How the sports industry is approaching post-pandemic fan engagement


  • With the masses huddled at home and glued to our screens, the last several months of frozen competition provided an opportunity for sports franchises to experiment with creative modes of fan engagement, often involving multiple media channels.
  • On another level, this is a challenge that wasn’t prompted by COVID-19 and won’t go away when COVID-19 does.
  • Franchise marketers are accelerating their digital transformation processes, finding innovative ways to connect with fans online, with VR, community building and repackaging classic content.

Due to well-founded fears that COVID-19 would run rampant in locker rooms and stadiums, basically all major league sports completely shut down on-field operations across the world for a few months in early 2020.

With the masses huddled at home and glued to our screens, the last several months of frozen competition provided an opportunity for sports franchises to experiment with creative modes of fan engagement, often involving multiple media channels.

What’s more, the coronavirus crisis hasn’t ended like we hoped it would by now, but the world is already talking about the “new normal” of post-pandemic life – incorporating lessons learned from the COVID-19 situation into the indefinite future, regardless of when the immediate need to curb the spread of this specific virus actually passes. And so leagues around the world have finally begun picking up play again, albeit with empty arenas for the most part.

In this sense, they face a new challenge, figuring out how to involve fans in the game experience without being able to lean on the in-stadium experience as the pinnacle that all other modes of fan engagement try to emulate and reinforce. But on another level, this is a challenge that wasn’t prompted by COVID-19 and won’t go away when COVID-19 does.

Many teams have seen their global fanbases grow steadily in the last few years, creating the need to serve up rich engagement for audiences who can’t attend games in person regularly – or ever.

Coronavirus is encouraging franchise marketers to speed up digital transformation and find new and better ways to connect with fans online, Rob O’Siochain, a partner at London-based event marketing agency TRO, recently told Campaign magazine.

“Covid-19 is, without doubt, going to act as an accelerant for the long-awaited levelling up of the fan experience and the value attributed to the role and real data of the fan,” he explained. “Brands and rights holders are going to need to work far more collaboratively, strategically and creatively to build a more diverse, direct and accessible experience for the fans.”

Head back to the stadium – virtually

After months of deprivation, fans are panting to see their favorite teams. For the moment, they are so eager to return to live sports that they are ecstatic over any live game broadcast. On July 5, some 5.7 million…



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