Is it time to change Fan Engagement to Guest Engagement?

I have decided to create a mini series of blog articles. The purpose of this mini series is to provoke thought and discussion for the reader. Each blog will be very top line rather than an in-depth article.

I hope you enjoy them.

Blog 1 – Is it time to change Fan Engagement to Guest Engagement?

I have been involved in sports management and marketing for many years and one of the key topics is that of fan engagement. There are many definitions of fan engagement and many experts who provide excellent advice in this space.

But I don’t want to focus on the topic, rather the wording – that of ‘fan engagement’.

After researching, speaking and consulting on the subject matter, I have become more obsessed with the term ‘guest experience/engagement rather than fan experience/engagement’.

For me, changing the terminology actually makes a big difference, and here’s why.

The ‘guest’ at home

If you invite someone to your home, you normally hear people say, “we are having a guest over this evening” or “we are having a guest stay overnight with us”.

This then triggers numerous activities.

First of all, you clean the house from top to bottom.

Second, you order good quality food (maybe a steak and their favourite drinks).

Third, you bring out the best cups and saucers.

Fourth, you put on your best clothes. You might even roll out the games that you normally play at Christmas – It’s all about entertaining and ensuring your guest enjoys themselves. You ensure your guests ‘feel at home’ and have a great time.

While you never admit it publicly, you crave that they might even say how much they enjoyed the evening/day as they leave your home.

You want to impress your guest from every aspect – it’s about offering an amazing guest experience. Something they will remember and talk about in the days and weeks ahead.

I know you may think that guest experience is more related to other industries such as hoteliers or even Disney but let’s face it, Disney does seem to have got it right (well Disney in Florida anyway).

So, what can a sports club or federation do if they decide to see the fan as a guest?

If the sports club or federation see you as a guest, they might look into the following:

1. Having clean stadiums that are upgraded/maintained with the guest in mind. Including clean toilets, spacious concourse and bar areas – you know, the basics, that some sport organisations never seen to get right.

2. There will be a focus on ensuring all the issues that annoy and affect fans will be sorted quickly – from ticketing to quality of food. 

3. The quality, price and range of food and beverages will be excellent. No more serving lukewarm burgers and chips. This would mean the direct opposite. Serving amazing food should mean more ‘repeat business’ for the sports organisation. 

4. Ensuring you have an amazing welcome and hospitality by all staff and volunteers. Making the guest feel special. Going beyond what is expected on a consistent basis.

5. Providing excellent entertainment which excites and engages the guest. Providing OK entertainment is not good enough. Check out the work of the Savannah Bananas in the USA.

6. Strengthen and personalise the communication. It is important to develop regular and consistent communications to your guests which are personalised to their specific needs. This might be information for the away fans, it might be kick off times or the entertainment being offered on match day.

Why not try and map out the fans journey and identify those ‘touch points’ that your sports organisation can improve. You will be surprised what simple things you will learn from this exercise which can be implemented to improve the overall experience for your guests.

The list can be endless but the above gives you some ‘food for thought’.

Don’t forget the first, second, third and last impressions count – so focusing on providing an amazing experience for the fan (guest) is so important alongside the play on the pitch.

Providing an amazing experience for your guest (the fan) should result in returning paying customers who will have a deeper and more meaningful relationship towards your sports organisation. They will tell others of how they are treated and they in turn will become your best marketing channel.

Sports organisations can see the fans as guests but fans still see themselves as fans. I totally get this and this should continue, but if sports organisations focus on fans as guests – what would that do to your organisation?

So what do you think? Shall we treat the fan as our guest? What can you do this year to provide an exceptional experience for all your guests (fans)? 

About Geoff Wilson

Geoff runs his own Sports Consultancy, working with clients such as FIFA, UEFA, AFC and FIBA across the world. He is also on the board of Tourism Northern Ireland. You can follow Geoff on twitter @geoffwnjwilson connect on Linkedin at

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