Fan fidelity: the importance of digital fan engagement
Sports are laying the groundwork for enhanced digital consumer engagement
When the pandemic forced the public to stop attending live sports events, rights holders were given a renewed appreciation for the value of engaging with fans digitally. Moving forward, digital fan engagement will become indispensable – and could offer a roadmap for uplevelling brand loyalty.
Even before the pandemic, digital innovation for sports fans was ripe for development. Blockchain-based company Chiliz, for example, launched Socios.com in November 2019 as a fan engagement app. At the time, Chiliz CEO Alexandre Dreyfus noted that “99% of sports fans are not in the stadium.” He pointed out that sports had become a global phenomenon, propelled “by social media, global TV rights, and the attraction of superstar players.” Socios.com addresses this by giving fans the opportunity to earn rewards and incentives for engaging with their favourite club. By hunting, buying, or earning fan tokens, supporters get to influence club matters by voting in polls and surveys. Tokens act as a type of virtual membership, entitling the holder to rewards, merchandise and one-of-a-kind experiences.
The COVID-19 outbreak has seen this trend reach new heights. In September 2020, the Mumbai Indians cricket team launched a number of virtual offers to unite and engage its army of fans, known as the Paltan. Among them is Paltan Play, launched in association with Samsung. The second-screen experience for matchdays allows fans to compete against one another by predicting events in the game, such as runs scored or wickets per over.
Digital fan engagement will become indispensable – and could offer a roadmap for uplevelling brand loyalty
LaLiga North America is taking a unique approach, tapping into the growing trend of watch parties to deliver a VIP experience for a group of Spanish football superfans. It is hosting a series of five exclusive watch parties on the LiveLike platform, presented by LaLiga legends such as Samuel Eto’o and Diego Forlán. It’s also streaming Q&As with the players along with a live chat room throughout the game.
Alongside fun digital matchday experiences like these, fans want 24/7 content that gets them closer to the athletes and the action. That’s why legendary team FC Barcelona is now heavily investing in specialty entertainment. In summer 2020, the organisation launched its dedicated streaming platform Barça TV+, a treasure trove for fans, featuring more than 1,000 hours of content including live matches and replays, behind the scenes exclusives and hidden gems from its content archive. The club also boasts its own production house tasked with creating content for the platform, including original documentaries and series, and even a football-based original drama.
The Barça TV+ launch is linked to the Culers Premium Membership program. An evolution of an existing membership scheme, Culers Premium offers full access to all digital fan services alongside eligibility for a range of discounts, special offers and prize-drawing opportunities.
Why digital fan engagement matters
A rich new era of fan engagement that prioritises experience and immersion across multiple digital touchpoints offers brands a new playbook for consumer engagement – and could hold the key to long-term loyalty. As Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer for WWE, said in a CES 2021 panel about the future fan experience, “Where the intersection of tech [and sports] really becomes successful is when it creates an emotional experience, an emotional connection for the audience.”
10 February 2021