Six Things We Learned at the Front Office Sports Fan Engagement Conference
The fan engagement funnel can be complicated

Six Things We Learned at the Front Office Sports Fan Engagement Conference

April 5, 2024

FEVO recently attended the Front Office Sports digital conference “Future of Sports: Fan Engagement.” Their objective? Exactly what it said on the sign: spirited conversations about how to engage with fans today, tomorrow and 10 years from now.

We were particularly taken with a panel titled “Transforming Passion into Profit.” Smart people discussed smart strategies for capitalizing on excitement and moving fans through the engagement funnel. Some were obvious; others less so. All of them bear repeating.

And so today, we’re sharing the six key takeaways we took home to implement into our own engagement tactics…

1. Impressions are not nearly as important as continued engagement

While reaching a lot of eyeballs is a necessary piece of any strong digital strategy, Red Bull Racing Head of Global Fan Engagement Caroline Buckland says that she focuses her attention on returning active users and their level of engagement — i.e., how often fans are coming back for the next podcast episode or piece of content. Not only are these fans further down the funnel and thus more likely to continue engaging with your brand, they also bring stronger, more reliable data to help you adjust and improve your tactics. 

2. Invest in digital infrastructure to build on that engagement

Much like Red Bull Racing, St. Louis City SC is more concerned with the middle and bottom of the funnel. “Page views and impressions are great,” says Matt Sebek, the club’s Chief Experience Officer, “but only if they convert into fans. For that reason we’ve invested in an app and loyalty program to prioritize engagement over impressions.” This allows them to easily keep tabs on a cohort of super fans — What are their spending habits? Where do they consume content? — and then use that information to grow that cohort.

3. Engage fans outside of your actual events as often as possible

Red Bull Racing knows that 90% of their fans will never make it to a race, so they spend a lot of time thinking through how to engage with those fans. “This strategy is about ensuring that Red Bull Racing has sufficient digital touchpoints to engage with fans and their varying consumption habits. It’s necessary to track these things and understand what works and who wants to see what and where,” says Buckland. This also includes talking directly with fans via surveys, quizzes and an unofficial network of top advocates who are brought together in a Discord to offer their opinion on important brand developments.

4. Make your brand a point of pride for the city

St. Louis City SC has focused on building their brand around qualities that go beyond the game of soccer and the 17 home matches they play each season. How do you resonate with your local community the other 348 days of the season? The St. Louis City SC brand was constructed around the city’s art and architecture to instill a sense of pride among fans. They also bring in new and diverse local food and merch vendors on game days. “The goal is to make every matchday, but more so every touchpoint, a celebration of the great things going on in the city of St. Louis,” says Sebek.

5. Building trust online builds trust in-stadium

St. Louis SC has put a major focus on creating worthwhile and trustworthy digital content for their fans. That translates to game day, with fans more apt to embrace in-venue digital processes like mobile-order-ahead and digital ticketing. By investing in a digital ecosystem and building a virtually savvy fanbase, it’s easier for the organization to onboard new technology. 

6. Capitalize on positive in-person experiences

Red Bull Racing places a huge emphasis on converting high-quality in-person experiences (e.g., a team victory or great performance) into long-term engagement. That means being incredibly strategic about the messaging you send to consumers post-game. You've just created a positive experience — don't ruin that sentiment with generic or spammy follow-ups. Think about the timing, tone, cadence and purpose of your communications. You need to build trust by surprising, delighting and incentivizing your audience before selling them something or introducing communications from sponsors. “The [communication] journey for the fan needs to feel that it's consistent with the team, rather than a sales message.” says Buckland.

And a few more pieces of assorted internet wisdom…

Inside Pro Bull Riding’s growth and marketing—and how brands are leveraging cowboy culture (Ad Age)

Globetrotters’ Media-Driven Transition Spurs Record-Setting Tour Sales (John Wall Street)

Chips, tacos, and the world's most innovative companies of 2024 (Fast Company)

The History of Luxury in 50 Objects, From Cleopatra’s Barge to Louis Vuitton Trunks (Robb Report)

College Basketball’s Biggest Stars on Social Media Are Women: Data Viz (Sportico)

The 40-page report breaking down the economic impact of last year's Las Vegas Formula 1 race (Joe Pompliano)

Fulham FC are planning a rooftop bar and pool for their stadium renovation (Fulham FC)

Six Things We Learned at the Front Office Sports Fan Engagement Conference