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Transforming Sports Fan Habits, Engagement Factors in the Digital Age

Sure, teams must improve ticket sales, while maintaining and expanding corporate & media partnerships. But new revenue streams must also be identified: fan engagement and loyalty must be leveraged to improve existing product sales and effectively release new ones. That’s where digital and social media will play a huge role.


The North American sports market is expected to grow beyond $70 billion (USD) by 2018, continuing a striking growth trajectory from previous 2013 levels of some $56 billion.

That’s the good news. On the other side of the equation, according to industry analysts at PwC, the revenue gap between media rights and gate revenues (long the industry’s largest revenue generator), is projected to close to within $500 million, just two per cent, in that same timeframe.

Gate revenues and even merchandise sales are showing what’s respectfully called “signs of relative maturity”. In other words, each cash category is facing slower future growth, and so there’s a real need to find new and innovative revenue opportunities.

Vision Critical has launched new digital tools that track, analyze and package information about fan activities, preferences and interactions.

Vision Critical has launched new digital tools that track, analyze and package information about fan activities, preferences and interactions.

So sports organizations are scrambling to deliver that “ultimate fan experience” even as other entertainment options, delivered using a variety of media platforms, including those extremely mobile ones, are increasing available. As fans continue to consume content across a variety of digital platforms, traditional sports-related revenue models are facing a two-minute warning of sorts.

That’s why Vancouver, BC-based Vision Critical, a company that provides customer engagement and intelligence services, has launched Sports Fan Council, a new element in its suite of digital tools that track, analyze and package information about fan activities, preferences and interactions.

It’s all about helping sports franchises to “harness the collective wisdom of their fans.”

(Now there’s a loaded concept, worth a smile if not some serious unpacking.)

Really, teams want to understand what motivates fans to buy stuff. They want to know how much fans are willing to spend. And teams want to know how fans feel about the experience pre and post game, hooping to see if there is a way to if there is a way to monetize the information.

Sports teams and business operators that already are using the tools to tackle key business challenges include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, NASCAR and the Australian Football League (AFL).

NASCAR is among the sports teams and business operators that are using digital tools to tackle key business challenges.

NASCAR is among the sports teams and business operators that are using digital tools to tackle key business challenges.

“Sports teams face very different business challenges than other industries,” Kobi Ofir, chief technology officer of Vision Critical, explained in a statement. “We designed Sports Fan Council so that teams can strengthen fan engagement, optimize ticketing offers, increase the value of corporate and media partnerships, and leverage fan creativity to generate new merchandise opportunities—all by asking precise questions and performing valuable analysis that will drive better business decisions and results.”

One solution his company offers is an online community made up of thousands of sports fans that can be used by teams to capture feedback over time, so they can in turn build better fan experiences that lead to improved sales and enhanced interactions.

Teams and leagues want to strengthen existing media and corporate partnerships, and make sure their partners’ brand messages will resonate with fans. Fan feedback on anything from ticket packaging, merchandise development, communications, and even stadium design is gathered and analyzed for actionable business intelligence.

Solutions like those from Vision Critical can be used to develop and deploy fan engagement projects (polls, surveys, contests and the like) and use a library of pre-programmed fan activities to evaluate fan feedback and share actionable insight with key corporate partners, advertisers and stakeholders.

“Fan engagement and satisfaction are critically important, which is why we turned to the Vision Critical customer intelligence platform,” said Steve Sherman, vice president, consumer insights at the Madison Square Garden company. “In this fast-paced and competitive industry, we’ve been able to exceed in all areas when it comes to the fan experience by turning to our New York Knicks and newly launched New York Rangers online fan communities for input and insight. In the past year, the Knicks Fan Panel has been used to better understand everything from our fans’ music preferences and the types of entertainment that drive in-game engagement, to the kinds of food and beverages they want served at games.”

 

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