As the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have had to make adjustments. Instruction has moved online, sports have taken a hiatus, and it’s become harder to interact with your fan base. With no students on campus, and events being cancelled or postponed, the challenge of keeping your fans engaged has caused schools to shift their methods and ways of thinking. Even when sports return, we’re not sure how fans will respond. According to a poll from The Sharkey Institute, part of the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University, 72% of fans wouldn’t feel comfortable returning to attending games until an effective and proven vaccine has been found.
The easiest solution to these problems is taking advantage of existing technology, like your SuperFan app, to find new ways to stay connected. The key is creating new, unique content and finding ways to keep in touch with your fans. Here are some ideas of ways you can stay engaged.
Fill The Need For Sports
Your fans want to watch sports. Fulfill this need by showing old games. Younger fans are drawn to more recent games. Older fans are drawn to older games, or games that hold significant history. The pull of nostalgia is hard to beat. Major League Baseball has been showing games that include no-hitters, walk-off wins, and records being broken.
Many leagues have turned to eSport competition to take the place of actual games. Fans get the experience of watching players participate in their respective sports, but in a digital format live-streamed for the world to enjoy.
Fans like seeing players and coaches. Videos like interviews with players or coaches is a big draw for fans. A positive message from a coach or mascot can create excitement for the return of sports. To encourage your audience to stay active, have someone like a strength coach create a weekly stay-at-home workout.
One group that has been hit by the pandemic are your seniors. Whether they’re missing graduation or aren’t able to participate in spring sports, they’re losing these experiences. In support of these students, create a senior spotlight video. Provide students with a question (What is your greatest school memory?), have them record their answers, then create a compilation video.
Recreate the feeling of coming to a game and cheering on your school with Spirit Days. Do you have a tradition that fans love to be involved with? Maybe it’s a chant or song. Encourage your fans to wear your school’s colors and take part in an activity, then uploading a video of it onto social media with a special hashtag. Share some of the videos for the rest of your fans to enjoy.
Check-in Days give your fans a reason to stay active on your app. Even though they’re not on campus, it lets them interact with your school. Pick a day of the week and have them check in to earn points.
Create a custom jersey background for your fans’ phones. They can tell you the name and number they want by writing in your app with the user feedback tool or commenting on your social networks, which can be quickly added to the jersey design. Having the background on their phones acts is a show of school spirit. You can create jerseys for different sports.
Use a bracket competition to keep your fans engaged. Missouri Baptist University pitted major moments from each of their sports against each other. New contests were announced via push notification, and fans used the Fan Poll feature on the MBU Spartans app to vote for their favorite moment. After each round, post the updated bracket on social media or in the feed of your app.
Fan Cam Games
The 30 Day Fan Cam Challenge asks fans to upload images to Fan Cam based on a different theme each day. You can award points to users who participate and choose the best image of the day to share on social media.
Stay-At-Home Bingo gives your fans a chance to have some fun while protecting themselves from COVID-19. As they fill out their card, they can upload it to Fan Cam and check off their boxes.
Utilizing push notifications allows easy communication with your fans. Targeted communication lets you focus on which audience you’re reaching out to. Directly reaching out to your fans makes it easy to share updates on scheduling and upcoming virtual events.
Besides messaging related to your efforts around the coronavirus, you can use push notifications to drive your fans to download your app. Turn to your app first when making announcements. Teasing a new uniform or offering exciting school news creates an incentive for fans to use your app.
Community outreach is common for any school, but supporting your neighbors is now more important than ever. It can be as simple as sharing information about guidelines related to the pandemic to ensure safety. The NBA launched the NBA Together campaign which shares medical-related information, works with charitable efforts, and keeps communities together through digital efforts.
Your efforts don’t need to be as extensive as NBA Together. Promoting or organizing a fundraiser on a platform like RocketJar to support essential workers and those working on the front lines gives your fans an opportunity to help make a difference.
Reach out to your season ticket holders. A phone call can make an impression on fans that you would normally be able to engage at events. Louisville City FC of the USL Championship soccer league has been periodically reaching out to their season ticket members to see how they’re fairing among stay-at-home orders. This also gives their fans a chance to ask questions about a potentially shortened season and what steps the club is taking in preparation. Transparency keeps your fans informed and encourages them to remain a season ticket holder.
What Happens Next
Eventually sports will return. How, when, or what that will look like remains to be seen. Will teams be playing in empty venues? Will games need to be rescheduled? Among all these questions, there is one thing that you can do right now. Prepare.
Part of this preparation will be integrating the technology and engagement methods you’re using now when play resumes. According to Andrew Shannon, Director of Emerging Technology of the Atlanta Falcons,
Whatever is shown to be effective will continue to be weaved into the sports experience.
As you adapt to these unprecedented times, use it as a learning experience. The things you do now can only strengthen your fan engagement moving forward.
If you need assistance, want us to create a graphic using your brand guidelines, or need something custom tailored for your audience, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.