Rather than filling up stadiums to cheer on their favorite players or teams, consumers are gradually becoming used to watching games from the comfort of their homes. As a result, a digital doorway has opened for sports organizations to forge deeper connections with fans.
We know for a fact that fans are hungrier than ever for engagement around sports. And it’s up to sports teams and companies to satisfy this desire remotely.
Embracing this challenge by connecting with fans online can produce a highly active community of known visitors loyal to their brands.
“In my 30-plus-year career in sports, I’ve never seen a greater opportunity for brands to directly engage with fans where they live,” says John Tatum, chief executive of Genesco Sports Enterprises (GSE), a sports marketing consulting firm.
Taking hold of this opportunity to grow your online communities of active, dedicated viewers is actually easier than you might think. Here are four simple engagement strategies that will keep your fans connected and addicted to your brand in the digital sports world:
Introduce Fans to Online Conversation Tools
In a survey conducted by GSE and market research company Harris Insights and Analytics, the majority of sports fans express an appetite for digital social experiences alongside sports content.
Turning to social media to engage fans may seem like a quick solution for sports media companies and teams. Unfortunately, organizations have limited control over their audience’s data, relationships and toxic comments on third-party social platforms.
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A safer and more beneficial way to give sports fans the engagement they crave is to implement commenting tools directly on your website or app. That way, sports organizations can build direct, lucrative relationships with fans in a brand-safe environment.
Keep in mind that effective commenting services will adjust their moderation systems to support each organization’s unique community guidelines. You can then ensure your online social spaces allow for as much heated debating or respectful discussions as you want.
Feature Real-Time Chats Around Content Streams
People value sports for more than just the games and players themselves.
“Sport, in the end, is about stories: watching them, telling them, being a part of them,” Eoin Connolly, a sports industry journalist, writes in a SportsPro article.
“In tech and entertainment terms, [sports companies] need to help fans participate in the content they are watching,” Connolly suggests.
For this reason, companies and teams may want to consider placing a real-time community chat tool beside live games, milestone announcements and matches. This will push consumers to participate in content and feel connected to fellow viewers and sports team members active in the chat.
Host Digital Events
Give your sports fans something to look forward to by hosting interactive events right on your digital properties. While online events can help facilitate general excitement around your company or team, they can also strengthen relationships between brands, players and top fans.
Sports teams, for instance, could invite their most dedicated, engaged fans to attend digital meet-and-greets with their players.
No matter what type of event you may choose to host, the important thing is that attendees have the ability to interact with one another around your brand or team. Make the most of the experience by maximizing engagement through interactive features before, during and after the event using tools like live blogs.
“There is a much higher aptitude for engaging in this virtual format,” states Condé Nast’s SVP of commercial marketing and events, Eric Johnson. “We should be building a business around virtual events because they’re here to stay.”
Provide Personalized Content Experiences
Another way to keep sports fans hooked on your sports content is to customize their experience with your brand using your first-party audience data. By highlighting material that each sports fan finds relevant and interesting, you’ll entice them to return to your digital property time and time again to view your content.
The Los Angeles Chargers, an American football team, plans to build up its community one fan at a time through a customized approach.
According to LA Chargers Chief Marketing Officer Steve Ziff, “we want [people] to fall in love with us because it feels right to them, not because we force ourselves into that equation.”
Ultimately, personalization can help convince consumers that your brand satisfies their unique content needs and is worth supporting.
Whether you’re part of a sports team or media company, engagement is key to forming stronger connections with fanbases online. Find the sports content and experiences that resonate with your audience to hold their attention and develop long-lasting relationships with them.