It is undeniable that sport has an impact which goes beyond the playing field. Sports has the power to unite people, transcend boundaries, tackle social issues and build community engagement.
The sports community starts locally but has the ability to connect people across the globe. Sport has become a universal language, wherever you travel, whichever language you speak, you will always be able to find common ground by kicking around a football.
Sports organisations rely on their community for support – no matter the size or popularity, every organisation needs to have strong community to succeed.
Challenges faced by the sports community
The sports industry has seen great success and growth but in recent years the main reason for its growth has become its greatest downfall – community. The big players in the industry have grown so far and wide they have lost the community feel due to focusing their efforts on financial growth.
Unfortunately for sports organisations this effort backfired when the pandemic hit and their fans were no longer in and out of the stadium every weekend. So not only did they lose revenue from ticket sales, but they lost their main point of contact with their fans.
Keeping the fans engaged through a period where no sport took place became the biggest challenge for organisations and even since games have restarted fans have not returned to their old habits. The tradition of going to the game on a weekend is a distant memory, as off the back of the pandemic and the on-going conflict in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis hit affecting millions across the globe. This added economic pressure has wounded sports organisations both big and small.
One of the major issues sports is currently facing is the aging population of fans – this has become a problem because organisations are not engaging with Gen Zs. The younger generation expect more from organisations and are not fooled by a false sense of community.
How to enhance community engagement and participation
The good news is we know sport has the potential to build incredible communities. It’s just a matter of reworking the strategy and refuelling the excitement.
Experiences and Events
These days fans crave an experience, they want something to remember or more likely something to post on social media. Sports organisations need to create an experience that can’t be missed. Examples of this include;
- Developing your stadium for unforgettable game day experiences
- Meet the player sessions
- Fan-focused events
- Community events
The only way to engage with Gen Z is via technology so focusing on strategies that incorporate this is a must if you want them to become part of the community and even better, advocates. The best ways you can use technology to your advantage include;
- Live streaming
- Social media content and engagement (behind-the scenes, interviews, replying to comments)
- Virtual and augmented reality
It’s selfish but fans want to be rewarded for their support. Ultimately you can’t build a community without giving back, the easiest way to do this is through membership packages and loyalty programs. Give the audience a reason to become your number one supporter. As part of this scheme, you can offer;
- Discounts on tickets and merchandise
- Exclusive or first access
The sports community starts at grassroots. The funding at this lower level is non-existent and many clubs have no choice but to fold, along with all the die-hard fans and aspiring players. It seems dramatic to say, but without grassroots there will be no professional athletes or clubs and even worse fans.
To get grassroots out of the gutter it requires effort from both the community and the organisations involved. Fans need to cheer on their local team and the weekend, and the larger organisations need to support by providing extra funding and facilities.
Creating an inclusive sports environment
The biggest barrier in the sport community is the dividers put in place by society. It’s already been said that sport is a universal language which can drive social change therefore creating an inclusive environment needs to become a priority. Organisations are already starting to make progress by setting up initiatives like ‘Let girls play’ to write the narrative that everyone is welcome in sport.
We understand a lot of the issues surrounding community stem from lack of funding and external factors. At Nifty we want to see the sports community thrive so helping organisations earn much needed revenue while giving fans what they want is our priority.
How do we do it? Get in touch to find out!