There is no single definition of fan engagement, as for each club it can mean something else. The word “engagement” itself is defined as follows: “the act of engaging with something” or “the state of being engaged”. A further definition echoes an important part of fan engagement: “an emotional involvement or commitment”. Now, if we add the word fan and the context of sport to this definition, one can imagine fan engagement as activities whereby clubs/franchises or stadiums develop strategies, to build a deeply-rooted connection with their fan base. With fans playing a vital role in the world of sports, let us discuss the top 4 reasons as to why fan engagement is so important.
1. Fan Loyalty
One of the main reasons that fan engagement is so important to clubs across sports is that engagement fosters loyalty. Fans will take notice of engagement by their favourite club, whether this be interactive activities on social media or personalised birthday wishes for members. Every small activity that flows into the fan engagement concept of a club will help foster fan loyalty. This is due to the fact that fans notice that they are important to the club and that the club value them - not only as a fan base but also as individuals.
2. Commercial Opportunity
Fan engagement is crucial in filling stadiums. The loyalty that is fostered through fan engagement can see fans flock to the stadiums more often and also see them be more willing to spend money on their club. Therefore, fan engagement is crucial to the commercial success of a club. On top of filling seats in the stadium, sales of merchandise will also be heavily influenced through fan engagement. When fans are engaged and happy, they will be more likely to purchase and show their support for their club. If they are not engaged they may not purchase merchandise and the publicity produced by fans wearing club merchandise may be minimized.
3. Developing a better understanding of your fan base (aka your consumers)
Fans have opinions, there is no doubt about that. Once fans can see that clubs are listening to them, they can provide invaluable insights into where clubs are doing well, what could be handled better and other areas of interest to the clubs. The information that clubs collect from their fan base is important as the fans are the customers of the club and as such provide a part of the income to the club. If fans are not happy, they will spend less money and vice versa. First and foremost, fans should be treated as fans. However, with the commercial side of sports, they also need to be viewed as consumers. Unsatisfied consumers (aka fans) will not spend as much money as satisfied consumers (fans) would. Therefore keeping the fan base happy by taking their opinions, suggestions etc. to the heart is key for the economic viability of a club.
4. Maintain and grow your fan base
Once fans realise they are being treated as fans and not simply as customers by clubs, their loyalty for the club will grow. On top of this, these loyal fans can help grow the fan base. Through their positive experiences in the engagement with their favourite club, they may express their satisfaction to others who then may become interested in your club. This is also the case for online interaction. When a loyal fan likes or comments on a social media post, someone who is not necessarily a fan may then become aware and interested and begin to follow your club. If enough people go through this process, the fan base will be expanded which can subsequently have a great economic impact for the club as well.
So there you have it, Fan engagement should be a crucial part of your strategy to help you grow as a club, brand or company. Next week we will talk about the different kinds of fan engagement and how it can help clubs in these hard times.