Fan engagement strategies for sports industry (2023)

Get inspired with new fan engagement strategies. Maybe they should be part of your strategy for the coming year?

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Fans who support their favourite teams and players through attendance, viewership, and engagement provide the fuel for those teams to succeed. This support and passion is the foundation of effective sport fan engagement, which aims to create a more personal connection between sports organisations and their audience.
By providing an end-to-end experience for fans before, during, and after events, sports organisations can build brand loyalty and increase revenue. Today, technology has made it easier than ever to engage with fans, even from a distance, and sports organisations must adapt to this changing landscape to continue to thrive.

What is fan engagement in Sports?

Fan engagement in sports is the practice of providing a comprehensive and enjoyable experience for fans throughout their journey with a sports organisation. This can include providing information and entertainment before, during, and after events, as well as creating opportunities for two-way communication between the organisation and its fans. The goal of fan engagement is to build brand loyalty and strengthen the connection between fans and the team or league they support. This can ultimately lead to increased revenue for the organisation through ticket sales, merchandise purchases, and other fan spending.

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Digital transformation in fan engagement

As technology continues to evolve, sports organisations must adapt their fan engagement strategies in order to maintain and strengthen their connections with fans. In the past, fan engagement primarily consisted of in-person interactions, such as cheering from the stands or buying team merchandise. However, the rise of technology has enabled sports organisations to create deeper, more meaningful connections with fans, even from a distance. This is especially important in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted traditional forms of fan engagement and made it even more important for sports organisations to adapt to new ways of connecting with their audience. By using digital tools and engaging with fans in a personalized and meaningful way, sports organisations can continue to thrive and build brand loyalty.

Sports organisations are constantly seeking ways to engage with their fans and create a competitive advantage. This is particularly important for reaching younger demographics, such as millennials and Gen Z, who demand a personalized and engaging experience from the brands they support. By engaging with fans, sports organisations can increase their revenue through ticket sales, merchandise purchases, and other spending.

According to a 2018 Sports Fan Engagement Marketing Report by Gameplan Insights and Magid Associates, about 60% of sports fans are willing to spend more on experiences with their favorite teams and athletes. However, this willingness is not guaranteed and sports organisations must understand their fans’ desires, wants, needs, and motivations in order to create a successful engagement strategy.

To engage with fans effectively, sports organisations should consider conducting research to understand their audience, creating personalized experiences, and using social media to connect with fans. In addition, organisations can host events and promotions to keep fans engaged and provide opportunities for them to interact with the team. By implementing these strategies, sports organisations can build stronger relationships with their fans and increase their revenue. 

Digital sponsorship activation

One challenge that sponsors of sports teams and leagues face is the need to adapt to the increasingly digital landscape of sports. In the past, sponsorships were primarily focused on physical elements such as LED banners at stadiums and shirt sponsorships. However, with the rise of digital media and streaming platforms, sports organisations are now able to offer more dynamic and engaging sponsorship opportunities. This shift presents both challenges and opportunities for sponsors, as they must adapt their strategies to take advantage of the new digital landscape.

To successfully navigate this changing landscape, sponsors must be willing to explore new and innovative ways of engaging with fans. This can include sponsoring social media campaigns, creating sponsored content for streaming platforms, and developing personalized experiences for fans. By embracing these new opportunities, sponsors can continue to build strong relationships with sports organisations and their fans, and create a competitive advantage in the crowded market of sports sponsorships.

Digital banner ads, gamification, and other app-based campaign activities can be a highly effective way to activate digital sponsorships.

Digital banner ads, for example, can be a powerful tool for promoting a business’s products or services to a targeted audience. These ads can be displayed within a fan app or on a website, and can be customized to showcase the business’s products or services in a compelling way. By incorporating a call-to-action, such as a discount code or a link to the business’s website, digital banner ads can drive traffic and engagement for the business.

Gamification is another effective approach to digital sponsorship activation. This involves using game-like elements, such as points, rewards, and challenges, to engage and motivate a creator’s audience to take action. For example, a business could sponsor a contest within an fan app that rewards users for completing certain tasks, such as sharing content on social media or making a purchase. This can not only drive engagement and excitement, but also help the business achieve its goals, such as increasing brand awareness or driving sales.

Other app-based campaign activities, such as Man of the match votes and Goal of the season, can also be effective ways to activate digital sponsorships. These activities can create a sense of community and engagement among the creator’s audience, and can provide businesses with an opportunity to promote their products or services in a more organic and authentic way.

