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In the Customer Engagement Arena, Sports Teams Lead the Way

Mobile, social and digital technologies–together with the proliferation of media outlets and one-click access to all types of compelling online content—provide today’s consumer with more on-demand entertainment options than ever before.  Such options pose a threat to more traditional forms of entertainment as consumers increasingly ask “Why should I spend my time and money to attend a basketball game or live theater when I can watch epic fail videos on YouTube all night while simultaneously playing Words with Friends on my mobile phone?”

Driven by a new breed of tech-savvy owners and senior executives, long-established sports brands are fighting back by deploying technology and data in new ways to enhance the fan experience and drive deep, sustained loyalty among their fan bases.

According to new research by Competitive Edge Research Reports, the key to achieving ongoing consumer loyalty is trust:  “To earn the right to intimate customer engagement, companies and brands first need to earn the trust of customers…providing knowledge that customers don’t otherwise have.”

To engender such engagement, teams are providing fans with unprecedented streams of behind-the-scenes content, open forums for discussion, data and analytics that create insights into player and team performance, and personalized engagement at the arena, in the home, and on mobile devices.

As a result of these immersive fan-to-brand experiences, fans are becoming more passionate, year-round supporters of organizations like the San Francisco 49ers, the National Basketball League, and the Women’s Tennis Association.

In a recent video interview (see below) with SAP’s Holly Cooper, 49ers President Paraag Marathe talked about how teams can engage more deeply with their fan bases on multiple levels.  Whether it’s providing in-stadium amenities like a mobile app that streams instant video replays and sends alerts about the length of restroom lines, at-home access into a day in the life of a fan’s favorite player, or analytics that help you pick your fantasy team, today’s digital, social, and mobile technologies provide almost limitless opportunities to enhance fan loyalty and engagement. 

Companies in all industries would do well to learn from how their colleagues in the sports world are changing the customer engagement game. (Another great example is what the NBA is doing with its new stats hub that provides fans with player and game statistics reaching all the way back to 1946.)  Because the key to winning loyal customers is to engage in ways that turn them into raving fans.

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      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes

      I always thought the key to engaging folks when watching sports, was to field a competitive team that actually plays an exciting form of whatever sport they are playing.

      Are restroom line checkers really going to help the 49'ers keep fans engaged in a really bad season?  In most sports franchises, unless your team shows the potential to win, you will never attract beyond the "true believer" in most cases. Then maybe I'm biased since my favorite team doesn't need restroom line alerts to keep people attending games.   It also probably helps that they have a level of fan engagement that most brands(including other professional franchises) would envy.

      Take care,