This is the first in a series of blogs on the fan experience in sports and analytics.
The desire to deliver a world-class fan experience may not be found in data, but a world-class fan experience almost always starts with decisions born out of data.
There are two schools of thought in sports and entertainment. One holds that winning rids all sins. This may be true to a degree. Winning is one measurement that counts most in sports. The other says that fan experience is the ultimate measure of success, especially in the absence of a championship. Fan experience matters because it is the fire that ignites fan engagement!
But what does “fan experience” really mean? Do we really understand its many dimensions, shapes or flavors? And why does it differ from one sport to another or from one region to another?
In this new series, I will explore different aspects of the fan experience. In the process, I’ll be considering a holistic view and analyzing it from all angles. As we say in business intelligence (BI), I will slice and dice it to study its many dimensions, highlighting differences among different sports, traditions and cultures—including subtle nuances that can make a major difference.
The fan experience is not one-size-fits-all. Understanding the makeup of fans and how they relate or consume the experience is a critical slice of the overall picture. What works perfectly in one sport or region may not necessarily work as well in another for reasons such as format, culture, geography or weather.
The fan experience is both art and science. The ingredients of the fan experience include business and technical solutions around ticketing, concessions, merchandising and more. And their development and delivery must follow best practices—that is the science part.
The art is in the execution. How do we go about it? How do we make it happen? It requires both ingenuity and critical thinking, since not all components of our “fan experience blueprint” may come with hard-and-fast rules we can rely on.
The fan experience is a continuous engagement. The fan experience is a “continuous engagement” because it began before the season started, and won’t end after the season—championship or not. The relationship between the fan and the sports organization evolves with each interaction to create new opportunities for fan engagement.
Moreover, the globalization of professional sports brings about new prospects for international appeal, which extends the reach of fan bases around the world. The Internet, 24/7 media outlets and social media become a conduit for continuous engagement for a fan base that never sleeps, regardless of where the event takes place.
The fan experience is about making a special connection. There are many ways to manage the mechanics of delivering the fan experience, but we must focus instead on forging the right connection with the fans in a timely manner. Each connection should be a unique experience that keeps a fan returning. Special connections borne of unforgettable memories stay with us a lifetime, like a father taking his son to his first game at the ballpark or a mother cheering in the stands with her daughter from among a crowd of thousands.
The fan experience stands on data and analytics. An engaged fan connects with the league, team or player on multiple levels. And each of those connections is a chance for further engagement. It all happens in three steps:
- Data generated from these interactions creates the necessary raw material for analytics.
- Insights from the enriched data sets help build a foundation for integrated and connected platforms.
- Integrated and connected platforms enable faster, better-informed decisions to create opportunities for growth and profitability.
The fan experience blueprint, if designed and implemented effectively, should be the framework to deliver the ultimate fan engagement at the right time and at the right place.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Fan Experience Matters series.
The Fan Experience Matters Series: