April 27, 2020

Engaging Sports Fans When There’s No Live Action

By Danny O'Reilly at Cheetah Digital

Danny O’Reilly, Content Marketing Manager at Cheetah Digital, explores how sports entities have kept their fans engaged amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, the importance of something as puerile as sports seems rather irrelevant, and yet conversely, more important than ever. Sports have always been a welcome distraction from life’s problems, and right now fans would love that distraction more than ever.

This 2020 was earmarked as a bonanza of sporting action, with unprecedented digital coverage for fans inside the stadium and at home. Unfortunately, the Olympic Games, Wimbledon, Boston Marathon, MLB, and all soccer leagues, to name but a few, have all succumbed; canceled or postponed to who knows when.

However, this time of uncertainty is an opportunity for elite sports teams to engage their fans, and drive initiatives that show commitment to them and their communities when they need them most.

Although game day has always been paramount in the eyes of fans, in the digital era, the real battleground is the period between the live action, and who can create a deeper, digital relationship with its fan base — the COVID-19 crisis emphasises this.

We have been heartened to see sports teams demonstrating their commitment to more than just winning on the field, driving CSR initiatives that include charitable donations, making stadiums available as food banks for the vulnerable, and club doctors joining the response teams, but here we’ll showcase some of the ways elite clubs are engaging fans at home with engaging interactive campaign types.

Turning unknown fans into known fans in the database through social kudos

Premier League football clubs normally see a spike in marketing opt-ins around game day, but in lieu of this, some teams have looked for alternatives such as launching a daily interactive quiz to energise dispirited fans during the sporting hiatus.

To win — in this example, a very unique value exchange of a follow from an official Twitter account — fans need to answer three questions correctly and enter a small amount of PII data, including their Twitter handle. Sports clubs are blessed with millions of fans, but the majority of these are unknown users, who follow social media, but do not live in the club’s database — this innovative campaign has turned unknown fans into known fans in the clubs’ database.

#StayAtHomeChallenge: Curate user-generated content and demonstrate corporate responsibility 

Let’s quickly acknowledge the elephant in the room – toilet paper, for reasons unknown to us on this blog, has been in high demand during this crisis.

The #StayAtHomeChallenge was borne out of this and involves leading sports stars doing as many keep-ups with a roll of toilet paper as possible. It also reinforces the “stay at home” messaging that is essential to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Fans have then been giving it their best try to outdo their heroes, uploading videos to social media channels, and tagging their friends, thus creating a plethora of creative submissions circulating online.


Tottenham Hotspur: Providing free stay at home fitness content

As fans of outdoor activity have become somewhat restricted and the normal exercise vocations like gym classes, running, and team sports are off the agenda, Tottenham Hotspur are producing a range of fitness and exercise programmes that can be done from the living room.

Leading stars are showing their best yoga poses, squatting and the like, and uploading the videos to social media channels.

Loyalty initiatives

Loyalty is a given in sports. Fans seldom pick a team, it picks them, and they’re joined together for life. However, this loyalty doesn’t always extend to season tickets, club memberships, and merchandise sales.

While replica strips are not essential items in this turbulent time, clubs can offer buy now, pay later or monthly payment plans for members, or share free streaming of memorable games until the season resumes.

As sure as the Patriots make the Super Bowl, and England lose at penalty shootouts, this too shall pass, and, at that time, sports teams and associations need to be ready.

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By Danny O'Reilly at Cheetah Digital