What Do Sport Fans Really Want From Brands?

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The start of the summer has seen the Lionesses giving us pride in the beautiful game of football and Wimbledon served us another year of sporting magic. But what do the brands battling it out to win the attention of fans really know about these people?

Recent research, undertaken by us, has discovered that 80% of UK Sports Fans prefer to spend their money on experiences, rather than material possessions. This makes it clear that fans know what they want to spend their disposable income on. They are wanting brands to help them escape their day to day life and create personalized experiences.

We’ve seen brands achieving escapism through the use of technology, implementing Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality at events to engage with fans. At Wimbledon this year, American Express used an immersive VR experience to give fans a tennis lesson by Andy Murray. In using these types of technology, the person is completely involved in the experience, with their senses fully engaged by the virtual world and fully detached from the real world.

American Express isn’t the only brand to use a celebrity to enhance an experience. Celebrities and influencers have become a key part of experiential campaigns in recent years. They can help brands reach a wider target audience and/ or a niche group of people, either way they create more authentic partnerships. At a recent Coachella, Absolut executed an inclusive campaign for festival attendees named ‘Absolut Open House’ – inviting all cultures, identities and people to share cocktails and listen to live music. They invited well known artists to perform such as Rita Ora who also promoted the activation to her 15 million followers as well as fashion influencer Alex May, who shared her experience to a much more centralized audience.

Whether it’s at the venue, out of the venue or via digital channels, fans want to engage with the sport they are passionate about. A holistic approach by brands is required to ensure that contact can be made 24/7, especially through social media. We live in a world where this is now expected and it’s a risk not to offer these services.

A group of people that have been overlooked for many years in the sporting world are female fans. It’s good to see this is starting to change. With females holding the majority of the spending power, it’s about time brands recognize they shouldn’t be ignored. The younger generations of women who were able to partake in activities at school are the biggest demographic that follow and enjoy sports. It’s powerful for women to see other women dominating a game. Brands need to support and use these empowering players to engage with female fans to drive awareness and engagement.

Brands give people the opportunity to be closer to their sporting heroes and this is what fans want. This was well documented the other month by Coca-Cola’s campaign. With its heart in the right place, Coca-Cola tried to take on negative comments about women’s football. They invited a man who had heavily criticized the sport to attend the England vs Scotland match. In doing so, they faced backlash from true fans as some couldn’t afford to go and missed out, unlike the man they invited. Activations and offers need to be designed to bring fans closer to each other and to the sport.

The sporting world is a crowded marketplace and it’s by no means any different for brands. Battling for sport fan’s attention is always tricky. The key is to focus on experiences, giving the sports fan memories to remember wherever they are. Let’s just hope their team doesn’t lose!

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