impact of coronavirus and sports in the U.S., visit Front Office Sports.

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