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The Importance of Engaging Sports Fans Online in a World Without In-Person Audiences

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The world is slowly but surely crawling out of its isolation from the pandemic. While some countries are easing lockdowns faster than others, one thing’s for certain: sports competitions are finally returning… just not in the way most people are used to.

In most cases, fans won’t be allowed to watch any games in person. It’s for our safety, of course. But this leaves sports media companies in a strange place. They’ll be able to share sports events and related news online; however, driving loyalty and excitement among fans may continue to be a struggle.

For this reason, Reach PLC — a U.K.-based media company  has chosen to use Viafoura’s live community chat tool to engage their loyal football fan base. In lieu of live football, they have pivoted to using the tool to engage their audience in past events and anticipation of the season rebeginning. Once the season begins, it will provide a great avenue for fans to interact with each other with the absence of in-person audiences.

“We are delighted to be in partnership with Viafoura in order to enter this brand and brave new world of building deeper relationships with our readers,” says the head of audience engagement for football at Reach, Kristian Walsh.

In a world where people can no longer attend in-person games, the value of online engagement is growing. Here’s why Reach is using our live chat tool to hook sports fans and build a community of loyal supporters around its brands.

Fans Crave Engagement Around Sports

As professionals in the sports media industry, you’ve probably seen how starved of engagement sports fans are right now.

“There is no bigger gateway to a passionate, opinionated audience than sport,” states Walsh.

The Chicago Bears American football team even came across a fan who claimed they would start a hunger strike if football was still banned by the fall. Thankfully, football is now on track to resume in certain countries in the coming weeks.

So what does all this mean for sports media companies?

“Sports are coming back, and audiences are going to want to participate more than ever because they’re so hungry for sports,” says Alex Lea, Senior Account Executive at Viafoura. “Our community chat tool allows them to have a forum to communicate even if they can’t interact live in arenas.”

By giving fans an outlet to interact together online, companies can help satisfy their need to engage with the sports world and build strong connections to others with similar interests.

Reaching the Community Through Live Chat

Before partnering with Viafoura, Reach had a large number of anonymous and loyal readers that would visit their sports brands over 20 times a month. But there wasn’t an effective way for the publisher to convert this traffic to registered users.

Viafoura’s community chat tool offered Reach’s sports brands a solution: Fans can register to interact with others in real time around special online events. As a result, Reach can collect critical details on its most active audience members and continue to build up their loyalty.

“It allows us to chat with those who have been so loyal to us for years,” Walsh explains. “We have always listened to them via audience data, but now we can interact with them one-on-one on this platform.”

Media companies have an opportunity now to engage audience members through live chat tools and drive registrations on their websites or apps. These registration details can be used to send content offers to highly active audience members and boost subscriptions.

Discussing Milestones, Industry Updates and Players

Two of Reach’s brands have already used our community chat tool to host interactive events on major sports milestones and events within their digital properties.

Liverpool Echo, for instance, ran a live Q&A for registrants with a Liverpool Football Club correspondent. 

Audience members had the chance to discuss their memories and questions from a monumental game where Liverpool defeated Barcelona four to zero:

Another Reach media brand known as The Chronicle also ran a live Q&A powered by our community chat tool, giving football fans the chance to debate the possible takeover of an English football club by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Both chat-based events successfully encouraged community members to participate in the sports world and connect over topics they all shared a common interest in. Now, Reach is in a planning phase to leverage this functionality with other brands as well.

“With the current ongoing crisis, it is more important than ever to ensure people feel important and engaged with, which is what our community chats will do with football fans across the world,” Walsh highlights. “I’m excited to see where else we can go, and what else we can do, with Viafoura in the future.”

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