Julian Jenkins in Sports Business Jul 26, 2016 · 2 min read · ~100

Fan Engagement is a culture, not a term

Sport has the amazing luxury of starting at a point of loyalty with its stakeholders.  Think about it for a moment. How many businesses worldwide would love to have a starting point like that with their ‘customers’.

I use the word customers to align with business outside of the sports and entertainment sphere, because we all know fans really don’t like to be referred to as mere customers. They’re not buying a commodity, they’re investing a mind-set and a whole lot more. The emotional ties can be generations old, which should always be respected.

Successful sports and entertainment brands understand this point to the letter and as such ensure that they maximise the opportunities that materialise. They know the true power of affinity.

Affinity for me is a stronger word than loyalty. I think you can be loyal out of habit or lethargy – for example the direct debit for that unused gym membership. Affinity on the other hand is at the core. It’s what brings everything together to create a strong bond.

So on the back of this, surely we should be implementing innovative strategies around Fan Relationship Management and Affinity Reward Schemes.

This outlook is where clubs, associations and more can truly set themselves apart. The Golden State Warriors, for example, are one of these standout organisations that sees Fan Engagement as a culture and not a term.

The Warriors have really seen a golden era roll-in with attendances increasing year on year and the bond between fans and the club has grown over and over again.

So how has this been achieved? I can only imagine a lot of hard work and innovation, but also the culture from the very top. This was accelerated in 2010 when Joe Lacob took over with a $450m buyout - a figure was in many quarters deemed excessive for a team that hadn’t won a championship since 1975.

Joe saw beyond the history and the lack of facilities at the arena and set about building a culture, both on and off the court. As a result the ‘business’ has been turned around, while on the court the team beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring LeBron James and all last season.

Fan Engagement is a culture, not a term

A number of campaigns have taken fan intimacy through the roof, which will be further expanded on when The Warriors move to a state-of-the-art, self-financed arena in 2019 on the San Francisco waterfront. The new development will bring office blocks and commercial space and has added around $1b to an already increasing value, which today stands at an estimated $2b.

Underpinning the Warriors Fan Engagement culture is an understanding of the supporters themselves. The club is built around the fans and the community, which resonates through every touch-point and communication.

You see this isn’t just a term or tick box exercise, but instead is a culture from the top down. Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors on their success with campaigns such as “We Believe” and “Strength in numbers”. These are far more than strap marketing lines. They are the pillars on which the business has been built.

Similarly, when I spoke with Cathy Long at the Premier League, one of the many poignant quotes that struck me was the emphasis on the basic need to talk to fans. There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there, but as Cathy correctly states, “The fans are the true experts of your business and club”. From experience this is certainly true when it comes to designing and implementing memorable experiences and engagement points.

There are many great examples on Fanalyse where fan engagement is a culture and not a term, which bodes well for all sports and the intimacy and affinity of fans around the world. Click here to join the fastest growing online community for the sports and entertainment industry.

joyce albert Aug 8, 2016 · #1

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