Overall, app-based campaign activities like digital banner ads, gamification, and contests can be powerful tools for activating digital sponsorships and promoting a business’s products or services. By incorporating these strategies into their digital sponsorship plan, businesses can effectively reach their target audience and drive more value for their business. See some of our fan engagement examples on digital sponsor activation.

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6 Fan Engagement Strategies for Sports organisations

Are you ready for 2023? Here is some inspiration on how you could add fan engagement to your overall business strategy for your sports organization or league.

1. Who is your audience?

Sports organizations are constantly seeking ways to engage with their fans and create a competitive advantage. This is particularly important in today’s digital landscape, where fans have more options and greater access to content than ever before. To effectively engage with their audience, sports organizations must first understand their needs, goals, motivations, and behaviors. This can be achieved through the use of data analytics, UX research techniques, and case studies from other clubs or leagues.

By collecting and analyzing data from multiple touchpoints, such as social media, streaming platforms, and in-person events, sports organizations can gain valuable insights into their audience. This information can then be used to create personalized content and experiences that will engage and grow the organization’s fan base. For example, data analytics can reveal how many fans are dedicated followers of a specific athlete, how the number of followers changes over time, and what types of content and experiences they respond to best.

In addition to using data and technology to understand their audience, sports organizations can also host events and promotions, to keep fans engaged and provide opportunities for them to interact with the team. This can include contests, meet and greets, and other digital gamification experiences that give fans a more personal connection with the team or league.
By implementing these strategies, sports organizations can build stronger relationships with their fans and increase their revenue.

2. Make your fans feel special

Personalized experiences are a powerful tool for sports organizations looking to engage their fans. By creating content and experiences that are tailored to each individual fan, organizations can make their audience feel valued and special. This can include simple gestures like using a fan’s name when signing up for a newsletter or more complex experiences such as virtual reality simulations tailored to their interests. The more relevant and personalized the content, the more likely fans are to engage with the brand, sport, or player.

To effectively create personalized experiences, sports organizations must use data and technology to understand their audience and provide content that is tailored to their needs and interests.

An example could be a personality test for your fans on “Which kind of fan are you?” where you create tailored content based on the answers you get from your fans. For example “Couch fan”, “Hooligan”, “Traditional fan”, “Family fan” etc. In that way, you could make your fans feel special because they feel like getting a personalized experience. The campaign could be created as a club fan engagement activity or in cooperation with one of your commercial partners.

3. Give your fans exclusive content

In the Danish handball league, the organization has implemented a live streaming service that allows fans to follow their teams in every match and from anywhere. This service is available exclusively through the national league app and is a national agreement that allows the national federation to show matches that are not broadcast on national television. (Read more about their league-wide solution here.)

By offering a live streaming service, the Danish Tophandball league app is able to engage with its fans in a more interactive and personal way. Not only do fans have access to live matches, but they can also receive updates and highlights from around the event in real time. This creates a more engaging experience for fans and encourages them to download the app and engage with the league on a regular basis.

Furthermore, by offering a live streaming service, the Danish handball league is able to collect first-party data on their fans. This data can provide valuable insights into their audience, such as which teams and players are most popular, and how fans engage with the app and its features. This information can then be used to improve the fan experience and create more effective fan engagement strategies. Overall, the implementation of a live streaming service is a valuable tool for sports organizations looking to engage with their fans and collect valuable data on their audience.

4. Keep your fans engaged off-site the match day activities

Fan engagement is an ongoing process, and it is the job of sports organisations to facilitate connections with their fans on a regular basis. This can be done through various means, such as bringing together like-minded fans at events, or providing opportunities for fans to share their experiences with one another.

On non-game days, sports organisations can create special events or experiences that engage with their fans. These can include promotions and deals, exclusive digital content, giveaways and contests. By providing these off-site connections, sports organisations can keep their fans engaged and excited about the brand, even when there are no live games or events.

Overall, fan engagement is an ongoing process that requires sports organisations to provide opportunities for fans to connect with the brand and with one another. By facilitating these connections, sports organisations can build brand loyalty and keep their fans engaged and excited about their favorite teams and athletes.

One way that sports organisations can engage with their fans on a regular basis is through the implementation of ongoing concepts and campaigns. These can be used to build excitement and engagement throughout the week or month, and can be tied to events or seasons, such as a Christmas calendar or a goal of the month award.

For example, a sports organisation could create a Christmas calendar that engages with fans through the entire holiday season. This could include daily prizes, exclusive content, and interactive experiences that keep fans engaged with the brand. This type of campaign is not dependent on on-site experiences, and can be accessed by fans from anywhere.

