Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sports Teams Show the Way to Customer Engagement

Sports are big business. That’s not anything new or surprisingit’s been a fact of the sports world for decades. From ticket sales to merchandise to premium TV and streaming subscriptions, pro (in particular, but not exclusively) sports teams have many ways of extracting billions of dollars and euros and yen etc. from the pockets of eager fans around the world. Rather than balk at the thought of their favorite franchise being a large corporation raking in record revenue, however, fans are engaging with their teams like never before. What’s behind this?


At NRF 2015 in New York City, a panel representing several professional sports leagues and teams gathered for a keynote session titled “Game Changer: Loyalty and Performance Lessons from Passionate Sports Fandom.” The lessons covered in the session apply not only to sports but to any organization interested in creating a compelling brand and building consumer loyalty. Having a great product helps of course, but the most successful leagues and franchises go well beyond that.


Back in the olden dayssay, 50 to 80 years agoa fan had three or four ways of engaging with their team: go to the game, listen/watch live on the radio or TV, or read about it in the newspaper. Today, teams and even individual players can keep that relationship going not only after the game ends, but well after the season ends. Social media is the most obvious example. Fans now have instant access to news about teams and players all year long, and often straight from the teams and players themselves. Two-way conversations can build connections not seen since the days of baseball players stopping on their way home from a game for a round of stickball with the neighborhood kids.


Beyond social media, pro clubs now have unprecedented knowledge about their followers, from the casual to the most loyal among them. Big data and analytics let them engage with those fans the right way, and target them with the most appropriate and effective offers. Readers of this blog are well aware that this is not unique to the world of sports, but sports orgs have been setting outstanding examples of personalized engagement and are growing more sophisticated in these efforts.


The result is a case of success breeding success. Building a loyal fan base gives sports teams the ability to pay more for top talent, theoretically leading to more success on the field/pitch/court/ice, garnering more fans, etc. Social and engagement technologies make it easy for teams and players to not take their fans for granted, and for fans to experience the game in a very connected and personal way.






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