Fan engagement is one of the most oft-used phrases in the sports vernacular. Every stakeholder is looking to increase ‘it’ and it has become seen as the fundamental key to success for sports leagues, clubs and federations as they look to the future. But what is it? And why is it deemed so important?
The Johan Cruyff institute defines fan engagement as ‘the activities either online or offline that are conducted by fans to help the team and other fans, either in a direct or an indirect way.’
This is a pretty broad description and it’s fair to say that fan engagement can be further classified as transactional and direct - with an exchange of time, money or effort - or non-transactional and indirect, adding value without being directly linked to consumption.
To strip the concept back further, the key element is actually having ‘fans’ in the first place! For some sports, like football, their standing as a global passion point for millions (and in some cases billions) has enabled them to organically grow huge worldwide followings. For other sports, the volume of fans is much smaller but no less passionate.
Regardless of that fact, in a world of ever expanding entertainment options keeping these fans engaged is a major focus for everyone in professional sport, and further down the pyramid.
It goes without saying but the more engaged a fanbase is, the greater the lifetime value of that fan from both transactional or non-transactional standpoint, and the greater the potential to convert the latter to the former.
At the sharp end of professional sports, rightly or wrongly, there is no doubt that increasing fan engagement is seen as a means to a financial end that helps make or keep you competitive. Look at the major European soccer leagues where Financial Fair Play dictates the greater your revenues as a club, the greater spending power they are able to exert.
Content is one of the key battlegrounds for fans' attention. There has never been so much short-form social content, non-live programming, documentaries, films, or live sport, available to view.
The explosion in the volume of content available, and shifting consumption habits, has expedited the growth of over-the-top platforms as rights owners look to better own and manage their fan relationships, and, in many cases, further monetise them.
From our experience, whilst the growth of owned and operated platforms is of huge benefit to fans, there is still a need for quality over quantity with a clearly-defined strategy that delivers content and services that you can’t see or access elsewhere.
And live content is key, given it's only live once, as a major UK broadcaster is currently reminding us in its advertising.
Joymo has seen first hand the benefits of getting this balance right. Our partners, such as Basketball Ireland, are reaping the rewards of having a content platform that truly meets the demands of the modern sports fan.
A streaming platform should never be seen purely as an investment by which to monetise an existing fanbase, but an investment in that fanbase. By providing fans with the content they really want, sports rights holders can go a long way to maximising engagement levels and translating them to direct transactional fandom at other parts of the retail offering. That’s a real win-win.