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The powerful voice of sports fans in the digital era

The business of sports is a ‘passion economy’. Therefore, we have seen a paradigm shift affecting the (inter)relationship between sports rights holders and sports fans. Today, sports fans call for more content from their favorite sports brands. Sport is no longer just about what goes on inside the lines during competitions; it is about holistic content and about the mix between competitions and related fun and entertainment. In that sense, digital content has shifted the business perspective of professional sports to allow more room for fans to prosper and to show their identification with the respective sports brands.

In the postmodern and hyper-commercialized professional sports world, fans are powerful and have a STRONG VOICE in terms of dictating the direction of future revenue streams. Fans continuously interact with their favorite sports brands whether the brand is an athlete, a team, a league or a sports equipment manufacturer or related corporate sponsor. Attention-grabbing game highlights on mobile devices and social media competitions are part of the process and the business of sports tend to present new and innovative ways to engage with sports fans at ever-changeable speed rates.

Entertainment based on videos with our favorite teams or athletes is a good way to connect with fans so that fans can participate in such conversations before, during and after games. Below, there is an example of great digital content provided by William Lawson’s, a whisky brand linked to the Bacardi Group. It shows a football stunt executed live while the Chelsea-Arsenal football game was happening this past Saturday. The video reflects how the involved parties took advantage of the fact that football is so popular. Football connects with mass participation rates on and off the pitch. For that reason, fan engagement is even more critical because the probability to obtain good targeted outreach via social media is enhanced in this way via empowerment of football fans through better fan control and accessibility in these conversations.


Photos: Insights into how the football stunt generated fan conversations online (source: #NoRules Football’s official Twitter account).

Simply, social media act as a source of fan conversations and information seeking and that is especially true for younger generations of fans that are constantly on the move with their mobile devices in their pockets. For sports brands, it is significant to tap into the wallets of these sports fans to boost business models and future revenue streams due to improved brand loyalty levels. It is all about being present where the fans are and to engage with fans in their language. In that regard, sport is a common language that is very powerful if it is based on listening to fans, analyzing on fan data and tailored exclusive content from ‘behind-the-scenes’ entertainment. Thus, good fan relationship management (CRM) linked to financial bottom-lines must sometimes lead to sports brands offering exclusive content to avid sports fans before it is shared with the general public. Proper content management gives sports brand a good avenue to produce ‘branded content’, which adds value to fans and revenue for sports rights holders.

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