It’s hard to imagine professionals working with mainstream sports struggling to engage fans using content, but has the increase in the use of social media by sports properties redefined the word engagement to something less meaningful than it once was?
Engage is one of those strange English words with multiple meanings. One of those definitions involves participation, but someone can be emotionally engaged with a piece of content without having to do anything.
Fans have had technologies like talk-back radio and bulletin boards for at least 20 years. Fans of comics and sci-fi have had conventions since the early 70’s. Even in the time of Circus Maximus there was crowd participation. Were these people less engaged with the content being delivered than today?
People can be just as engaged with one-way or broadcast media like a novel or a film as they can be with a football game or yacht race. In fact people may engage more with a story with narrative more than a 140 character missive of manufactured attention bait.
So why are we worried about engaging sports fans (or customers in a non-sports marketing sense) at all? The answer is – revenue.
Perhaps interact is a better word to describe how social media changes sports marketing. It’s perhaps thinking too hard about the semantics, but maybe we should assume that our audience is engaged and then go about trying to interact with them.
So what are we doing to interact with our fans? What are we doing to interact with new fans? and What products and experiences are we making that we can sell to our fans?
The final one is a question that may not be asked much in Europe or in sports that have come from a more amateur ideal, but in the USA, where sports marketing is actually selling something, not just a bit of social glue, the question of how to make money is the reason for wanting to keep fans interacting for longer.
If your social media team are not increasing ticket-sales, merchandising revenue or driving purchases of premium content, then then they should be increasing the value of sponsorship deals and other revenue sources.
Of course all that is easy if you are a sports property and you have compelling content and people want to hear your stories. Engaging consumers in other markets is quite a different challenge and requires a different approach.
Recently, there has been a trend towards brands leaving their DNA at the door when they step into the social world. Insurance companies that think they are energy drinks and banks that think they are video games have been seduced by self appointed social media gurus into thinking that if they entertain the audience, they will do better. In reality, the customers of insurance companies and banks just want a good product at a fair price and friction-less customer service experiences.
Content marketing will continue to become more important to companies in industries where ‘Search’ is a major driver. Sport has a part to play in helping brands that may not otherwise have a reason to interact with customers, to tell stories and be part of the conversation.