Running a startup in a nascent field, one does not come across a great a deal of direction from the outside world. There is no blue print that exists for what you are doing and everyday is an experiment which you hope will take you closer to your goal. At Fantain we find ourselves trying a hundred different things and sprinting in four different directions, presuming it is taking us to our goal. We felt it was important to look around and learn, to benchmark with the best in the business. This could save us time and money, and ensure that we don’t have to make all mistakes ourselves.
With this in mind, I attended the Sports Fan Summit (http://www.sportsfansummit.com) held in Sydney, Australia in June 2015. I am glad I did. The Summit was a fantastic opportunity to meet some of the best minds in the world as it relates to engaging sports fans. I got the opportunity to share ideas with people who are constantly innovating. We were able to develop a vision for the company based on global best practices.
Here are a few takeaways for me from the summit -
1. Almost all owners of successful sports teams are passionate sports fans themselves. They continue to view the sport as a sport, and not as a business. By extension, they have a long term view and are open to making long term investments in their business.
2. It is imperative to delight fans at every turn. It is not enough if your team is performing well. As a team owner, you need to understand your fans’ every need and cater to them - day in and day out. If you do not have a team dedicated to doing this, you are missing the plot.
3. With the consumerization of technology, there is a massive opportunity for sports teams to know your fans really well and to engage them consistently and effectively. Technology has made it possible and cheaper than ever before to connect with your fans.
4. There is a fair bit of confusion on whose job it is to engage fans. I saw real life fan engagement being executed by Sports arenas, Sports leagues, Sports teams, Technology companies and other third parties. As the market matures, there will be a greater clarity on who should be doing it which will help the cause of everyone
5. Fan Engagement has massively enhanced the scope of marketing.. The biggest problem of marketing has always been measurability and fan engagement is solving that problem right and centre.
6. There is no shortage of sponsors interested in making sports investments. But they are interested in investing only in teams that are reaching fans effectively. Tracking and measurements are critical for money flow in this market.
7. Teams are coming off the ‘high’ associated with social media. Everyone was chasing ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ a couple of cycles ago - but are now realizing that social influence is more important that social reach. Just touting your likes is not enough to attract sponsor dollars any more.
8. The best sponsorship agreements make sure that the teams and brands work in tandem to spend the activation dollars - and always focus on benefiting the fan. Activation/promotion of brand that does not drive value to the fans is useless.
9. There is no ‘one set formula’ for success in sports team management. Teams that have tried various things like focusing on women, kids, minority communities, etc have all been successful. So the emphasis needs to be about execution, execution and execution.
10. Most successful teams look at fan communities both in aggregate and as a collection of smaller communities with specific common needs/goals. And the job of fan management teams is to ensure that they understand each segment well and cater to them.
This was my first visit to Australia and I loved visiting this great country. The Aussies (& Kiwis) are great conversationalists - the openness with which people shared information and best practices was delightful. In the same spirit, I am open to sharing my two cents with anyone in this space of sports fan management. Shout me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org if you think I can contribute to your thought processes in any way.
I am also attaching a link to my interview in the sidelines of this event
CEO, Fantain Sports