Fan Engagement – Why Bother?


Though still a relatively new area of study a substantial amount has been written on the subject of fan engagement within sport.  If you are involved in a sporting event you need to know what it is, why you should be focusing on it and how you can improve it.

What is Fan Engagement?

Basically it is all about developing a detailed understanding of the motivations, expectations and behaviours of the fans and providing services that add to and improve their experience of your sport.  What motivates their interest in your sport?  What do they expect during event day, outside of event day etc? For instance a large part of engaging with fans for local football can be based on their sense of identity and belonging to the local community, rather than the levels of sporting excellence that are present in top flight domestic and club football. Understanding these elements and then providing experiences that are strong in terms of emotion, convenience and added value becomes the focus of your fan engagement activities. The core of fan engagement is to put yourself in the shoes of your target groups and think like them, how will they experience your event not just from the sporting perspective but as an overall experience they chose to give their time and money to.

Why focus on Fan Engagement?

None of us live in a bubble where our sport is the only one on offer. The competition for attention, time and money is greater than ever and the coming generations have very different expectations of service level and quality. They are used to living with mass customisation and the ability to change loyalty at the click of a mouse or more likely the swipe of a finger on a smart phone. Simply put – many sports organisations are seeing traditional revenues such as ticketing and merchandise under threat. In order to sustain (or grow) the number of fans who attend your stadium, you need to focus on adding to (and improving) the overall experience and fans engagement pre, during and post your events.

How can you improve fans engagement at your sporting event?

There are many ways to improve fans engagement.  The following highlights just a few thoughts but first and foremost you need a set of goals and a plan:

  1.       Like any project, developing and introducing a fan engagement programme starts with understanding your offer and then talking and meeting the fans! – after all they are the people you are looking to engage. This can be done via a fans forum – cross representative group who meet your senior executives to define and develop the fans engagement programmes.  You will be surprised how beneficial and important this will be!
  1.       Identify key fan engagement touch points such as:
  • Promoting the next match
  • Joining the fan club
  • The 90 minutes before your event starts
  • The 90 minutes after your event has ended
  • Renewing season tickets
  • Buying a ticket to a game
  • Getting all the info you need from the club web site i.e menu, match day info etc.

Mapping the fans journey in each of the touch points above will provide an insight into their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  It will also give you the information to change any process and to make the fans experience more enjoyable.

  1.       Develop a fans engagement plan and set of priorities.  Develop the key engagement activities and make them unique to your club and fans.  At this stage it is important to set your goals, objectives and action plans across all your fans engagement programmes.
  1.       Once you have developed your fan engagement plan, you can being to roll out the various activities over the season.  It is important to measure the overall success of your fan engagement programme and ensuring you are meeting your overall objectives.

The following provides a few suggestions:

  1.       Fans Events – examples of these events include; meet the players/manager, dedicated fan zones at home games, greeters at each gate have access to a tablet so they are able to immediately see the name of the person coming through
  1.      ‘Magic moments’ engagement i.e. mascot/player escort, ball boys/girls, play on the pitch at half time, hit the cross bar competition, penalty kick competition.
  1.       Mobile, Social and Digital media  – this will include a wide range of ideas such as GoPro at events etc, connected stadium with ibeacon’s deployed that will tell your story, drones, App features like ordering of food, seat upgrades and way-finding.  In addition, generating unique ‘behind the scenes content (esp on video) will help to engage your passionate fan base.

CRM, data capture and direct dialogue is becoming more and more important in our business. If you already have a CRM activity it  is important to update your database with the most accurate contact details. You should know the birthday of kids/fans, send them a birthday wish and then go to their seat with a visit from the mascot or another ‘money can’t buy’ experience, You can also build social media profiles and target groups based on this information. If you don’t already have a CRM then try to learn as much as you can from your digital activity analytics and consider simple focus and fan groups to gather feedback.

Fan engagement can make a considerable impact on your relationship with your customers and to allow you to plan and activate the necessary elements vital for success that go into a full service offering in today’s sports and entertainment market.


Pearse Connolly @pearse Director of Business Development, Fotball Media AS. Digital Nerd and football anthropology enthusiast

Geoff run’s his own Sports Consultancy, working with clients such as FIFA across the world. He is also on the board of SportNI.  You can follow Geoff on twitter @geoffwnjwilson Linkedin at

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