Fans will not always be in your stadium. This may be due to a global pandemic, as is the case now, or simply because they cannot afford to go or because there are no tickets available. However, simply because they are not in the stadium, doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be engaged. Fans at home are some of the most important fans you need to engage, as a majority of your fans will be at home and not in the stadium. In this article, we will discuss some of the best ways to engage with your fans at home.
1. Bring the experience to them
There might be a plethora of reasons as to why fans cannot come to the stadium, but the fact remains, they still want to experience their favourite team/club up close and personal. Therefore, bring the experience to them. Just because a fan can’t come to the stadium, doesn't mean they can't go on a stadium tour - you simply bring the tour to them in a virtual format. And maybe even show them special appreciation by showing areas that normally are not included in the physical stadium tour or even have one of the players host the tour. With the development of virtual reality, it may soon become reality, as it already has at some NBA games, for fans at home to experience “court-side seats” from the vicinity of their own home. This brings fans closer to the live-action and provides the clubs/teams with a fantastic tool to interact with fans who are at home.
2. Use the power of Social Media
Social media is one of the most powerful tools that teams and clubs can use to engage with their fans at home. With over 3 billion people using social media, there is no doubt that you will reach your fans at home. But using social media is more than simply posting pictures. It is having interactive quizzes, as seen below for example by Celtic Glasgow.
3. Acknowledge and reward your fans
In our article “The Importance of Fan Engagement” we talked about how fan engagement can help develop commercial opportunities and a better understanding of your fan base. Therefore acknowledging your fans and rewarding them for their engagement with you is important. FC Bayern Munich, for example, hosts a fan Friday each week, displaying fan pictures from around the world on their social media (see picture below) and also is very engaged in the comment section across their social media pages, engaging with fans’ comments.
Rewarding the fans is also a way to engage with them. Sending out tickets to fans who are highly engaged online or to fans who simply do not have the means to come to a game sends a strong message and shows that you as a club/team do really care about the fans cheering you on from their sofas.
4. Give them a voice
Fans in the stadium can be heard cheering on the team on game day. The voice of fans from home can be “heard” over social media. However, why not screen some fan videos in the stadium before the game of “home-fans” supporting the team from their sofa. Or allow them to vote on the MVP, the new kit or which player should be captain for instance. All these activities and many more again show that you as a club acknowledge them (the home fans) but also gives them the feeling of being important despite not being in the stadium. Fan engagement apps or apps of the club itself can play an important role in giving fans a voice.
5. Forge an emotional connection with fans
As previously said, there may be an abundance of reasons as to why fans cannot come to games at the stadium. And again, that doesn't mean that those are not some of the most loyal fans. Fans who are ill and in the hospital may watch all the games on TV and be the most loyal supporters but obviously not be able to come to the stadium. Giving back to these fans again shows engagement but also builds an emotional connection with them, something treasured by many. Connecting with fans on an emotional level is very powerful. The Liverpool squad in 2019, for example, visited a local children's hospital and surprised the small Liverpool fans there and gave them an unforgettable day and took their minds off being in the hospital for a short while.
In summary, fans at home are some of your most important fans and will forge the majority of your fans. Therefore, engaging with them is one of the most important things you can do. Regardless of large or small gestures, any activity can prove engaging. The development of the internet and social media has certainly made this task easier, but it should certainly not be underestimated.