The Secret Sauce: How Leagues & Clubs Are Building Global Fan Engagement in Sports

3 simple ingredients are all you need to boost global fan engagement in sports. Learn how the top clubs & leagues have found the right mix.

7 cheering fans dressed in blue color with confetti, showcasing global fan engagement in sports.

Driving — and retaining — global fan engagement remains one of the most perplexing challenges for sports marketers. It’s the dilemma that keeps digital and commercial teams up at night. 

In our daily conversations with leagues, clubs and federations worldwide, they’re prioritizing how to work out the magic mix of elements that drive fandom, particularly among elusive Gen Z audiences. 

They’re finding that blending three simple ingredients is all it takes to build loyal, activated fan bases. Ones that drive revenue and growth throughout an organization’s entire ecosystem. And it starts with an element every sports organization already has in hand.

Let’s explore the secret sauce of fandom that top sports properties are whipping up to great success. 

Gameday Fan Engagement Recipe

  1. One Part Short-Form Content
  2. One Part Real-Time Access
  3. One Part Athlete and Partner-Owned Channels

Mix. Activate in seconds. Repeat. 

Serves thousands to millions. 

Cheering fan taking selfie in stadium crowd showcasing global fan engagement in sports.

1) Short-Form Content: Capture the Gameday Angles Gen Z Wants 

As the sports content landscape continues to evolve, the leaders in this space are shifting their strategies in tandem.

They know delivering short-form content on social media platforms and beyond is not just a side dish to long-form live games. It’s often now the main course of sports viewing, particularly for younger fans. 

A new Deloitte survey found that over 90% of Gen Z fans use social media to consume sports content like game clips, interviews and athlete posts. Another recent study noted that over one-third of 18-24-year-old sports fans today prefer watching these snackable bites over full games.

And those trends are only growing. That’s because the younger generation of social-native Gen Alpha fans (the leading wave of whom are already teenagers) are following close behind.  

Digital snippets feature key event highlights and, most importantly, the all-access moments that broadcast cameras and photographers focused on the game can’t catch.

These include player arrivals, warm-ups, sideline chats and post-game celebrations. Gameday bits like these are now a core part of the global fan experience as much as any action on the field.

And you’re already capturing them at every match from your photographers, staff, or third-party media services.

Live Content Capture

More leagues and clubs are taking this content further. They’re building live social content programs on match day with correspondents that capture all the angles fans care about. And they’re doing it with only their mobile phones in hand. 

These social reporters are an extension of your digital staff — typically freelancers. They have access throughout sports venues to get behind-the-scenes videos and photos and catch key moments from many different angles that broadcast cameras can’t reach.

For instance, they chronicle game-winning celebrations from the jubilant fan perspective, telling the close-up story of a die-hard community’s bliss. 

The beauty of prioritizing short-form, mobile-captured content is that sports organizations can tap anyone to shoot it. No one needs to learn the ins and outs of pro camera or video equipment. Every staffer, freelancer, partner, athlete or fan you have can pick up their phone and record the original, exclusive stories audiences crave the most. 

Phone-captured content feels more authentic to fans. Because it is.

In fact, it routinely performs better on social media than what any broadcast camera picks up. And it has much value beyond owned social channels. It can enhance sponsor and broadcast partner deals, athlete brand-building, ticket sales campaigns, mobile app offerings and much more. 

Collecting a ton of short-form media on game day is the solid base your fan engagement in sports recipe needs. But it means nothing if you can’t get it where it needs to go quickly. The second ingredient you need helps your content come to life. 

Fan hand with mobile phone horizontal focused on sports field showcasing global fan engagement in sports.

2) Real-Time Access: Speed the Journey of Content for Global Fan Engagement

Sports fans have a lot of media options to keep them occupied today.

They’re no longer waiting around for your team to manually sort through and share all the short-form content gathered from your staff, photographers, correspondents and third-party media services. They’ve already moved on in their social feed by the time the game whistle blows.

You need to serve them content in real time, while your event is still in progress.  

Leading sports organizations recognize that technology to automate content processes and provide real-time access to all stakeholders who need this digital media has become a vital part of any digital content team’s infrastructure. 

Streamlined Publishing

Have you ever thought about the journey of a single social media post your staff publishes? It’s pretty complex. 

