”22% of sports fans are willing to switch favorite teams and 30% already have in the past year”
Sports fans are some of the most passionate people and valuable customers on the planet. But as the quote above illustrates, they are not completely loyal to one team forever. In recent years digital proliferation has led to fans being exposed to more than just their regional market, expanding the borders of what was once a localized business model.
Fans are the bread and butter of sport teams – but are organizations doing what they can to keep them happy and loyal? This is the question we sought out to answer in a recent Vision Critical study.
What we found is that fans don’t feel like they their opinions are being heard. In fact, only 45% of fans we spoke with agreed that their teams are interested in hearing their opinions. Even worse: only 33% of fans agreed that that their team actually listens to their opinion. These findings show a major gap in how fans are currently being engaged.
If sport fans are already passionate about their teams, why should organizations bother listening?
Our study points to 7 key reasons:
- Fans cheer for more than a team’s performanceA team’s win/loss record obviously plays a huge role in a fan’s satisfaction – but this is also the variable that the CMO has the least control over. The good news is that for sports teams to keep their fans, it’s not just about winning games or getting to the playoffs: we found that 71% of fans have affinity that goes beyond their team’s performance.As you can see in the infographic below, most sports fans have a favorite team, but across all the leagues levels of satisfaction with teams can be improved.
- Fans want to be engaged throughout the yearOur study shows that although sports are seasonal, many follow their team throughout the entire annual cycle – from preseason through the trade deadline, and even during the offseason. There are still times in the season that marketing can target to get their fans involved with the brand, even though the team may not be playing. Realistically sports teams won’t be able to keep all fans engaged year round, but by hearing what fans are looking for at certain times of year, teams can enhance their offer accordingly.
- Fans are willing to switch favorite teams and there are still ’floaters’ to attractWe found that 22% of sports fans are willing to switch teams and 30% already have in the past year. If teams don’t listen to fan feedback and include them in their decision-making process, fans may not stick around for long.We suspect that the trend of people switching teams will continue to rise as technology enables interaction with teams outside of a fan’s geographic area. Fans can now watch and follow teams anywhere across the leagues by streaming online and by interacting with them through social media. Online technology opens doors to new markets very quickly, effectively changing the game for gaining and retaining team loyalty.
Our study also shows that some fans still don’t have loyalty to a single team. These floaters represent a valuable segment that sports teams can target. Sports organizations have an opportunity to steal fans – and their spending dollars – if they know how to drive team loyalty effectively.
- Teams can optimize marketing investmentsDid that new outdoor ad campaign really increase ticket sales? Is it worth for your organization to have a mobile team application? Does your arena need Wi-Fi? Questions like these can only be answered by understanding your fans deeply. Organizations that listen to fans can do longitudinal studies to see how their marketing decisions affect fan behaviors over time, and make adjustments accordingly.Your fans’ input can also help you optimize your marketing programs: from merchandise, to in-game experience, to the social media platforms you should be keeping an eye on. For example, through its Official Fan Council, NASCAR engages members at least twice a month on specific topics that influence business and marketing decisions. These types of engagements have helped NASCAR increase viewership, TV ratings and even make changes to the sport itself.
- There is an opportunity to provide value and deepen relationships with sponsors and advertisersYour advertisers and sponsors would like to see a good return from partnering with you. You can help them see this ROI by giving them direct access to your fans. For example, with a fan council, you can offer pre and post validation studies to advertisers as an added value feature. This minimizes the risk for advertisers by enabling them to test concepts and effectively place ads in multiple channels.
- Listening to fans enables teams to measure and increase brand valueBranding is important for most organizations, but even more so for sport teams. If you’re a major league team, your brand needs to cater to two distinct fans: local and global. To develop a brand image that resonates with both groups, you have to understand them deeply. With an insight community of fans, you can hone in on the drivers of your brand and develop an image across all touch points that better resonates with all your fans.
- Fan engagement drives the season ticket sales funnelUltimately by engaging fans, you can better create targeted engagement tactics to move fans up your season ticket sales funnel. By understanding what motivates fans from casual to hardcore, you are more likely to convert your single game attendees into valuable season ticket holders.
When you turn people into fans, they are willing to go to great lengths to express their love for their team. With all of this in mind, it is obvious that interacting with a fan base is imperative. As digital channels open sports fans to new markets, now is the time to grow and maintain your fan base.
Check out the infographic below for the study topline report. For full results, feel free to reach out to Vision Critical directly if you are interested in evaluating opportunities to leverage a fan council.
To learn about a new approach to fan engagement, watch a 4-minute tour of Vision Critical’s Sports Fan Council.