FAN:-noun: fan; plural noun: fans
- A person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing.
A fan, or fanatic, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something or somebody, such as a band, a sports team, a genre, a book, a movie or an entertainer. (From Wikipedia)
The world over, CEOs from different industries desperately want to be a part of the sports engagement scenario, for a simple reason. While they have customers, sports engagement involves fans.
Fans do not get singularly attracted by conventional parameters such as low pricing, product quality, offers and discounts etc. This is because they have an inherent, underlying and unshakable affinity and loyalty for a particular team, a player or a sport. Sometimes, this liking runs in a family, or if you are from a particular locality then it’s a part of who you are, as the club football games suggest. Thus, it is undoubtedly an enviable position to be involved in fan engagement.
This does not, however, mean that sports engagement managers can remain complacent while the stadiums and subscriptions sell out by themselves. It is probably one of the most competitive industries out there, with continuous innovation being the driving force of established and new players. Fan engagement has long emerged as the priority number one in global sports, and taking cue from other countries, the Indian sporting scenario is also adapting fan engagement technology to optimally tap into the passion of the Indian audience. Let us see how:-
Big Data for big results
The 2011 sports drama film Moneyball, based on Oakland Athletic’s 2002 baseball team and its manager Billy bean’s attempt to assemble a statistically competitive team, forever changed how quantitative analytics were viewed in the sporting arena. The pinnacle of such analysis was reached during the 2013-14 NBA season when every team had access to SportVU tracking, a complex system of six cameras to record each and every movement of the ball and all the players.
The result? …More data generation than the game’s 67-year history, observational study by coaches and a highly informed audience forever trying to obtain newer statistics about their favourite players. This influenced the Indian sporting authorities and fans alike. While coaches could be seen sitting in the dugouts with their laptops and swanky devices, fans were bombarded with latest statistics describing every intricate detail of a player’s performance, and the audience lapped it up, all the while wanting more.
The second screen becomes the first
Something interesting happened during the Rio Olympics in USA. For the first time, television viewership of the official broadcaster declined, while online viewership noted a sharp increase. Globally, smartphone and other carry-along devices have emerged as the preferred medium for viewing sports with 45% users viewing sports content online compared to 33% on television.
Furthermore, mobile devices are being used as the fundamental tool through which an interactive experience can be created for the user. For instance, the New Sacramento Kings arena has mobile applications that allow seamless check-ins and guide the user to the seat, the shortest bathroom/food vendor routes, offer instant message/video delivery on the big screen and massive Wi-Fi Systems. Indian stadiums too have started to become tech-savvy, with stadium ticket booking made available through online wallets and continuous interaction with the audience through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
When stars converge
In the west, it is quite common for stars to have minority or majority stakes in professional sports teams, including the likes of Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Bill Murray etc. More than their financial contribution, such stars bring in a huge fan following to the sport, resulting in an amalgamation of the fan base of the two.
In India as well, this trend is visible with various stars such as John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan and Salman Khan serving either as owners or brand ambassadors for a team. They also help to give a team a specific character or mood. For instance, a team which is known to play an attacking game can have an action hero as its representative.
Provide the experience that matters
It has been reported that NASCAR is developing a ‘digital cockpit’ which would provide an opportunity for in-race social media interaction between fans and drivers. Similarly, during T20 games, commentators communicate with players through ear-mic and pose questions asked by the audience. In the future, audiences might be able to directly talk with their favourite players during the match or might be invited to pre-match warm ups through the tools of fan engagement.
As 2017 approaches, sports engagement in India will be turning a new leaf. With new tournaments and leagues being introduced, the modern Indian sporting audience will be pampered through numerous fan engagement methods. From being informed about like-minded sport aficionados near your home, workplace or anywhere in the world to 24×7 infographics, live prediction games and animation related to your favourite sports or virtual guides to your stadium experience, the journey from ‘watching’ to ‘experiencing’ sports has already started and is going to reshape how sportainment in India is viewed and executed.