Few areas of popular culture have the power to affect people as intensely as sport. Over the course of their lives, an estimated 5% of people will switch religions. How many British football fans will switch from one team to another? Closer to 2%.
It’s all too easy to lump fans into neat boxes: Arsenal fan, Wolves fan, Harlequins fan, cricket fanatic and so on. After all, so many fans see sports not just as a hobby, but part of their identity – who they are. Three-quarters (86%) of Americans identify as a sports fan, believing they are part of the team and displaying a very strong emotional connection, reacting to events that happen to a player or team as if they’re happening to them. They feel good when their team wins, bad when they lose.
'The 360-degree view of a fan that comes from data is, without doubt, the best route to determining the tools a club can use to assist conversion at every stage of the fan journey'
But the reality is that fans are living, breathing, real people, not a 2D persona. Rather than seeing their fans as a collective then, clubs need to recognise them as individuals: separating local and overseas fans, new first-time fans to loyal families of generations of fans. And seeing them not just as distinct groups of ‘fans’ either, but as employees, parents, husbands, sisters, children too.
Many clubs today then are realising the importance of looking after key segments of their fan base. From the die-hard season ticket holders to the international social followers, more and more clubs are introducing schemes and initiatives to reward fans for their affinity to the club. Rewards4 has recognised that today’s consumer-savvy sports fans want to feel rewarded for their loyalty to their club or sport by receiving rewards that are relevant and important to them as well as treats, perks and experiences that they’re excited about. Because while teams capture the sort of passion and engagement that today’s consumer loyalty programmes work hard to achieve, truth is, sports organisations can no longer rely on the loyalty generated by winning trophies alone.
Data builds a complete picture of your fans
Engagement in sport is about building deeper connections with fans and the 360-degree view of a fan that comes from data is, without doubt, the best route to determining the tools a club can use to assist conversion at every stage of the fan journey. This enables clubs to build a stronger relationship with fans, finding out their match day preferences, retail and hospitality needs, location and how and when they prefer to be contacted - in person, online, by email, over the phone - with features, offers and messages which are relevant to those preferences and needs. This creates an effortless bond with the fan meaning that every fan feels valued and has enriched interactions with the club because the club understands exactly who they are and what they want. It also reveals how a club can get the most out of each fan, in a productive way that provides a true value exchange for each.
The integration of the Rewards4 platform with a club ensures that fans are recognised and rewarded for their regular spend away from the sport they love and provides clubs with a unique insight into the consumer, where they spend money away from their club, and enables them to connect this data to their sporting habits. Such insights on spending behaviour enables clubs to drive extra value for their fans quickly and easily and increase their lifetime value to the club.
Each fan touchpoint is an opportunity to collect valuable data that can drive further value to both clubs and sponsors. Data collected through loyalty schemes helps clubs and venues to profile their fans to deliver a unique and personalised customer journey, attracting new fans and rewarding loyal fans with targeted, tailored communications based on their preferences. It provides a data-rich connected 360° view of customer behaviour to inform fan engagement strategies.
What happens after the final whistle?
To create an all year-round relationship with fans, sports franchises need to find reasons to engage with their fans beyond the regular season and playoffs. Rather, they need to understand individual fan behaviours and preferences to deliver experiences that nurture fans’ loyalty and extend it beyond the field. Obviously, digital plays a prominent role here, providing the tools to allow fans to engage with friends, co-workers, organised events — and directly with the clubs. But digital aside, there are other issues to consider to ensure that fans relationships are, and continue to be, meaningful. It's time for fan engagement to move outside the stadium to offer true value and deliver customised and coveted experiences which truly surprise and delight.
Tom Cowgill is Director at Rewards4.