Global football fans now total 3.5 billion, yet 99% of a football club’s audience sits outside of the in-stadium experience. Social media and global TV rights are making football fanbases more geographically disparate than ever before.
Increasingly, football clubs are finding themselves needing to cater to a fan on the other side of the world, as well as the one on their doorstep. Passion has no geographical limit in this respect, so how do clubs engage with this global fanbase? How do they build a sense of community for those who will never attend a physical game?
This altered idea of fandom is being further compounded by the ongoing pandemic. Fans are struggling to stay connected with their favorite clubs as attending sporting events remains off the table. These fans, too, are in need of new ways to connect with their clubs, to feel valued by the team they cherish.
Developing technologies provide a wealth of opportunities for football clubs. No longer do teams need to be restricted to connecting with fans within the stadium – they can reach the majority of their fanbase in new and innovative ways.
It’s a well-known fact now that younger generations consume content in different ways. Millennials and Gen Z use varied and multiple platforms to engage with football, and online media serves up a wide variety of football-related content.
This means if football clubs are to bring the fan of tomorrow on board, they must ensure they are providing unique digital content for these generations, all while distributing it across a number of different platforms.
Some clubs are exploring VR and AR technologies to bring the beautiful game to life in new and exciting ways for the global fan. VR headsets can be used, for example, to stream live matches and provide visual enhancements to the experience.
These can range from real-time statistics, to enabling users to control replays and camera angles. VR also creates opportunities for exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences, like meeting players or being taken on virtual tours of the stadium.
Blockchain’s decentralized model allows clubs to better connect with audiences using scalable direct-to-fan networks. As such, this technology presents a cost-effective and efficient method of engaging with fans globally. Blockchains can empower fans, improving trust through creating safe, digital environments bringing wide-spread communities together.
Blockchain negates the need for brands to use intermediation, allowing clubs to build stronger and closer relationships with fans. Customer targeting and experiences can also be enhanced. Meanwhile, data remains direct to the team and highly protected.
Brands can incentivize customers to share information through the use of expanded loyalty rewards which may include digital collectibles, fan experiences and cash-back incentives to further strengthen the relationship between the fan and the club.
Through using blockchain technology, loyalty programs are better integrated, and interactivity is enhanced. Clubs can also benefit from improved visibility over members’ match-day activities, purchase patterns, and promotion responses, to build more customized and personalized fan experiences.
Fantastec SWAP is an example of the way blockchain technology can be used to transform the way fans engage with club-produced digital content. Working with top European clubs including Arsenal, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund the SWAP platform has a unique blockchain base built specifically to enhance the fan and club relationship.
Every SWAP blockchain based digital collectible is an irrefutable, unique record of a digital asset.
Blockchain technology is also able to prove its legitimacy and scarcity, and thereby protecting its value. Additional content for fans can also be similarly secured, for example, digital autographs which are filmed and then stored on the blockchain, validating player signatures in a manner a piece of paper never could.
Fantastec has created a state-of-the-art blockchain ecosystem of reciprocal value based upon trust, security and privacy. In some instances, fans are able to purchase match tickets, receive discounted club merchandise and download unique content.
This allows clubs to connect more deeply with their most active fans, rewarding team loyalty and gaining improved insights into the changing needs of its fanbase.
Rapidly changing fan behaviors and emerging technologies are impacting football by widening its fanbase and transforming the way fandom is built and experienced.
To preserve and strengthen the community feel of a shared support for a team, and thereby shore up a route to sustainable growth, clubs must reconsider how they use new technologies to connect with increasingly global audiences, satisfying the modern fan.
By embracing innovation, the sports industry and its major players have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with fans more than ever before
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