Who’s your Sports Fan of the Year?

Next week will see the announcement of the 2017 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, with boxer Anthony Joshua currently the odds-on favourite to win. Whether he does or not, you can bet that whoever takes the crown will thank their fans in their acceptance speech. Which made us think. What if there was an award for the Sports Fan of the Year. Would most clubs even know where to begin looking?

While this October saw Celtic fans named the best fans in world at the Best FIFA Football Awards 2017 in London, according to the Football Supporter’s Federation (FSF), the answer would be a resounding ‘no’. Its National Fans' Survey, an online questionnaire which attracted almost 8,500 responses, revealed a "worrying disconnect between clubs and fans”, with most feeling ignored. Of those responding to the FSF survey, 68% said they felt their club does not care about their views.

Which begs the question, how much do clubs and leagues really know about their fans? Who would qualify to be their Sports Fan of the Year, and what can they gain by taking the trouble to find out?

Superfans are highly valuable because they’re loyal and enthusiastic. They’re those fans that follow all of the club’s social pages, share updates with their friends, and serve as ambassadors. Engage with them effectively, and they will stick with you through thick and thin, promotion or relegation. To create this lasting relationship then, it’s vital that clubs are able to understand individual fan behaviour. Because while it’s all too easy to see fans as a collective, the reality is – they are individuals. The first step toward harnessing the benefits of your superfans is to figure out just who they are. The answer? Data and customer insight.

Fans engage with a team in dozens of ways beyond buying tickets, from merchandise and concessions, to signing up for promotions, and engaging with the team via social and digital media. Finding ways to track and reward this behaviour adds to the fan experience because it lets the fan know they are being acknowledged, as well as providing a way to collect information about their habits; revealing exactly who a club’s superfans are. This information not only provides more insight as to who these fans are and what they value, providing more opportunities to meaningfully reward them, but drives greater fan engagement over each fan’s lifetime. With this in mind, forward-thinking sports clubs are considering methods of engagement beyond the match day and in search of the “every day”. The one tool that can achieve this? An innovative rewards programme.

We know that engaged, loyal fans are the lifeblood of any club. The key is to identify these customers and engage with them in ways that are meaningful and relevant. From a commercial point of view, finding out where fans spend money away from the club or sport they love is gold dust Even more so, if clubs can connect this data to their fans’ sporting habits and drive incremental spend at their venues.  This also works for fans from a goodwill perspective, with clubs able to incentivise fans to spend with their favourite retailers and betting partners (through the lure of earning the club’s rewards points) thereby allowing fans to harness their everyday spend and make attending their favourite sport more accessible.

Although the reality of this might seem a long way off for most clubs and teams, the opportunity is already out there.  In fact, our Rewards4 technology platform is already being used by many clubs in many different sports.  And it’s vital that more clubs and leagues get on board. Because every fan should know just how important they are, whether there are awards to be had, or not.  So next week, when the  BBC Sports Personality of the Year is announced, spare a thought for the superfans who supported them.