Why do fans go to live sports events?
You probably have your own answer for that. But what the fans actually said when asked the same was a bit complicated.
The keyword from this is 'release'. Almost 89% of sports fans said being able to release themselves at live sports events is one of the main reasons why they attend. And as it is clearly seen, the importance of release almost doubles that of the sense of belonging. If you further dwell into the study by GMR Marketing, you'll see that 76% of fans rate general excitement and atmosphere as the biggest contributor to an A+ fan experience compared to only 52% of fans who rate sports as the number 1 factor.
To sum it up, It’s the fan experience, not just sports, that drives your fans to your venue in the first place.
And that brings us to our main question - what exactly do you mean by 'Fan Experience'?
Fan experience is a lot like customer experience (CX) but here the customers are your fans (of your team/club) who may or may not be a cash-paying customer right now but is a possible cash-paying customer in the future. How in business customer experience plays a crucial role in generating and retaining customers, fan experience plays a crucial role in growing your fan base and converting your not-fans into casual fans and casual fans into avid fans.
Many teams and federations that we speak to, generally talk about fan experience with respect to the gameday and arena. But that isn't true either, Fan experience can be both physical as well as digital just like CX. In CX, every entry point where the customer journey can begin matters and every interaction that takes place between the customer (existing as well as potential) and the brand is a part of the experience that matters. Similarly, fan experience is not just about the experience a fan within the arena for a live game has, but also what a fan sitting at home or in a bar with friends watching the game on a screen goes through. Especially with the covid 19 pandemic, digital fan experiences have become equally important to physical fan experience if not more.
Physical Fan Experience (In-Stadia & Matchday)
Almost every club rates the In-stadia Fan Experience very highly, they have different strategies for this. They plan many activities and activations. They have experimented, improvised and perfected a strategy that has been working for them for years now. And most clubs also keep adapting themselves as time progresses. Be it the ambience, the sound and atmosphere, the service of food and beverages or something else, most clubs have nailed their in-stadia fan experience practices. But the problem with it is that this can only be done on 20 or 30 odd occasions in a single year. You are still wasting the remaining 335 days of the year. Hence, Clubs need to understand that fan experience is not just about within the arena or on matchday but it is also about every fan across the world who is watching your team play.
Ofcourse, in-stadia experiences do matter. Studies have suggested that fans tend to spend up to 30% more if they have a good experience at the game and up to 50% more if the team wins the game. Which simply suggests that the physical fan experience is always going to be a key aspect of any sports club's strategy.
Digital Fan Experience
Being a sports fan is a 365 day job. (No kidding!) And hence a club also needs to cater to their fans 365 days and not just on matchday. Clubs need to find ways where they can cater to their fans' needs and give them an unforgettable experience no matter where they are, what means they use to connect and interact with the club and how they consume the game. It is one of the most important investment a club can make to create a fan experience journey for their fans sitting at home or bars so as to further convert them into more than just casual fans.