Loyalty or Engagement? What do you think is more important for a Sports Organisation? The answer is simple, both. For a top club, the evidence of their growth is the engagement from their fans and the loyalty from their sponsors. If any club achieves this, they will definitely grow both on and off the field.
We already spoke about loyal fans and how clubs can reward them for their loyalty. But how do sponsors become loyal? Let’s talk about Real Madrid as an example. Their association with Adidas started in 1998 and with their latest agreement last year, their current deal (worth $1.28bn) will end in 2028, making it a 30-year long association. Why would a company as big as Adidas spend such huge money to sponsor one club like Real Madrid? It’s not because Real Madrid is one of the biggest football clubs in the world, and neither is it because they are a very successful club with a knack for winning trophies. Yes, these are factors which do impact the decision but the biggest factor is their huge global fan base and the engagement that this fanbase drives on a day to day basis. You could just look at the numbers they drive on various social media platforms to understand how engaged Real Madrid fans are with the club.
Loyal Sponsors play a big role in the growth of a club because they not just guarantee you long term revenues, but they attract new sponsors as well because your property becomes a lucrative opportunity for brands to grow their business. It also gives the club resources to improve their facilities, their performances, and other aspects of their club eventually leading to a better experience for their fans. Because after all, it is the fans that really attract sponsors to the club.
Now that we know what sponsors really look for are fans who are engaged with the club, what can a club do to engage fans more with the club? Firstly, let me make it very clear that engagement does not only mean the likes and comments that the team receives on social media. Fan engagement is much more than a few likes and comments and isn’t just limited to digital means. Fan engagement involves everything that a club does to grow their relationship with their fans and make them feel more emotionally involved with the club. It is about meeting their expectations and exceeding them on all the channels of contact they have with their fans. We have already talked about a few tips and tricks earlier when we spoke about Customer Experience Management.
What I would like to add to this is an engagement system. An engagement system is a tool that helps companies to identify their target audience, build relationships with them, and helps you to grow a more engaged audience. For clubs, it means that it allows them to increase the engagement with their fans and helps create two-way communication rather than a one-way communication that social media and other communication channels provide. After all, what fans really appreciate is the feeling of being heard and appritiated.
A good engagement system helps you convert your unknown fans into known (eventually paying) fans. Engagement systems create interactive environments between the club and its fans, where the club also can measure how engaged each and every person is with their club. By knowing how engaged fans are with your club you can simply reward them to show your appreciation but also for driving up the engagement even further. An engaged fan is a loyal fan, and that's what all clubs are aiming for.
Lastly, clubs need to understand their need and accordingly identify the best engagement tool that suits their strategy and start working with it to give their fans the best possible experience.