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“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, said Henry Ford.

Does data contain all answers?

Did fans ask for fan tokens, now an industry generating more than $200 million in annual revenue?

Our job is to push the boundaries of fan engagement, exploring where creativity can leverage data to surprise fans not with what they need, but what they want.

Understanding what drives conversations among the next generation of fans is vital to build attention, trust and advocacy. And, women’s sports show what the fan of the future looks like.  

The fluid fan

According to The Fan Project by Sports Innovation Lab, data has unlocked a new era in sports business where consumers have become creators, increasingly inspired by athletes, and where a dynamic approach in digital and mobile are the formula for relevance.

A new community-based monetisation model is changing how stakeholders engage with fans, being sponsorship, licensing, digital media and online ticketing the winning sources of income, to the detriment of traditional media and in-person ticketing.

TikTok is the clear example, the home of football culture became the world’s most downloaded app in 2020. With more than 2 billion downloads globally, the Chinese platform was born to become the place where fans play. Fans are the new players.

Social movements are empowered by technology adoption, democratising meaningful conversations where athletes and entertaining platforms have the opportunity to lead. For example, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. Society, entertainment and technology.

Women’s sports were born this way

Forced to grow in the digital ecosystem, women’s sports emerged with a social consciousness which led to digital conversation to ultimately create awareness for the game, not vice versa. We tend to focus on visibility first, and change needs to be made to be seen.

Culture rewards early adopters, representing more than half of revenue and less than 10% of fans. Fans of women’s sports talk about the WNBA as 4x as much as they talk about the NBA. Another example, 43% of viewership for the FIFA Women’s World Cup was digital, less than 9% in the case of the men’s tournament.

Women’s sports fans cannot be only measured with demographics to understand human behaviour. They represent a new generation who are keen to participate, listen, own, create, co-watch, learn, connect, show up and bet. From viewers to creators.

Twitch, Spotify, Slack, Viber, Headspace, TikTok, Canva, Pinterest, Google and Twitter are some of the platforms reinforcing behaviour and offering multiple data touch points for sponsors. Purpose-driven content has become the fastest and only way for brand affinity.  

Seen and trusted

Learning from women’s sports fan behaviour is essential to win the game of fan engagement in a totally new business model based on community. Up to 71% of people have little faith that brands will deliver their promises, it does not matter if sponsors are seen but not trusted.

In a highly saturated market, fans demand easy and simple entertainment alternatives. Direct-to-consumer content, driven by data and creativity, is the key to unlock share of attention. Disney+ plans to invest a minimum of $14 billion in D2C content in 2024, hoping to reach 260 million subscribers.

Let’s design experiences worth engaging, recommending and repeating.

From fans to fans.

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