Enabling business growth through technology and people transformation in the sports & entertainment industry

Quick Technology Wins | Placing the fan at the centre of everything!  

By Hannah Jane Thompson (Digital Media Intern at Loughborough Sport & MSc Social Science Research student)

Fan engagement is clearly important for the success of the sports industry, the way in which fans engage in sport is constantly developing but what is at the forefront of this evolving industry? But, for me, the fan must be central to the experience, thinking about what you would like to experience if you were in their shoes.

Fans may be consumers as well as being loyal followers of their respective sport, but there’s a fine line between exploiting their loyalty and driving their engagement. For me, when I watch a sporting event, I want an authentic experience where I can enjoy the sport as a spectacle whilst having the opportunity to engage with quick technology wins.

Technology wins for me is anything that speeds up the process from getting to my seat or standing area. I don’t mind queuing if the queue is moving and moving quickly! Whether that’s ticketing, food or fan stores. Technology can drive fan engagement by making the process easier to get from A to B making me more likely to buy more or return.

I cannot stress enough the idea of being authentic. I don’t want to feel like I’m being monitored. Being at the Sports Business Conference was an insightful experience but one where I wanted to scream at times. Remember your audience. We don’t want to feel like data to you nor do we want to feel like you’re watching our every move. I don’t want you to profile me, nor do I want you to select my choices for me.

One fan engagement piece that was discussed at SBS was a food sales quiz and the answers providing discounts and data to then send push notifications of the items being on offer. During a match I do not want to be head down on my phone swiping away and clicking on notifications, I want to be enjoying the match. Although phones have become an extension of the arm, watching live sport it becomes one of those scarce moments where you can sit back and enjoy some live action away from the noise of your phone.

However, that’s not to say that phones can’t be an important tool in driving fan engagement, but it must be authentic, original and shouldn’t feel imposing nor pressurising.  For me, fan engagement is how close can we make fans feel to the space, place and players. How can we build that brand trust and create a community of returning fans who then turn into consumers, rather than consumer to fan.

I want to be able to vote for my player of the match, find out more about players, news and the grounds I visit. I want a digitalised match program with interactivity. I want to be able to see action replays at the touch of a button, VAR decisions or whatever it might be. I want a match centre on my phone for the moments I miss or need to see again. Give fans the opportunity to share their content and feel part of the story-telling nature of sports narratives. Let fans have access to live match statistics, let them feel like they’re the expert, the assistant manager or whatever they aspire to be.  But I want this experience to be integrated with the live event and not detract from the experience of being at a live match.

There’s clearly a fine balance to be had and a wide audience to please but please look at us as people and speak to your fans to see what they want. It’s their experience that you facilitate, and they should be at the centre of your thinking at all times.

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