The Evolution of Fan Engagement

The Evolution of Fan Engagement

Last week I had the pleasure of attending ‘The Telegraph Business of Sport’ conference. The aim of the event was to steer the UK sports industry towards growth, innovation, and collaboration. The in-depth presentations from the speakers provided me with some great insight into the challenges and opportunities that the sports industry is currently facing.

We were given a broad overview of what both the global, and UK market look like today. Speakers included F.C. Internazionale Milano, Aston Villa, RBS, Facebook, Virgin Money, BT Sport, The British Olympic Association, Channel 4 and the BBC to name a few.

Topics ranged from; growing trade links with China, understanding the business of the Premier League over the next 25 years, and how to bring sport to life through fan-focused technology.

Personally, the key takeaways from this compelling event included;

  • Those who can master how to engage an audience/ fan base on a worldwide basis will reap the rewards
  • Companies within this industry must become better at leveraging technology and the right platforms to enhance the viewing experience

‘Data’ has been a buzzword for the past couple of years, so it was surprising to hear how many companies within the sporting world are still not using insights and data to their advantage. The exception to this was the broadcasters, who seem to be the first to start using data to drive engagement, and to create more personalised experiences for consumers.

Many of the larger football clubs within the Premier League and Champions League are yet to know anything about their fans!

They have started to look into their buying habits, but really need to start to learn more about their behaviours.

An interesting example involved a leading football club in Europe. The club are aware that they have 97 million fans in China alone, and are just starting to understand their worldwide audience. However, unfortunately, their focus has been predominantly on the fans within the stadium itself, with business objectives leaning towards keeping this specific group of fans engaged, with smart stadiums and apps being created to make the experience within the stadium more appealing.

The question here is, are these clubs missing a trick by focussing their attention solely on the 80,000 people within the stadium, rather than the hundreds of millions across the rest of the world?

Isn’t the bigger opportunity here, to create customised content (that these clubs already possess — from interviews with players, to ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage, to statistics on matches) that they already know is incredibly relevant, and start to engage their fans on a global scale to reach a broader audience?

Now that companies are able to learn more about the fans, clubs and sports companies, they have the opportunity to create more content, and start to connect with these fans beyond the stadium.

Who will be the first to engage their audience on a global scale? Football already has global dominance and worldwide reach, so one would presume that a top football club would be the first to capitalise on this. However, who it will be, we will have to wait and see.

- Kate