Schools and athletic conferences are cancelling seasons, postponing fall sports, limiting attendance at games, or won’t have fans at all. This kind of upheaval may cause yourself to ask, “Why should I worry about fan engagement right now?” Fans are the lifeblood of sports. Even without games, fans will be there to support you. Just because sports have gone away doesn’t mean that your fans have.
Related: Fan Engagement During A Pandemic
1. Prevent Loss of Loyalty
Not everyone is a die hard fan, someone who sticks around no matter what. If you step away from your fan engagement efforts you risk losing loyalty, school spirit, and even the revenue of non-die hard fans. Plus, think of the cost of creating new fans.
To maintain or even increase fan loyalty make sure you’re reaching your fans. Globally, a third of internet use is mobile. Out of ESPN’s audience , ⅔ is exclusively mobile-based. Mobile assets, like the SuperFan fan engagement platform, can provide avenues that aren’t available in other forms. For example, Push notifications give you a direct link to your fans, making communication easy and effective. Keeping in touch with your fans and providing updates ensures they stay connected.
2. Culture & Community
The most successful sports teams and brands in the world have created unique cultures that their fans can adopt as their own. These cultures produce strong, loyal communities. In times when fans can’t take part in normal activities like tailgating, it’s up to you to help fill that void. That’s why it’s important to provide a space for people to consume your content and interact with others.
When building a culture around your teams, look to tradition. Songs or chants that are a mainstay at your games or a saying like “Horns Up” or “Go Big Blue” are things that create a common thread among fans. Look at your teams’ values like hard work, dedication, toughness, and teamwork. These are points of character that can be representative of your school and your fans.
Take this team culture and bring it to your fans. Ask them what it means to them. The SuperFan Fan Cam allows app users to share images and video that can be viewed by other users. Take advantage of this and ask fans to show their pride. Sing your fight song, show off your school’s colors, or tell us about their fondest game day experience. Now you have a fan-driven community based around your school and its culture.
“If you want to be disruptive and engage with your fans, this is a time that they are literally sitting around waiting to hear from you.”
– Joe Favorito, Sports Communication Professional (New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, WTA, USTA)
3. Make Better Fans
How do you take current fans, and convince them to be more involved with your brand? Make them special. Normally, this is something you would do at games by providing perks for long-time fans or season ticket holders, creating special experiences at the venue, or just thanking them for their dedication. Without games, you’ll need to be more creative.
Turn your fans into insiders. If you have an announcement coming like a new uniform or schedule announcement, give your fans a chance to gain a sneak peak before anyone else. Imagine your favorite team giving you this type of inside information. Those fans aren’t just fans anymore. They’re part of the organization. They’re instantly more involved, and that provides a sense of importance.
Create an emotional link between your school and your community. Enforcing this relationship can help build stability at a time when fans are feeling left in the dark. Thank them for their support and emphasize how you are helping to support your city or town.
When fall sports are cancelled or postponed, it can leave a sour taste in the mouths of your season ticket holders. Some may want a refund, or might want to cancel their season tickets in the future. Create incentives for them to hold onto their season tickets, and to stay involved with the team. These could include discounts on merchandise or next year’s tickets, invites to special online events where they can meet players and coaches, or promises of special perks once games return. Create a club for those who opt-in and send them a special card acknowledging their commitment.
4. Create New Fans
It’s a common assumption that most fans only follow a few sports, mainly football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Yet 46% of fans say they’re excited about new sports, and 30% of fans follow non-mainstream sports like volleyball, track & field, wrestling, and gymnastics, also known as Olympic sports. This means there is a large group that you can introduce to new sports that they don’t typically follow. Creating enthusiasm for these sports will boost your fan base, and help protect these sports and their athletes. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create hardships for athletic departments across the country, Olympic sports are often eliminated to account for a loss in revenue. Across all college divisions, more than 80 programs have been cut. Introducing new fans can add stability to these programs and bring long-term benefits to your athletic department.
5. Listen & Learn
One of the most valuable things you can gain from your fans is information. Data based around interests and behavior shapes everything from budgetary measures to event planning. Even without games, there’s much to learn from fans.
Right now, schools are trying to assess what their fans want. The easiest way to find out is to ask them. Surveys and polls, like SuperFan’s Fan Poll feature, can provide you with instant feedback. What type of content are they interested in? How comfortable would they be attending a game? Giving your fans a chance to provide opinions will help you engage more effectively, and will alert you to any worries they may have. If there are issues, it’s better to catch them early and plan on ways to avert further issues.
6. Awarding Your Sponsors
Among the groups being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are your sponsors. Games provide numerous opportunities for advertising, not only in-venue but also during broadcasts and live streams. Without them, they lose out on their investment.
Find ways to make up for this loss, or risk diminishing the school/sponsor relationship. That’s where fan engagement comes into play. Providing chances for advertising on emails or social media help, but the impact is short-lived. Other methods of fan engagement, like the SuperFan mobile platform, provide substantial exposure to your fan base. Now your sponsors aren’t losing a chance to reach out to your fans, but are gaining a more substantial opportunity to bring their message to people who will see it not just during a game, but daily.
In a world where being a fan is a 24/7 experience, fan engagement has taken on an outsized role for how schools and teams work. Fans affect how athletic departments function, brand themselves, and build revenue streams. When something so integral can have such a large impact, it’s important to maintain or even grow your fan engagement efforts. A strong fan base means strong athletics programs.
If you’d like to learn how you can strengthen your fan engagement, book a demo today.