The global pandemic halted sports. It changed the world of fandom. And now, while live sports slowly make their return, the gameday experiences we once knew will be a thing of the past (at least until a vaccine is widely available).
Even while fans are welcomed back to the venue, will they return or will fear keep them on their couch?
We surveyed over four thousand fans across the U.S. to better understand their mindset about returning to the venue, expected safety precautions and more.
Fan Engagement from the Sidelines is your hub for our best tips and tricks to engage fans whether they continue to stay at home or someday make their way back to the venue. We’ll help guide your content strategy and pandemic-proof your marketing efforts in order to give fans the best digital experiences whether they are on the couch or in the stands. This will help drive engagement across your entire fan base, and in turn, deepen the relationship with every fan, resulting in a more valuable, engaged audience year round.
You can also read a few of quick tips below, or download our first installment of Fan Engagement from the Sidelines for additional inspiration during this time.
Choose your channels
If there’s one thing we can be certain of right now, it’s that fans are eager to interact with their favorite teams. Begin by identifying the channels that will be most effective in engaging your fans and how those channels will help you to understand more about them.
- This is a great place for polls, trivia questions, on-this-day posts, behind-the-scenes photos or videos, informal fan surveys and more, all in your proprietary content channel
- Rally your sponsors to produce “presented by” content so that you can continue to deliver on sponsorship value and ROI
- You’ll have all of the engagement results at your fingertips, helping you to learn more about your fans’ individual preferences to better personalize future content
- Consider a newsletter-style approach to highlight team or league updates, flashbacks to significant games, community outreach, sponsorship highlights, fan spotlights, merchandise and more
- Ensure that each content section has a link driving to another platform that helps to meet your organizational goals—gain app downloads, bump up website visits, drive leads to sponsors’ sites or add to other email or SMS distribution lists
- You can view open rates, click-through activity, app downloads and web traffic to better understand the types of communications that your fans are responding to, informing future communications and content to craft
- It can be difficult to gather the full picture of engagement from social media platforms, but your social channels are effective in directing fans to engage with your proprietary channels (mobile app, website, email signup)
- Use your social channels to announce new campaigns or contests, but always drive your fans back to your team-owned channels. This will ensure you get deeper-level analytics, like which fans participated, what type of content they engaged with and more. These fan insights can also help drive sponsorship ROI right now, which is another reason to use social media as a means to drive traffic to your team-owned channels.
- Video conferencing has become the norm while we all #StayAtHome. Consider the opportunity to create custom, downloadable backgrounds or surprise fans with drop-ins from their favorite players or coaches.
- Use this channel to create and host exclusive events for fans. For example, host player Q+As for season ticket members only, giving them a return on their investment that they can’t gain in-venue.
- Make virtual events “sponsored by” to deliver on sponsorship value, and follow up with a fan survey at the end of the event--either in your app or via email--to learn more about what your fans crave right now.
Fan Engagement Checklist
While fans are dreaming of the day that they’ll return to the stands, your content is more likely to capture their attention and keep your team top-of-mind if it checks the boxes below.
Integrate human elements into your content. It’s no secret that fans feel a sense of connection when watching players in action. While that can’t happen, incorporate more player or coach videos, or host exclusive virtual events to connect fans with players, coaches or front office staff. This will create a sense of meaningful, exclusive access that can help to fill that game day void.
Quick tip: Stream a replay of a big win with coach/player interviews or commentary to give fans a deeper look into one of their favorite team memories.
Create moments of unexpected joy or give fans something consistent to look forward to. For example, FanThreeSixty client FC Tulsa started Trivia Thursdays during COVID-19 and the engagement results have been off-the-charts. Fans now expect a break toward the end of the week, taking a much-welcomed pause from news coverage to show what they know about their team.
Quick tip: Allow fans to enter to win personalized video greetings or Q&A with their favorite players, exclusive swag or team store discounts
Build content that fans find unique or interesting enough to share with their friends, and then watch as they do so… again and again. Stand out in a sea of memes, videos and articles.
Quick tip: The best content ideas are often the simplest. Find something unique to your organization and fan base. Is there a song, chant, attire or other tradition that you can ask fans to replicate at home for a chance to win a prize, or match donations to a local charity?
Communications shouldn’t be too scarce or too frequent, too silly or too serious. But let’s be honest, in an unprecedented and highly stressful time, there are no rules except to be real. Be authentic. Be human. We’re all in this together, and extending this sense of camaraderie into your communications will strengthen your connection with fans.
Quick tip: If you've been sending mostly lighthearted videos or messages, take a slightly more serious moment to thank your fans and the extended community for all they are doing right now, or showcase your team’s or sponsors’ COVID-19 relief efforts.