It is no secret that die-hard sports fans are some of the most passionate and engaged people when their team is on the pitch. However, what happens when they’re at home or at work? Does that loyalty filter through to every day life? Often not and as a result, clubs continue to seek ways to maintain that engagement and infiltrate the day-to-day lives of their fans
Engagement via digital currencies
There is a clear appetite for fan currency as a means to extend engagement beyond the pitch, with links being made between fan engagement and fan currency. For example, soccer giants Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are turning to digital coins or tokens (also known as cryptocurrency) to raise funds and deliver unprecedented levels of fan engagement. This is a growing area for sport, but one that is likely to attract the attention of world-leading clubs as well as fans looking to redeem their tokens for voting rights on how a club is run. However, currency in the form of fan tokens is arguably risky due to a notable lack of regulation.
So what other options exist for those clubs that want to turn their fans into year-round supporters without the associated risk of token offerings?
Unveiling the fans’ mind
The first vital piece of research is to understand implicitly the consumer psyche, what motivates fans and how they are likely to perceive the fan currency on offer. Getting under the skin of the sports fan will empower clubs to understand their trigger points beyond the pitch. Successfully engaging that loyal fan while they’re at the stadium is almost inevitable. However, using reward currencies that provide true value reflective of what the consumer actually wants can extend that engagement when they’re at home too.
The questions is - how can clubs be certain they are penetrating the mindset of their fans when they’re away from the stadium and not front of mind? While there can never be any guarantees, there are some steps clubs can take via rewards-based programmes to increase the opportunity for broader engagement. For instance, imagine if a sports fan had a calendar that promotes buying popular purchases during certain periods, such as holidays in January – this will provide timely and regular prompts that will encourage fans to consciously consider where to purchase non-sporting goods from, via platforms such as Rewards4 that rewards fans for such behaviour with points backs.
For the fans, this means they will earn points redeemable against purchases at the club, or even more aspirational - money-can’t-buy experiences. For the clubs, this currency will ensure fans take a much broader approach to engagement, one that extends across all aspects of their lives. And for the most activated and passionate fans, it could mean they become ambassadors, taking their journey from instant reward to contributing to the club’s long-term strategy.
Impact of activated fans
Considering some clubs have fan bases equivalent in size to small countries, it’s easy to imagine the kind of impact these fans could have if they were all truly engaged. From driving grassroots projects to uniting annually for panel events with Sport England, the potential for what these activated fans could achieve for the next sporting generation should not be underestimated.
Using points-based reward systems can also empower club and fan to undertake direct, and indirect, charity and CSR initiatives. There has been a shift in the consumer psyche, with people becoming more conscious of overspending and ethical purchasing. As such, by introducing a percentage of whatever money is spent via the rewards platform, fans and clubs can support grassroots community programmes, delivering long-term benefits to all and giving fans a real sense of purpose when purchasing; reflective of this evolving consumer mindset.
Fans are evolving and clubs must too. To truly engage, clubs must find the value fans are looking for. Increasingly that is experiences that cannot be bought, using currencies developed and tailored specifically especially for the fans. Done well, these currencies have the power to infiltrate every part of a fan’s life and as a result, will deliver unprecedented levels of fan engagement.
Fan currency also has the potential to create fan ecosystems; a thriving network that will see loyal and engaged fans unite to drive real change from the grassroots level upwards.