Jason Thomas, CEO at Tappit, on how brands can connect to their fans

It is a fact universally acknowledged that the global Coronavirus pandemic is one of the largest challenges the world has encountered. With events being put on hold worldwide as national leaders implement measures in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, organisers and teams must look for ways to keep fans engaged at this difficult time to assist their brands in finding the path through to a successful future. Given that research found customers who enjoy an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306 percent higher lifetime value, building strong, personal connections with fans is key in maintaining engagement at this time. Luckily, there are a wealth of technologies you can take advantage of to create and maintain these robust connections with your fans.

Data and the fan

Understanding your fan, their behaviours, preferences and purchasing habits, will be crucial to ensuring customers remain loyal; fan loyalty is a key part of sustainability, and can be maintained even if your event is being compromised by the Covid-19 crisis.

The important thing to consider at present is the fact that the event itself doesn’t necessarily need to sit at the centre of your fan engagement model. Instead, it is the data you have about your fans that represents your most valuable commodity; it is this data that you can use to reach fans, and ultimately safeguard the sustainability of your business and provide opportunities for revenue driving year-round.

Cashless is king

This is where those events or venues that have used technology can maximise the value of their data. Cashless systems, for example, which link with ticketing and CRM systems enable event organisers and venue owners to gain a clear single customer view. Differently to contactless payment systems, cashless technologies mean you can gather data on what fans are buying at which times, and their journey through the venue such as when they arrive and leave your event, and even your car parks. This data can be used to tailor your messaging to fans more effectively.

Such tailored messaging is attractive to fans; according to Tappit’s data, 72 percent of fans would like to receive personalised marketing content from their team. It is therefore clear that sports and entertainment companies must leverage this to ensure highly personalised messaging is reaching their fan base, informed by accurate data.

Virtual is the new reality

New technologies such as virtual and augmented reality can be leveraged to bring engaging experiences to fans in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Providing free virtual tours of stadiums and previously exclusive VIP areas can keep fans excited for the return of live sport. Meanwhile, VR and AR experiences can be built to create immersive entertainment for fans stuck at home during the coronavirus epidemic.

Use your voice on social media 

Another vital tool at present is social media, and companies should use their online presence to maintain a regular dialogue with fans. You can keep your fan base engaged and also build it this way. Aside from connecting with fans, you can make their activities relevant to the lockdown situation and help them to find parallels between their lives and the lives of the athletes they follow.

Premier League football titans Manchester City, for example, have recently launched their own #citizensathome game plan including motivational videos about keeping active, focused around football. This allows the sports property to promote healthy active lifestyles during lockdown, while also maintaining a constant stream of fan engagement who are able to tune in for fresh content such as interviews with their favourite footballers or workout videos.

Now is also the perfect time to share brand news. With no sport currently being played, fans are interested in any information about their favourite teams and sports, and sporting news stories are being shared heavily online. Posting such news helps to build momentum for the seasons ahead and keeps fans connected to their teams. Updates about new signings, and even news about current players, will help maintain interest.

The value of esports 

The growth of esports has made headlines in the last couple of years, and now is the perfect time to take advantage of this medium to stay connected with fans. Reigniting sporting rivalries and allowing competition to rage in an online environment helps engage your fanbase and even attract new audiences.

Fifa, for example, has launched a global tournament #stayandplay, serving to ensure next season’s fixtures remain at the front of fans’ minds and keeping them feeling involved in the action.

With real-life events suspended, this is no time for event organisers and brands to sit back and wait for normalcy to resume. Venues, events and teams can leverage the technology at their disposal to drive fan engagement and build interest, ensuring that when doors reopen, numbers swell.