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Author's profile photo Joerg Koesters

Brand to Fan – What Retailers can learn from top sports experiences to turn customers into hyper-loyal fans

On Sunday January 11 Pat Bakey, Global General Manager Consumer Industries of SAP has opened the 104th Annual Retail Convention and Expo in the Jacobs Javits Center in New York with the session Game Changers – Loyalty and Performance from Passionate Sports Fandom on what makes Top Sports franchises and world class retailers successful.

Here is a summary of the key points:


Here is a summary of the key points:

Start with a look at how Retail is changing:

  • Retailers are moving further away from consumer relationships defined only by transactions to continuous relationships defined by experiences.
  • Retailers are moving from broadcasting their messages to listening to each customer’s message and entering into an open and ongoing dialogue and connection with the consumers.

It is this connection with the consumer, we’ll come to think of him as your ultimate fan, which can drive your business to new heights.

The word fanatic describes someone with obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something. Fanatics are probably nowhere more evident than in the world of sports – The ultimate fan – LIVES THE BRAND – not just at the game, but each fan embodies the brand before, during, and after the game.  In the case of football, for the whole week, the whole season, the playoffs, throughout the draft, and into summer camp and pre-season – the whole year!

Sports has moved beyond defining the fan experience as a Sunday at the stadium, an 82 game season, a World Cup every 4 years.  It is an always on, always engaged experience. Retailing is the same — it is not about a shopping trip to the store or a browsing adventure on line.  It is about a continuous and immersive relationship with the retail brand.

Technology and the social sphere have redefined and enhanced the engagement. The ability to be connected to your team anywhere at any time has created a generation of hyper-fans who challenge sportscasters if they are off even a percentage point on a stat. The brand is now experienced in a very personal way by each fan – and the brand must be meaningful in every interaction; and those interactions are dictated by the fan. What we see happing in Sports is that technology is both changing the fan experience and the way the game is played.

Big Data and incredible advances in processing speeds from in-memory technology have delivered new performance insights to coaches, players, and even fans, let’s just look at a few examples:

  • Sophisticated scouting reports are now augmented by in the moment player feedback. 
  • During the Soccer World Cup, the German team took advantage of those advancements. It was the players that received the information and were empowered to improve their performance.
  • In Women’s tennis coaches are out there providing in the moment coaching to players based on real-time data during the game.

Now the links between sports and retailing are surprisingly easy to make – the retail store is like the traditional stadium. You run plays with your staff to beat the competition. The Retail staff needs to react and respond in the moment to customer and competitive pressures to deliver the best outcomes and experiences. This is what can turn a shopper into a life-long fan.

But now the store is extended by your kiosks, your call center, your website and apps. Shopping is no longer a transaction or event; it is an experience available to your fans 24 x7. Successful Retailers know that it is not just about a shopping trip to the store or a browsing adventure on line.  It is about a continuous and immersive relationship with the retail brand. And your brand is experienced in person, on TV and cable, through social channels, on devices big and small and soon through wearable technology.

The consumer is in charge and is completely redefining the brand experience, and it is all about the experience — your brand is active and alive wherever and whenever your fans engage. Winning in retail is all about connecting your brand with your customer and having everyone on your team committed – your fans already are!

The best companies will see the opportunity, leverage information technology, empower employees, connect with customers – all in real time – that is the nature of the business.

If you want to join the dialogue please join this forum or send me an email at:

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