3 Sports Fan Engagement Insights from the Digital Sport Summit


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The Digital Sport Summit #dss10 in Melbourne yesterday was a sold-out event, and while I saw a few less satisfied twitters I thought that it was very constructive first-time event and it had a fair deal of “how” rather than just “why”. The “why” we are over, and I was impressed with how the clubs had really moved on to implementation and their lessons.

I didn’t take many notes, just a few jots on my iPhone now and then. Here are the main three impressions that stand out in my mind 24 hours later:

#1 Vision: Essendon Football Club‘s Jonathan Simpson told how the Board of Directors nailed a vision 2 years ago for the club to commit more deeply to digital engagement with their fans, which by definition included social media. Impressively the Board said “hey we don’t know how to do this but we want you (the staff) to find out” and it is a 2 year strategy. It was a “virtual connection” strategy, analogous to the successful ”community connection” strategy already in place. It was 12 months ago that staff started on the social media “how to” of the journey, built their plans, presented their business case, and started implementing 6 months ago.

One of the fundamental tenets in building the engagement with fans is their “Content of Choice, Platform of Choice” decision, which was developed by the staff in their 6 month investigation period. This means that Essendon will engage with the fans where the fans are, in the fans social communities, and in with the content relevant to that community. This perhaps sounds obvious, but it is counter the thinking of most clubs who are obsessively concerned about driving traffic back to their club site.

Jonathan talked about the challenges in getting everyone else in the organisational side of the club on board, and of the conflicts and concerns about crossing organisational lines and responsibility. His answer was to get everyone together, to explain how “fan development” effected all other areas, and in particular to illustrate factually how it effected their KPIs. This helped align everyone.

All of this is a tough task, and getting all departments on board is always tough, so I give full credit to the Board for their vision as this is something we most often cry out for in making all successful projects work – the commitment of senior management, and above.

#2: Power of Spontaneity: I guess that the Phoenix SUNS fan engagement story is “well known” among those who “know” as it has won many awards, and it was great to have Jeramie McPeek as the opening speaker of the Summit. Amongst all the Suns neat work there was one item which really got me thinking – the Jared Dudley story.

 In the face of a varying degree of enthusiasm for “twittering” and lingering degrees of skepticism, fear and doubt, Jared Dudley suddenly took to the medium like a duck to water. His spontaneity changed the face of twittering and social media in the club, and among players, and his “natural” reporting skills and tendencies built a whole new level of fan engagement. Tweeting from the locker room, pics and videos from players homes, parties, social events, tweeting his own stats, all lit up the fan engagement and at no cost to the club. That’s contagious to everyone – in the club and outside.

Contrast that to the World Cup where the powers-that-be are more concerned to block and control then to allow spontaneity.

PS we have our own “Jared Dudley story” in Collingwood AFL Footballer Harry O’Brien, who is one of the first AFL players to embrace social media and gave a fabulous account of his enthusiasm at the Summit and has an active website.

#3 Business Acumen: Nick Marven told a great story about re-inventing the faltering business of the Perth Wildcats, and from being a disbeliever in social media as part of that to an advocate.  The Wildcats are now the most successful club in the Australian NBL and has experienced annual membership growth of 35% resulting in consecutive sell-out attendances for over 2 years. 

Nick gave a huge insight into the difference between a business customer and a sporting club customer, and the “sales funnel”, and what I also really liked was his use of social media in personnel management within the club. His presentation is on Slideshare.

So in summary I’d say Essendon’s vision is still rare, in any business, Suns’ embracing of spontaneity is rare, in any business still, and the Wildcats’ total business integration and alignment of social media is still rare, in any business. All great examples.

I had never realised that clubs see such value, and go to such effort, to engage their fans in how the club works, all the different departments, the people, the “organisation”, and how they encourage this transparency. The evolution of social media provides a wonderful platform for these efforts.

What are the best sporting club social media insights you know?

Have they started from grass roots or been Board-sponsored?

Who is your favourite social-media-engaged athlete?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Walter Adamson
I help firms create optimal customer experiences by integrating social data, teams & processes with enterprise systems. The much vaunted 360-view of the customer can be a bottomless pit without a clear data strategy. I help you deliver a greatly improved customer experience starting with a "45-degree" view of the customer, fully utilising social data analytics. I clarify your objectives and what data you need to service them, and guide you to operationalise "social at scale" to consistently deliver valuable customer experience at every social touch point.


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