There’s a whole spectrum of fandom out there, ranging from the passively positive to raving loyalists with a lifelong commitment to the team. Your goal is to move as many fans as possible forward along this spectrum, deepening their relationship with and commitment to your program.
But how do you turn a lukewarm supporter into a fired-up fan? And once that fire is burning, how do you continue to fuel the flames?
The answer is engagement. If you want your fans to be invested in your team, they need to feel like they’re involved. The worst thing your program can do isn’t losing games – it’s losing touch with your fans.
Here are 3 ways you can increase fan engagement and loyalty.
1. Be a good social host. Think of yourself as the one throwing the party, not the guest of honor. In other words, your social media engagement should focus on providing an experience rather than simply providing updates. There is a myriad of ways you can do this. Invite fans into the conversation before, during and after games through channels like Twitter. Profile star players on Facebook. Share clever visuals (think infographics of key statistics or animated gifs) through Instagram. Look for ways you can support and encourage your community of fans as they interact both with your program and with each other.
2. Make it personal. The more personal a connection somebody feels with your brand, the more likely they’re to stay engaged. Fans want to feel like part of the team, and they also appreciate recognition of their commitment to the team. It’s within your power to do this, so why wouldn’t you? Segment your fan base, understand their motivations, and personalize communications such as emails. Make a point of recognizing individual fans during games. Hold fan appreciation events during the season. Give fans the opportunity to feel like they know players personally through player interview videos and updates.
3. Keep it exciting. The game experience isn’t just about the game itself, it’s about how you make the in-person event irresistibly better than watching the game at home, at a bar, or anywhere else. Part of what makes live sporting events so compelling is the drama and excitement of each game’s unpredictability. Infuse more of that excitement into the overall experience with unexpected surprises like 3-D court projection videos, fan trivia contests or unusual giveaways. In the off-season, build anticipation with tactics like behind-the-scenes videos, sneak peeks at new recruits, or insider reports on venue improvements.
Remember, your program’s relationship with its fans is a two-way street. They’re willing to give you their loyalty, but you have to give them something too. And like any other relationship, it needs to blend the comforting and familiar with the exciting and unexpected in order to stay fresh and grow over time.