Additionally, sports organisations can leverage their partnerships with sponsors to create digital campaigns and activations that engage with fans on a regular basis. These can be tied to specific events or seasons, and can provide valuable exposure for sponsors while also providing engaging experiences for fans.

Overall, ongoing concepts and campaigns provide a valuable tool for sports organisations to engage with their fans on a regular basis, and can be used to build excitement and loyalty for the brand.

Every fan love connecting with their favourite sport, and digital technology is a now-a days a necessary approach to increase and retain your fan base.

5. Dont rely too much on Social media platforms in the future

While social media is an important part of any fan engagement strategy, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gain high levels of engagement on these platforms due to algorithm changes. Instead of relying solely on social media to engage with fans, sports organisations can use these platforms to create awareness and drive traffic to their own platforms, such as a branded app or website.

By doing this, sports organisations can gain direct access to first-party data on their fans and create more personalized experiences for them. Additionally, owning your own platform allows for better control over the user experience and helps to avoid the potential drawbacks of relying on third-party platforms.

To effectively leverage social media in this way, sports organisations can create unique and shareable content on their own platforms and use social media to promote it. This can include behind-the-scenes glimpses of the team, exclusive offers, and contests. By using social media to drive traffic to your own platform, you can create a more engaging experience for your fans and build a stronger connection with them.

6. NFT the new way of fan engagement

By creating digital collectibles, sports teams can offer fans a unique and exciting way to engage with their favourite teams and athletes. These digital assets can be traded and exchanged, adding an element of competition and fun to the fan experience.

Using technologies like blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), sports teams can create digital collectibles that are secure and verifiable, giving fans confidence in their value. These collectibles can be used as rewards for participating in fan engagement activities, such as attending games or purchasing merchandise.

In addition, digital collectibles can serve as a new revenue stream for sports teams, as fans are often willing to pay for unique and valuable items. By offering fans the opportunity to own a piece of their favourite team or athlete, sports teams can create a new level of engagement and build stronger connections with their fan base.

Build fan engagement around a mobile sport app

The use of mobile apps in sports has proven to be an effective way to engage with fans and improve the overall fan experience. By providing exclusive content, personalised experiences, and the ability to purchase tickets and merchandise, sports teams and leagues can drive customer loyalty and increase revenue. Additionally, the use of mobile apps allows sports organisations to collect valuable data on their fans, which can be used to better understand their needs and preferences. With the rise of mobile technology, the development of a mobile app should be a key component of any sports organisation’s fan engagement strategy.

How could mobile app be the center of your fan engagement?

  • Personalization – Create a personalized and engaging experience for your fans with a mobile fan app
  • Push notification – Use notifications to keep fans up-to-date on game/player developments and promotion
  • Community – Build communities within the fan app where fans can connect and discuss their shared interest
  • Monetize – Sell tickets, merchandise, and team-branded items directly through the app
  • Unique content – Provide exclusive content, such as behind-the-scenes videos and training tips, to enhance the fan experience
  • Fan Loyalty – Collect valuable data on your fans to improve engagement drive loyalty and reward your most loyal fans
  • Gamification – Built special fun and games to interact with your fans on a daily basis
  • Sponsorship – Give your sponsors a new way to activate your sponsorship and generate new revenue
  • Statistics – Integrate interesting stats and performance metrics on matches and players.
  • Streaming – Stream matches or training camps, youth matches exclusively
  • Ticket wallet – Use the platform as a wallet for your tickets or season ticketcard to access the stadium.

Manage, analyze, and access your fan’s behavior

To get a clear understanding of your fans you need to have the infrastructure right, you need to be able to get a deep dive into your fan’s behavior. With a backend management platform and commercial engine, you are able to get the insights you need. Furthermore, you will have the possibility to segment, target, and personalize your content to specific audiences. It will give you the opportunity to measure your fan engagement activity over time get the most out of your users and reward the most loyal users so that they can’t stop engaging with your brand.

Need help on how you could activate your fans within sport?

As a leader in the sports marketing field, Many Digital offers specialized services in activating digital sponsorships for our clients in the sports industry. Our team has the experience and knowledge necessary to help your team or sports federation achieve success. We offer a white-label app and TeamManager commercial engine to help you engage with fans and enhance their experience. Our team is dedicated to helping you research your fans, design and develop a high-quality fan app, and provide ongoing support and maintenance to ensure your fan app stays at the top of its game. Let us help you give your team the best possible chance of success.

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