The biggest mistake you can make as a club, organisation or company is putting all your fans in one boat when it comes to fan engagement. To better navigate the fan engagement world, Fowler and Wilson proposed a four-quadrant approach to fan engagement in 2016. The idea behind the model was to show how sports organisations can engage with their fans inside and outside of the stadium as well as on match days and on non-match days. In his own words, Fowler describes that “Sports organisations have been focussing on engaging fans on match days in the stadium. Now we are seeking a change in terms of a move to the other quadrants as well.” The current Covid crisis has also forced a shift in fan engagement from focusing on in-stadium fans to fans at home. In the following articles, we will discuss each quadrant and provide you with examples of how different sports organisations have implemented different quadrants.
1. Host Fans
On days when your club is not playing in its stadium, the stadium provides an ideal opportunity to engage with fans. Stadium tours are given nearly by every club in the world across different sports and many clubs have also established museums in their stadiums that fans can visit on non-game days. However, there is a lot more that can be done. The Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League in America, for instance, has hosted a “Yoga on the Pitch” night for the last four years, giving fans the unique experience of practising yoga on the pitch where their favourite team normally plays.
2. Connect Fans
Fans never come alone and thus want to be connected with fellow fans. With the development of new technology such as augmented reality, fans across the world can connect and support their favourite club together. Many clubs use fantasy sports apps to engage with their fans. In combination with augmented reality, businesses can provide an even more engaging experience than is currently being offered to fans. In American football, the Super Bowl brings with it the Super Bowl Experience. This is held in the host city for a week prior to the Super Bowl final and allows everyone to experience American football up close and personally and get hyped for the game. There are activities, virtual reality and opportunities for fans to get autographs and photos with some of the star players.
3. Enhance the live experience
The live experience is the main product that sports organisations offer their fans. With this being the most important source of income, for example, this is also the area that a lot of attention should be paid to when it comes to fan engagement. Fan zones, as have been implemented prior to games by many clubs are of immense value as these also allow fans to connect with one another. Entertainment before and during half time can also add value. This can be live music, competitions between fans, as is common in America, or interactive quizzes. With technological developments in stadiums becoming more and more prominent, the use of this technology to enhance the live experience is also vital. For example at Levi's Stadium, where the San Francisco 49ers play, fans can use a special app to order food right to their seats and watch on-field replays.
4. Bring fans closer to the live-action
Engaging with fans that are not present in the stadium still proves tricky for many sports organisations. Clubs and organizations have shown a great deal of creativity in this area of recent years and once again the development of technology has proven immensely helpful.
For example, teams have mic'd up certain players during games, allowing fans to hear what they are saying on the field. VR may in the future provide the opportunity for clubs to sell a certain number of exclusive “pitch-side seats” for fans that cannot come to the stadium but want the same experience from the comfort of their own home. For the 2016/2017 NBA season, the NBA partnered with NextVR, a broadcaster of live events in Virtual Reality format, to allow fans from home to experience a game from front row seats from their own home. This was the first major league to offer such an experience and despite the technology still being developed, those fans that did enjoy this experience only had positive reviews. Behind the scenes content has become increasingly popular with fans and helps bring them closer to the live-action.
Regardless of where your fans are (at home or in the stadium) and whether it's game day or not, fan engagement is important. Having strategies to address all four quadrants of fan engagement is key to having success in fan engagement and will allow you to interact with fans in the best way possible.