Jan 11, 2021

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

Sport is an inspiring, immersive and emotion-evoking activity. For this reason, sports industry is often referred to as an experience business. At the same time, fans’ expectations are continually evolving, and sports brands have no other option than to innovate and constantly be on their toes to provide deeper engagement.

To understand modern fans well, sports clubs must actively participate in the process of their evolution. It’s always been a challenge for sports brands to provide qualitative fan engagement solutions. The ways supporters choose to experience emotions have entirely changed since the first football teams were created.

By analysing the history of the sports clubs’ evolution, we look at the growth of fans’ needs and expectations. We have an easy task for you – try to position yourself on this development axis. Do you already know what next step your club should take to enhance Fan Experience?

football community development 1824 - 2020

11 PLAYERS ON THE PITCH – THE BIRTH OF FOOTBALL

Mid-nineteenth century. England. A big green pitch with white lines and two goals. It’s pouring. Twenty-two males are running after the leather ball.

Back then, no one suspected that the sport, which at that time used to be practised by amateurs, would become the most popular discipline to follow in the next 150 years. 

To see the scale of development, imagine the time machine has been invented. You decide to move to the year 1888 when the first English Football League was officially established. Just before the game begins, you walk up to one of the Newcastle United players.

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

Naturally, you want to impress him, so you tell him the most interesting football statistics from the future.


– “Charlie, would you guess that at the beginning of the 21st century, there will be football stadiums for more than 30 000 supporters in more than 20 countries in the world?”

The Newcastle United midfielder looks at you with pity. 

– “Oh, really? What else? Maybe there will be another 100 000 people watching us from the tree branches?”

– “Well, actually, there will be another few millions of fans watching you on TV and OTT…  but that’s a completely different story. “



At the birth of football, the supporters of sports clubs were players’ families and their closest friends. However, it started to change quickly with “works teams”. Football brands have been evolving, and soon they became an essential part of life for thousands of individuals in the local communities.

LOCAL COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Works team is a sports team that is financed by the owner of a company or a factory. Interestingly, in Europe, we have many examples of massive brands that were created in this way. PSV Eindhoven, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Manchester United F.C.… just to name a few.

Football was an integral part of working-class culture at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. At that time, clubs were representing not only the region from which they came but primarily the values that a given social group had.

It was the battle of values ​​that made new people get involved in these games so quickly and cheer for local teams. Very often, footballers used to be regular workers of various factories that after work turned into players. Their will to win was strictly associated with the community they represented.

FIRST LESSON: If you want to build an involved community, you need to have clear values that are worth following.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION 

As football clubs became the representatives of various communities, their matches were treated not only as one of a few entertainment activities that people had at that time but also as a battle between different social classes.

The victory of a team coming from the lower social class gave a huge dose of satisfaction and hope for the workers in a given region. The competition between them was so emotionally engaging that clubs and players quickly became recognisable in the whole country.

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

Sports brands faced the first challenge – handling recognition. They needed to manage both the positive emotions coming from their supporters and the negative emotions appearing among their rivals’ fans. 

SECOND LESSON: Brand recognition and positioning relates both to your fans and to the supporters of opposing teams. Sponsors will analyse it.

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION 

⇒ 1872, first international match. Scotland played against England.
⇒ 1883, first international tournament. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales competed for the UK Championship.
⇒ July 30, 1930, Montevideo, Uruguay. First World Cup final. 93 000 spectators attended the game.
⇒ 2015, Berlin. Champions League Final, FC Barcelona vs Juventus. Viewership: ~ 382 millions of people. The biggest in sports history.

The development of football clubs’ recognition has been very fast. The revolution in communication that came with the TV and internet entirely changed the “scale of fame” for the best athletes. They no longer have to fight for recognition in their country or even on the continent they live. Currently, it’s a battle for a global audience.

THIRD LESSON: To maximise your sports brand’s reach globally, you should consider using  four communication channels:

  • Websites,
  • Social platforms [Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and more],
  • Video-streaming [OTT, VOD, YouTube],
  • Mobile native applications. 

 

COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES

Sports club’s editorial office is a group of people who have to work hard every day to produce appealing content for the fans. At the end of the twentieth century, their responsibilities were relatively easy – they had to prepare sports news about the team. However, as time passed, the expectations of the quality of the content and its diversity went much higher. 

