Sometimes, inspiration is found at the intersection of coincidence, and a desire to make a change for the better. Practically, it comes from the synergy between technology, social media, and our need to feel like we’re part of a team; part of something bigger.
A short time ago, we had a blog post about converting your casual fans into hardcore fans. Essentially, what you want to do is to try to stand out as much as possible while exposing casual fans to what it's like being a hardcore fan. Today, we'd like to dive deeper into community engagement with casual fans to take them to the next level. Taking the right approach to cultivating a strong community is one of the best ways of growing your hardcore fan base.
There’s nothing that can top the stadium experience. While there are perks with the home experience; better camera angles, softer seats, free food, as well as the potential for augmented/virtual reality and multi-platform, multimedia experiences; nothing tops the roar of the crowd and the collective energy of the fans. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t pressure on stadiums to deliver an experience that the living room or pub won’t ever match. It needs to be about more than just atmosphere and loud chanting; there needs to be something magical about their in-person viewing. Thankfully, fans know what they want from their stadium experience, and clubs that can deliver can get the ultimate reward; loyal and engaged fans.
Once upon a time, the only thing that fans in the stands were holding in their hands during a live game was a hot dog, a pint, or a supporter’s flag. Now, it’s a mobile phone.
Sadly, instead of watching the greatest stars of our generation score epic goals live, fans are experiencing it through a screen, never experiencing it with their own eyes, and doing it for the likes. This is an all too common occurrence in stadiums these days. They’re losing that intimate fan experience of seeing history in real time, because they’re doing an Instagram Live, live-tweeting from their seats, or posting a TikTok, while players looking up in the stands in celebration see nothing but outstretched phones, instead of thousands of screaming fans.
It’s been a long time coming, but finally, sports are back. It’s being played in empty stadiums, arenas and bubbles, but we can cheer on our teams again.
For a while there, it felt like watching live sports was a foregone conclusion. Sports fans were missing their go-to form of entertainment, and frankly, the uncertainty of saving, starting, or concluding a 2020 season was causing a fair bit of anxiety. On the other side, leagues and programmers were also feeling the pressure to feed the appetites of fans that need to feel connected to their teams and athletes. While the first quarter of this year seemed like the end of the world, it instead offered brands the perfect opportunity to forge deeper relationships with their fans, by reminding them that there’s more to sports than what you see on the field.
First thing's first: what makes a casual fan different from a hardcore fan? A casual fan is someone who cares about the sport and watches it but isn't too invested. They may tune in to the game once per week, or maybe once every few weeks when there's a big game, and other than that, football isn't a big part of their life. The casual fan probably (but not certainly) has a favorite team they root for, but it's a very superficial kind of support. They're unlikely to attend games in a stadium, and they might buy a jersey… maybe.
With 24/7 sports channels, dedicated sports radio, and no shortage of fan-focused podcasts, fan-run websites and social media accounts, there is no “true” off-season for a sports fan. In reality, it’s just an exceptionally long break between games. But just because there are other sources out there for fans to share and celebrate their teams, doesn’t mean a sports organization can completely go radio silent in the offseason. In fact, there have never been as many opportunities for teams to stay connected with fans all year long, and there’s no excuse not to.
Social media is an overall great addition to the world of sports. It allows for more people to enjoy the games we all love, but also for more depth of discussion and more personal interactions between fans, teams, and players. It’s always smooth sailing, however. Sometimes, social media can be a negative influence on sports and on fan experience. Here’s 7 ways in which social media has failed the world of sports:
In-Game Data and Analytics
Data and analytics have been growing at an accelerating pace in sports. Ever since the notorious 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics, largely fuelled by the data-driven roster building and strategizing, sports franchises have been trying to implement their own “Moneyball” strategy to their own team and their own sport.
There is a beautiful connection between being a sports fan and feeling like you’re a part of a supportive community. When we all gather together to watch a game, all divisions seem irrelevant, and we’re all just chanting and enraptured by the competition in front of us. And nowhere is this more prevalent than in the football community. Fans of the beautiful game just get what it feels like to be in a family of fans that live, breathe, and dream of their club.