Being an international fan can be tough — challenging even. As an American expat living in Israel, I know a few things on what it means to be a fan, spectating from thousands of miles away. Personally, the geographical gap between me and my favorite team(s) often leads to that frustrating feeling of being left behind and failing to catch up on the latest news, or just missing that awesome game. To be fair, there are plenty of resources available to use for team and player updates, but I would still like to feel engaged by and with my favorite teams to enhance my experience as a fan. While I'm not a sports fan that's constantly checking news outlets and sports blogs, I'm still by definition a fan nonetheless.
There’s a palpable feeling of disconnection between domestic and international fans, more so with the overall fan experience. Even catching the game is different due to the time zones and the lack of resources to watch a game on a free or trustworthy site. So, from my personal experience of being an expat and working within the Sports and Sports Tech industry, here are my thoughts on a few fan engagement ideas for those fans of yours living abroad.
Content Filled Highlight Reels
The importance of the highlight reel. Highlight reels are, in my opinion, some of the best content to come out of games because they have the power to make a fan feel that they didn’t miss the big moments when they couldn’t catch the game. When you look at accounts like House of Highlights on Twitter and Instagram, it makes sense why the engagement and following count is so high. While part of it's performance is due to those who are using it as a platform to stay up to date on sports and game news, the other part of it has to do with the type of content it’s sharing apart from just player and game highlights, as well as the community it has created and is continuing to foster.
In fact, the creative behind House of Highlights, Omar Raja, has recently taken over the official ESPN and Sports Channel Instagram accounts and has already increased post engagement by 30%. How? By creating a community where there’s more of a two-way conversation between the Worldwide Leader in Sports and its fans. For instance, I’ve stayed loyal to House of Highlights for a few years now when it comes to checking the account for highlight reels and just general industry updates. Even sometimes just for a laugh. Either way, House of Highlights has redefined what constitutes a highlight reel with its strategy of sharing both humorous and serious content, and opening the door for conversations.
But how can we take highlight reels to the next level? Fans and social media users constantly refresh their feeds, looking for new content to engage with. And there’s definitely a way to improve international fan engagement in sports.
Solution: Round-the-clock, content filled highlight reels — and not only after a big game or play. In today’s modern sports fandom, we are video and content hungry, thanks to the likes of Buzzfeed, Bleacher Report and more. Highlight reels should also include everything that’s missed when you miss the game. Ranging from pre and post-game interviews, to player stats of that specific game. Fans who can’t catch the game in real time could have a greater fan experience and better engagement because the highlight reel will be providing more than just the big moments.
Video is so powerful in sports, and the numbers only prove it. It can also open doors in introducing new players in an attempt to engage the new generation of fans.
Did someone say OTT?
These days, it's nearly impossible to read about the sports industry without the mention of OTT and live broadcasting/streaming. OTT providers know what Pay-TV has known for decades- that sports sells subscriptions. This is especially true in a world where having Cable TV is no longer the norm. There is an increasing amount of interest from fans, leagues and broadcasters alike on how to utilize the advantages that OTT streaming and broadcasting can bring to the table. The ability to stream live sports games on devices is more popular than ever. Take for example how Amazon Prime is streaming NFL games every Thursday, as well as Premiere League games. What's even better, is that consumers are willing to pay for this less than traditional way of consuming sports. The Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg and ThePostGame found that "63% of all sports fans are interested in paying for an all-sports over-the-top channel. Of those interested in streaming sports, 56% would pay more for online streaming than for traditional TV channels." Providing this type of option to your fans is not only making things convenient for your fans both domesitcally and internationally, but can even open the door to new fans and viewers that aren't using traditional Pay-TV.
Plus, as an international fan, it's always nice to see those familiar faces of broadcasters and/or commentators from your home country/state.
Social Media in the playing field, literally
Social media has been an undeniable success across any industry that utilizes it. Pair it with the sports industry and you have the perfect combination because sports fans are engaging by nature. What’s also special in this industry is the community of fans around each team or the leagues’ social pages — the open conversations, the custom-made memes, and the fan information. But at the end of the day, even that’s not enough sometimes.
As a 20-something Millennial, I get most of my sports news through social media. In this instance, I follow pages like Bleacher Report, The Sports Channel, ESPN, and more, as well as my favorite teams. And while I enjoy engaging with and sharing the content, I can’t help but wish that more was being done to engage me as a fan living abroad. This is where the importance of Digital Activations come in. I’m lucky to work in the Sports and SportsTech industry to know that such a solution exists where fans can truly feel engaged WITH their teams and not just with their content.
There are a number of digital activations and innovations being led by sports teams and leagues. But the ones that matter and make an impact are those that make it personalized to every fan. It’s one thing to send generalized messages to each fan but how well is that working when it comes to conversions? If you have the option to personalize the content you’re sharing — down to knowing which type of merch, ticket or jersey a fan wants — why wouldn’t you take it? The success behind a digital activation lies in the data it’s collecting. Instead of blast messaging the same offers and content, take it a step further and get to know your fans. With services and platforms like Pico, you can collect true data points on your fans to not only get to know them better but to also cater to what they really want. The more relevant the content you’re serving to your fans, the more likely they’ll help in meeting your business goals and objectives. Plus, Pico will never ask your fans to leave their preferred social channels by downloading an app or filling out a form, which are typically drop-off points. Instead, we integrate our technology onto your fans favorite channels, creating a natural and enhanced experience. It’s time to customize your messaging with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).