Providing them with the best tools on the market is an essential factor in improving their operations; thus, enhancing Fan Experience. When looking for such solutions, you should consider two elements: the cost and the quality. The former should be the lowest, the latter should be the highest!

For this reason, TISA created two tools – UMPIRE and BRISK.

UMPIRE is an integrated content management system that helps sports organizations enhance their communication across all digital platforms, boost fan engagement and build community.

BRISK is much more than a social media management tool – it’s a business-driven product that enables sports organizations to create and implement effective social media communication strategies and build relationships with fans.

FOURTH LESSON: Provide your team with the best tools on the market to keep enhancing Fan Experience. 

BETTING COMPANIES

As time went on, ideas for fan involvement in the sports industry kept improving. One of the key questions was how to improve the fans’ experience while monetising it by adding a new revenue stream. 

Betting has a very long history. Even in ancient times, spectators couldn’t remain inert towards the competition they saw. They were participating in various betting contents to check who is the best in the prediction of the winners. 

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

Betting companies have a strong motivation to invest in the sports industry because it gives them direct profits. But how to persuade them to become the sponsor of your (not any other!) brand?

What makes the biggest difference is collecting precise data about your fans and followers. The more detailed the analysis, the easier it is to persuade the potential sponsor to invest money in your brand. Why? Because this way, you increase the probability of their marketing campaign success. 

FIFTH LESSON: Collect precise data about your fans and followers so that you can provide it to your (potential) sponsors.

FAN TOKENS

Another way to create a new revenue stream while enhancing Fan Experience is Tokenization. Regardless of whether you decide to implement Utility Tokens or Security Tokens, it gives you many opportunities to activate fans, appreciate them and additionally monetise.

Socios.com, our partner, was founded in January 2018, and they already managed to change how big brands such as FC Barcelona, Juventus or PSG are operating. Modern fans expect to be involved both emotionally and economically in the functioning of their favourite sports clubs. Times have changed and more people are willing to invest their financial resources in entertainment.

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

Tokens give you an outstanding possibility to provide your most engaged fans with unique rewards such as:

  • Customised birthday wishes from a chosen player of your club,
  • A common picture with a chosen player of your club,
  • Watching the game from a unique perspective such as the roof of the stadium/skybox/coaching bench if possible.
  • Balls / Shirts / Gadgets signed by the players,
  • Access to the wedding session at the stadium,
  • many more -> read here!

 

SIXTH LESSON: Engage your fans using modern solutions, appreciate the most dedicated ones, monetise if possible.

GLOBAL PANDEMIC

The spread of COVID-19 virus is a recent event that strongly influenced Fan Engagement evolution. Even before the global pandemic breakout, we saw the tendency of young generations preferring to stay at home than going to the stadium. Recently, it’s been even further strengthened due to the lockdowns.

This global crisis in the possibility to keep close human relationships is the best proof of the value that secure digital solutions give. It took a lot of work and creativity to bring the fans’ Match Day experience elsewhere. Clubs that managed to transfer much of their relationship with fans to the digital world a long time ago were the winners (or the smallest losers!) of this period.

SEVENTH LESSON: Balance your sports’ organisation budget for an unpredictable future, create new communication channels with your fans.

Still not sure how to do it? Use our strategic advisory service!

BUILDING FAN COMMUNITY = KEEPING ALL THE PEOPLE IN ONE PLACE

Finally, we come to the desired point in our history – November 2020. As you’ve already seen how fan emotions and expectations have been evolving, you’re ultimately able to create your own fan community.

Before you set your communication strategy, remember that it works best if you have all the people that create your community under one roof. Currently, thanks to technological development, there are plenty of easy-to-implement digital solutions that you may start using from now on to achieve it.

One of them is WICKET – a powerful customer identity, consent and access management tool based on SSO – that allows you to possess all the data about your fans in one place. Use it to impress your (potential) sponsors and enhance daily Fan Experience

EIGHTH LESSON: Gather all the members of your Fan Community in one place.

Fan Engagement Evolution: How to Build Your Fan Community

CONCLUSION

A sports brand must deliver in-the-moment experiences that are personal and meaningful to the supporters to win the market. Organisations that understand this turn to innovative digital solutions to vow viewers.  

Digital solutions constitute excellent means to intensify emotions and enhance Fan Experience. Sports executives are currently having conversations about VR, live streaming, social media and mobile solutions. A few years ago this was imponderable. And what today is considered experimental, may soon become an essential part of the sports brand.