Working in sports and entertainment means adopting a constantly inquisitive mindset. Especially for those focusing on fan engagement, it quickly becomes second-nature to never stop studying.
It is so important to always remember that everything you do is for the fans. It’s not about what you want and like, it’s about what’s best for the fans, how they consume, and what they want and like.
The good news is that the world is a wide open classroom. So take advantage of it. Here are some things I do to study fans.
Anyone who has seen me at a sports event knows I’m a bit of a rubbernecker. I’m stealing glances and peering over shoulders. I’m not creepily eavesdropping on someone’s text conversation or what they’re writing in their Snapchat message. I am merely looking at – what are fans doing? Are they snapping pictures (and using their camera, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat)? Are they messaging friends via text message, Messenger, or something else? Are they scrolling through one of their feeds, looking up something on the mobile web, looking at a team or ticket app?
Sure, you can scope out studies and surveys, but nothing beats observing fans in the wild.
The best way to learn is to ask questions. I may get annoying with it sometimes, but I pick the brains of everyone I encounter – friends, family [from young cousins to siblings to aunts and uncles], and fans at sports events/games. Which social platforms do they spend time on and for what purpose? How and where do they engage with their favorite sports teams? What are they doing during a game? Where will they post and actually engage? How do they decide to go to a game and how do they go about getting tickets? Who do they go with? Don’t treat it like the Spanish Inquisition, but most friends and family are happy to indulge my interest in information.
Experience What Fans Do
If it’s been a while since the last time you attended a game or event as a ‘normal’ fan, that should change. Know what it’s like to purchase tickets, research security policies, sit in traffic, find parking, battle the ingress, wait in the security line, find your seats, use the bathroom, explore and buy concessions, And, yeah, the actual game. The reality is that working in sports means arriving much earlier and leaving much after fans, and the in-game experience hardly resemble that of a ‘normal’ fan. Not only that, you can learn a lot from attending other sports events – from the entertainment, the sponsor activations, the marketing, the production, the promotions. Be an active student of sports and fan experience.
Experience What Your Fans Do on Digital and Social
When you live as an admin on social media, it can be easy to lose sight of the traditional fan experience. Knowing how your post looks in the feed amongst those of friends, family, and other brands, teams, and media outlets. Is your video thumbnail and copy eye-catching, is your graphic thumb-stopping, does clicking that link inside the Facebook app or swiping up in that Instagram Story deliver a good user experience? What about visiting your website – if you wanted to buy tickets, how easy is it to do? Are there programs and promotions you live and breathe daily, but a fan may not even know about, that your digital and social platforms do a sufficient job to make fans aware of and informed about? Step into a fans’ shoes daily and consume your content, click your links, watch your videos, and be honest with the perception, the visual, the brand, and the experience.
It’s easy to get caught in the trap of living on one side of the wall and forgetting what it’s like to be a normal fan. But there are opportunities to learn every day. take advantage of every one of them and develop a sense of intuition that remains true to the fan experience in reality. Try to walk a mile in their shoes every day or see things through their eyes. Become and expert in empathy and never stop being a student of the game.