Fans are the lifeblood of sports, whether they’re in the stands or watching on screens large and small, but the fan experience and fan expectations have changed.
Many sports marketers have found the many benefits of capturing fan reactions. They have started integrating their fans into team promotions and found that it really makes a big impact on sharability and reach on social media. They’ve started to request and collect purpose-driven user-generated content (UGC) created by their fans to sharing over official digital channels. This amplifies this first-hand photos and videos content across social media because fan creators share this media with their own audiences.
Listen as some of the leading voices in sports marketing discuss how co-creating digital media with athletes and fans builds deeper brand connections and greater sponsor value in this panel at Hashtag Sports 2021 VRTL.
Panelists Caroline Morgan, Vice President of Digital Strategy, Los Angeles Dodgers, joined Nick Monroe, Director of Content, Milwaukee Bucks, and Jared Harding, Executive Director, Digital Content and Strategy at Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (owners of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets franchises). Greenfly’s Co-founder and Chairman Shawn Green moderated the discussion.
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On the day the Los Angeles Dodgers were celebrating their grand “Re-opening Day” for full stadium fan capacity, and there was robust playoff activity across the NBA and NHL, it was an appropriate moment to take a timeout. But only for an expert discussion on creating closer digital fan connections through interactive campaigns and timely, relevant content.
Capture Fan Reactions with Fan-Created UGC
Morgan noted that one big takeaway for her team in the last year was that their fans are the lifeblood of what they do every day. As she reminded the audience, “A goal of any sports franchise is to broaden your fan base outside of your local market. Having fan involvement in content makes it feel more global, more universal and definitely helps to deepen connections.” UGC helps teams interact with global fans who have brand loyalty and affinity — but without the traditional means of engaging through game attendance — feel involved and valued.
Monroe agreed that engaging fans through digital platforms is critical, and in this time, his team has found more ways to highlight them in unique ways. These include virtually bringing fans into the starting lineup and capturing reactions versus just picking content winners. Now that the Bucks arena is again fully open to fans, a big focus is to highlight them in the team’s original content.
Harding spoke about how content can resonate with younger fans, who want to connect with players, teams and brands. He noted, “It’s really our duty to figure out how to do that on our end.” When the leagues shut down, his teams leaned on different platforms to reach and connect with fans right away. They produced a weekly series on Twitch, streaming live simulated games for both the Nuggets and Avalanche franchises, with play-by-play announcers and in-game presentations. This initiative holds promise for future efforts, as it prompted a lot of audience views and interaction.
Giving Fans an “All Access” Fan Experience
Morgan described her team’s work to keep sports top of mind for fans and hype up athletes accustomed to fans’ energy in the stadium. They launched Zoom parties with athletes, former athletes and celebrities during the sports pause and found that virtual fireside chats like these would fit well during regular off-season schedules. Their Greenfly campaign for the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series championship garnered thousands of emotional fan reaction videos to the final out. This initiative helped unite fans worldwide who had to watch such a memorable moment without gathering for traditional celebrations. The team plans to capture and use more fan-facing reactions in other marketing campaigns.
Monroe discussed the Bucks’ content focus on their players, such as superstar player Giannis Antetokounmpo, and showing off their personalities. Through the NBA bubble, his team gained more trust and access among their players for creating content. These deeper connections have allowed them to provide many more player insights and perspectives through their social media and “give an all-access feel to all of our content.” The Bucks have built a leading YouTube strategy to reach the youth demographic and, increasingly, international fans.
Harding also offered how his teams create value for traditional media and brand partners. During the pandemic, they thought holistically about how to support the entire organization through digital platforms. This global approach included sponsors and activating fans in meaningful ways, such as bringing their weekly behind-the-scenes TV shows Nuggets 360 and Avalanche 360 to digital-only channels. These premiered weekly on YouTube, helping the Nuggets become a Top Five YouTube team.
All three commented that they connect, share best practices and compare notes with their league and industry peers to continually build upon their sports fan engagement strategies for the road ahead.
Watch the full panel discussion above.