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Digital in football: How To Engage Your Loyal Support

Mon 14th Dec 2015 | IT & Technology

There would be few that would argue that football is unique. Unique for its many endearing qualities that repeatedly drive us to stadia across the planet almost every day of the week, but also for a commercial model that almost every non-sporting business would covet.

The very fact you pay your hard earned cash to watch your team thumped by your local rivals only to return a few days later in the howling wind and pouring rain to be unceremoniously dumped out of the cup, would appear to those who don’t quite understand, unfathomable. But we all do it.

The reason on the face of it is simple. It’s our unequivocal passion for our team, our blind loyalty to our colours that keep us truly believing that one day all our Christmases will come at once and our dreams will turn to reality.

For me, loyalty has always been the most interesting part of a football fan’s make up.  How do you define it? What is true loyalty and how can it be measured? Is a Season Ticket holder any more loyal than the student who manages to scrape enough cash together to get to every game when he or she is back from university?

What is absolutely certain is that loyalty needs rewarding whatever the level and constant engagement and re-engagement is the route to ensuring commercial success off the pitch. In the retail world 41% of online revenue comes from returning and repeat visitors, so there is little doubt that re-engaging the audience can be hugely beneficial. Imagine the disaster facing clubs up and down the pyramid if they failed to engage their existing Season Ticket bases come renewal time? But how well are they actually doing it?

Fan engagement itself comes in many shapes and sizes and for the past few years it has been the focus for football clubs when developing their digital marketing strategies. It can mean different things to different people, but as long as you don't stray too far from the common denominator of making people feel valued, you won't go far wrong.

If you understand what people like, you can make their experience wholly more relevant. Talk to them in a way they want to be spoken too, offer them products and discounts they want to take advantage of, serve content you know they like whilst always remembering one size does not fit all. We are all very individual; consume our media in a multitude of ways and like our engagement to be personal to us. That could be as simple as not asking me over and over again to buy a season ticket when you know I’ve already signed up or as complex as delivering a personalised homepage based on my behaviour and transactional history. 

Implementing the right technology and a strong creative approach remain crucial to achieving the above but these both need to be underpinned by expert planning and an understanding of broader marketing objectives.  All decisions when determining your fan engagement strategy should be driven by the data at your disposal and should include where possible transactional, attitudinal and behavioural information.  But the most important factor in all of this is never losing sight of why your fans come in the first place – their unswerving loyalty.

Mark Rowan is Sports Consultant at digital agency Rippleffect and previously headed up media, communications and digital at Everton Football Club.

Image: Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recin

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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