Any sports fan or club can tell you that fan engagement had evolved immensely in recent years. Now, more and more organizations are evolving and turning to a more innovative approach towards their fans, due to an increased demand for inclusion, and interaction.
But why has this become the case?
Well, for me personally, I can tell you that sport — in particular, football — plays a huge role in my life. As a super fan, I support two incredible teams, first, one of the biggest clubs in Israel and my local team Maccabi Netanya FC, and second Real Madrid — which is considered one of the best teams in the world. Don’t believe me? Check their statistics.
For me, it’s very important to be able to follow, interact, engage, and keep up to date with all things relating to the teams I support — not only on the field but also off. Currently, I follow these teams on their Social Media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I even created with a few other fans a Facebook group to connect all Real Madrid’s fans in one place. This is all well and good, however is still one-sided. It would be incredible and further encouraging for fans if clubs and players began to interact and engage. And, it seems that this is starting to happen.
Of course, originally businesses created social media pages as a way to promote themselves and gain as many followers as possible. While this is crucial for the running of a business, now, businesses are introducing a more powerful aspect of social media into their business model — fan interaction and engagement through brand communication.
Players and teams are beginning to take notice of their fans and the messages they publish. For example, Chris, a Barnsley FC fan published a personal letter he received from Barnsley’s CEO, Gauthier Ganaye in which Ganaye wrote “I’ve noticed through social media that you’ve had a bit of a hard time recently…I hope everything improves for you as soon as possible.” Ganaye further writes that “he knows Chris has been a fan of the club for many years, and in return, they would like to support him if needed.”
Another touching example comes from Neil Harrison, an Everton FC fan who dislocated his elbow from celebrating the two goals scored by Brazilian star player Richarlison. Harrison tweeted “Look what you’ve done to me @richarlison97”, the following day Richarlison paid him a visit with a signed jersey and a big smile.
Fans support their teams 24/7 and follow every piece of news, so you can only imagine the excitement when they receive responses from their idols. In fact, Chris’s tweet was retweeted 27,479 times and received 132,430 likes. I’m pretty sure that this only increased Chris, and other fans’ support and dedication to the team and players.
We’ve gathered so far that fans receive the acknowledgment from clubs, but what do clubs get out of being in touch? As mentioned above, in the past clubs had zero interaction with fans. So, why has it become important for them to improve their fan engagement and stay connected?
Well, these days there are countless articles published on Generation Z and their lack of loyalty to just one team. Social media has brought about a new type of player exposure. Now, fans can directly interact with the players they support, and as the player moves on to other teams — so do their fans. A great example of this is in the recent move of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid to Juventus. Aside from Juventus Social Media channels exploding with new fans, Real Madrid’s first home game this season exhibited the lowest La Liga attendance in 10 years.
Unfortunately, this is one of the worst things that can happen to a club. With low fan engagement, comes empty seats in stadiums — which means loss of sponsors and advertisers for the club. It’s crucial that clubs manage to fill up stadiums and maintain high engagement, to ensure fans will continue to support the team and attend events. More so, fan attendance brings about more profits from merchandise and season ticket sales.
All in all, clubs are investing a lot of time and efforts not only on social media but also in finding technologies that will help them improve fan engagement and experiences at events. For clubs, it is crucial that their fans come to the stadium and have the best time, making them want to come back for more — regardless of the final score.