Pre-pandemic, attending sporting events was a habitual commitment. Being a member of a football club or a fan of a BBL team meant you’d automatically turn up each week at matches to support your team. However, COVID turned these usual routines upside down. Cheetah Digital’s Jake Leong explores new strategies.
A survey by the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) found that 43 percent of polled sports clubs had seen a decrease in participation numbers. It was a similar decline in volunteering. While it’s clear the pandemic has played a role in this decline to an extent, it seems there’s a deeper-lying issue. This is that fans aren’t feeling a real connection to their clubs.
Naturally, it will take some time for them to bounce back.
But left unchecked for too long it could greatly diminish the love of sport. There’s a lack of engagement, skyrocketing ticket prices, limited membership incentives and fan participation. It’s critical for sports clubs to dive deeper to connect with the community. It’s time to reignite the love of the game through relationship marketing.
Sports marketing: a recipe for success
The most important ingredient of any sports club is its members. Clubs can’t rely on prospective members to simply show up. Clubs need to employ strategic marketing techniques to attract new members and retain the ones they have, ensuring everyone is receiving the services they expect.
To create a relationship that goes beyond game day, sports clubs must connect with fans on the right channels at the right time. With data shared from fans directly to their clubs and leagues, known as zero-party data, it’s possible to know what makes fans tick as well as the best ways to engage with them.
According to Cheetah Digital’s report for sports teams and associations 55 percent of fans will share psychographic data points. These include purchase motivations and product feedback with sports brands. Even more, half of all fans surveyed say they desire incentives like loyalty points or exclusive access in return for data.
Give fans what they want, when they want it to turn an “unknown” audience into a “known” audience. “Known” fans offer a lot of potential in the form of direct revenue, partner revenue, and participation – a solid win for sports clubs.
Who is getting it right?
- The All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand. The All Blacks is a standout in the space. The club has innovative ways that collects valuable audience data and marketing opt-ins. In advance of the Rugby World Cup Final, the All Blacks tested its fans. It used an image of the All Blacks team, asking members to pick the line out ball that’s covering the real match ball. Fans were then rewarded for their support. Those who entered with the correct answer went into a draw to win a poster signed by the entire All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad. On entry, participants were required to enter their name and email address. This provided the All Blacks with valuable audience data for future marketing promotions and communications.
- The Australian Open. Tennis Australia’s biggest event must also be commended for its inspiring method of collecting marketing opt-ins. How does it capture rich and valuable audience data? Yahoo!7’s channel, Seven Sport, teamed up with ANZ to drive engagement amongst tennis fans with data-centric sweepstakes. Tennis Australian focused on using the Seven Sport website. The sweepstakes gave participants a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask an Australian Open player any question. This is the ultimate prize for any tennis fan. To get involved, participants were required to submit their name, email address and phone number. Each fan chose their favourite player who they wanted to have answer the question. The best question of the day was then announced live on air and was answered by the winner’s chosen player.
In it to win it!
Even though Australians and New Zealanders are some of the most enthusiastic fans in the world. Sports like rugby, Australian rules football, tennis and cricket have historically drawn massive crowds. If sports clubs don’t keep an eye on the ball, capturing fans’ motivations and provide a truly personalised experience, they’ll lose. The only way a sports’ club can remain competitive in this new digital era is by understanding its fan base with data.