There may be over 15 steps involved, from shot set-up, photo or video capture, uploading to a repository, downloading, clipping, tagging, sorting, editing, approving and distributing it to multiple points.  Then, there are more downloads and uploads, plus writing copy, tagging, localizing for markets and posting to many different social channels.

Now multiply that by hundreds or thousands of assets your team posts in a season. 

Manually, on their own, your staff may be able to put up several key posts on your owned channels on game day. Maybe. They also have to distribute media assets to internal and external stakeholders. That’s often done haphazardly through spreadsheets, cloud services, email or Slack, ultimately to get it to fans.

By that time, it may be the next game or event day. Your fans are already ahead of you, seeking sports content elsewhere.  

Technology such as Greenfly enables digital teams to automate and streamline these processes and content workflows consistently at scale. With it, there could be hundreds of content pieces every match day getting to your fans immediately — before a match is even over. 

You can get more real-time content to your broadcasters to drive tune-in and to your sponsors to boost consumer activation. Also, you can get it to your athletes to help them build their personal brands, and to your owned direct-to-consumer mobile apps to enhance these experiences.

The value chain of your content and brand grows exponentially. 

You’ll reach more fans across the globe than you thought possible. With even more advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence-driven software to identify and contextually analyze large volumes of videos and photos instantly, those numbers can skyrocket even more. 

With short-form content and real-time access folded in, your recipe is nearly complete. It’s time to add the final ingredient that makes your fan engagement in sports soar. 

Male looking at his mobile phone in stadium showcasing global fan engagement in sports.

3) Athlete & Partner-Owned Channels: Boost Connection and Value Across Your Ecosystem

Back to our social media post journey example, you can further multiply those many posts you enjoy with automation. Don’t limit your fan reach and engagement in sports to your owned channels.

Digital-forward sports organizations are seeing great success by sharing curated short-form content with their athletes, staff, broadcasters and sponsors. Now, all those media assets get amplified by all the stakeholders looking for this content to boost their own connections to sports fans. 

The result? A much larger global audience for all. 

Broad Distribution

Athletes, in particular, look for their content after every event. They want to build their public profiles and amplify their fan followings to gain more lucrative endorsements and promote their favorite causes.

At Greenfly, we hear countless anecdotes of athletes who are thrilled to discover photos and videos of special moments from their games. They’re finding them in the curated media asset galleries now accessible on their mobile phones. And they love to share this content with their friends and family, too. 

Savvy sports properties know that giving content to athletes is a valuable service that gives back in multiple ways. Fans gravitate toward players first, before your property’s brand.

And when athletes start creating their own original content to share, like when they thank fans for their support? The sky’s the limit for global fan engagement in sports. 

For sports broadcasters, short-form content has become a key component of media rights deals. They love to distribute this content to on-air talent and creatives to share. And they run it on their linear and digital channels to drive more audience viewership and fan engagement.

Content created specifically for social and mobile is additive to fan enjoyment; it doesn’t cannibalize the linear experience. 

Meanwhile, sponsors are seeking videos, photos and graphics filled with their logos — on jerseys, signage, gear and more. Sports properties are finding creative ways to package this extra exposure for corporate partners within new or renewal sponsorship agreements for more revenue

With technology supporting this distribution, you can also closely track your content’s reach and performance through granular data analysis. That’s the case whether it’s an athlete’s social engagement for a post or the equivalent ad value of that post for sponsors.

Your teams can uncover the content’s true return on investment. 

Everyone wants to align themselves with magic sports moments immediately — and relive them repeatedly. Giving short-form content to athletes, broadcasters and sponsors directly adds tremendous value to these relationships.

It’s the connective tissue that completes your fan engagement recipe and unites and uplifts your entire sports universe. 

Real-Time Digital Content Feed Playbook cover 3D

Real-Time Content Access on Match Day

Get this how-to playbook on building a real-time digital content feed to power up fan engagement in sports.

Start Building Fan Engagement in Sports Today

With these three ingredients, short-form content, real-time access and expanded distribution, you have all you need to start making your global fan engagement goals in sports a reality.

Greenfly’s AI-powered platform helps leagues, teams and federations worldwide orchestrate large volumes of short-form digital content to infuse your entire sports environment.

Want help in putting all these pieces together to boost fan engagement in sports? Talk to us; we’d be happy to help.

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