Because of the coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak, major sports leagues were expected to turn their games into “ghost games” and were told to expect that they would be playing their games behind closed doors. No Press. No Fans. That in and of itself was shocking and never done before. In most recent events, the NBA, NHL, MLB and Soccer Leagues worldwide have all indefinitely canceled or postponed their 2020 season. This has all been done in an attempt to further combat the spread of the virus. Before the cancelation of the season, Lebron James stated “I don’t have fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates. I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans, I ain’t playing.” While we can all appreciate James’ testament to not wanting to play without fans, the ones who make the sports industry the sports industry, we can also understand the reasoning and concern behind this move and regulation to combat the spread of coronavirus.
COVID-19 has already begun to affect our everyday lives. Most of the world is working from home and cities and towns are facing new restrictions to their once daily schedules. What’s also changing, in a big way, is the way in which we can consume our sports. At a time like this, sometimes catching the game with your family or friends, was the perfect way to feel better during uneasy times. But there are no longer any games. Fans, teams and team sponsors have all taken a huge hit.
The Direct Effect:
The Fan Experience
The Fan Experience is something we talk a lot about. And it’s important to note that the Fan Experience goes way beyond game-day. The Fan Experience, some could say, is an everyday thing. The way fans interact with the social content of their teams, the sports news channels they follow, and even the conversations being had at work or with friends on which team or player is ultimately better.
The Fan Experience becomes especially important the moment a fan purchases a ticket or a season pass, as teams are then able to identify their fans and begin the process of creating personalized messaging tailored to said fans wants and needs. They’re able to collect valuable fan data through this process. Through this data they’re able to personalize their messaging. Without any new games, there is no new data.
When you think or talk about the fan experience, the data behind it all never really comes to mind. However, pulling data from the actions and likes of your fans actually improves their experiences tenfold. Without the ability to sell tickets and collect data that way, what can teams do?
Team Content & Sponsors
As fans, we aren’t the only ones hurting here. Teams and their sponsors have all taken a huge hit. Sponsors and partners no longer have the real-estate of huge arenas and stadiums and are still expecting some kind of ROI. Teams and their content managers have no real new content to share from games and practices. The standard trivia and poll games that are often seen in sports media, just won’t cut it anymore. While yes, those posts typically do have great engagement, what are the likes and comments really bringing to the table? Are you able to identify those fans that participated? Teams can’t turn to social media as the social networks own all of their actual page data. That’s why it’s imperative that teams are able to own all of their fan data, so that they can continue to create personalized and engaging fan experiences.
Now more than ever, teams need to go digital. They need to restore their engagement with their fans and continue building and generating great fan experiences, even when there is no action on the field.
Throughout this uncertain time, we’re seeing many players and teams on social media share how they are passing the time in self-isolation and calling on everyone to #staysafe and #stayhome. At a time like this, teams need to support their fans, show their love and appreciation and let them feel that even through all of this, the team is there for them. This can all be done through various digital activations which will enable teams to build custom activations for their fans on social. They can range from creating something informative on the team or its history by using fun and engaging sports hubs or sports portals to keep their fans engaged and always a part of the conversation.
No one likes to be in the dark, especially dedicated fans. Through engagement hubs and custom digital activations, valuable data on fans, which was until recently collected in-stadium at low volumes, can be collected on digital channels for fans around the globe. The data can be used to not only enrich their experience as fans but also to add revenue to the teams’ bottom lines. Through those digital activations, a team can learn details specific to each fan. From what branded jersey they would prefer to what kind of ticket holder they are or want to be. It’s important to serve relevant content to your fans so that they can feel that loyalty, not only from themselves, but from their teams.
During this period of uneasiness and ambiguity, real and authentic engagement is more important than ever. Not only can it ease tension or provide an escape to the negatives, but it can also enrich the community of the sports fan world and enhance the fan experience. Teams, especially these days, should be closer to their fans than ever and give them the solution for escapism with fun and engaging activations. While teams don’t have all of the answers, they have the data to build up the communities that surround them and still make sure they receive and own the data they are in need of. #stayconnected and #staysafe.