Sports teams are fueled by arguably the most die-hard brand ambassadors on the planet.
They demonstrate their love – and in many cases lifelong commitment - for the product at every corner. They wear the brand on their body, place stickers on their vehicles, flags on their homes and profess that fandom with an endless number of posts across social media.
As a sports marketer, it is our job to continually stoke that fire by delivering moments to keep that passion on the rise.
The challenge for sports marketers – and many in digital media – is finding the best way to deliver that impactful content and messaging to the right fan on the right platform at the right time.
The Holy Grail for all marketers is to come as close as possible in delivering communications that feel like a one-on-one conversation between the product and the consumer.
So with a rabid set of brand lovers in the arsenal, how do sports marketers achieve that direct engagement with each fan?
All fans are unique in their experiences
The starting point comes with one obvious - but very easy to overlook on a daily basis – assessment. All fans are not created equal.
Fans consume your product differently. Some have followed you for years, others only recently became a fan. Some attend every game, others consume from afar via TV, radio, mobile apps, social media, etc. But all love their team.
The mechanisms in place to reach these fans via digital channels have never been stronger, more versatile and more direct. Yet, each has its own set of challenges:
- The old reliable website – the relic that launched this digital era – remains one of your most valuable assets, particularly in regards to ticket sales, sponsorship assets and retail opportunities. But it’s no longer viewed as strongly as the starting point for all conversations as it once was in your communications.
- Team mobile apps – the on-the-go companion to the website – offers one of the best and direct options to get your message straight into a fan’s hand via push notifications and proximity messaging. That is, until app overload comes into play and your app doesn’t make the cut in keeping notifications on.
- Email continues to provide a consist method for reaching a particular audience with a targeted message. And that message is sitting in an inbox with many, many others, waiting for attention. No one conquers “inbox zero” for long before the challenge begins again. If only you could teach that email to wave and say “hey, look at me”.
- Social media messages continue to see organic posts declines based on algorithm shifts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Paid can be effective, for as long as your budget will allow.
Not as easy as it seems
Except it is working, as long as you’re remembering they all are equally important.
That website homepage may not be as strong as a primary destination as it once was, but those landing pages have grown in importance and simplifying that navigation has allowed fans to quickly find other content.
Those mobile app notifications may get turned off, but that fan has your communications in their pocket at all times. And when he wants the information, it’s there.
We quickly get hung up on email open rates, wonder how we can encourage more clicks and wonder if the value is worth the effort. Yet those sales from those communications tend to suggest it is, especially for those lucky enough to not get sucked into the over-consumption portal known as social media.
While the social media game has somewhat stabilized in sports marketing to the core four – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat – the direct conversations are getting even better thanks to a new teammate that is challenging for playing time.
Chatbots - Not only for a better customer service
Chatbot usage is on the rise and Facebook Messenger has quickly elevated to the top of the game when it comes to brands utilizing artificial intelligence to provide a better experience for customers. CNN, Kayak and Gatorade are a few brands that have leveraged Messenger to deliver unique experiences to followers.
Chatbots – and their voice activated cousins Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc. – are the next step for brands to establish a one-on-one experience with a costumer.
In sports, it becomes a companion for watching at home, or the concierge when you’re ready to watch it live. Imagine quickly finding a seat to purchase for a game you want to attend on a certain day of the week or against a particular team, based on a conversation with a bot.
That communication continues as you enter the building with the bot helping you find concession items, restrooms and other amenities in the building, while also engaging with content on the video boards (that also creates fantastic inventory for your corporate partners).
Don't Stay Behind, Move Forward
Chatbot usage is on the rise, and should continue to see solid integrations in the foreseeable future. We’re a text-happy society and as this technology continues to become more and more advanced, that personal assistant in your pocket is going to learn more about you and help provide that experience with the team that is most important to you.
So while it’s not time yet to abandon those channels that have been the fruits of your labors for the last 10-15 years, the new kids on the block are starting to knock on the door and usher in the next chapter of fan engagement.