How can we engage fans if they won’t be in the stadium? It’s a question we get asked weekly, if not daily, as live sporting events slowly make their return. While there isn’t necessarily one right answer to this question, we have the benefit of working alongside some of the most innovative minds in the industry, and together we’ve gathered up five ideas to work off of that each pose a unique opportunity to connect with fans anywhere in the world.
Looking beyond the current pandemic that we’re in right now, these virtual touch points won’t necessarily go away and could actually develop into revenue-generating activations for years to come. With that in mind, let’s dive into five ideas you can use to engage fans outside of the stadium experience.
#1. Host a Livestream Watch Party
If fans can’t watch the game together from the stands, give them an interactive virtual space to watch it alongside other fans digitally. Create a second-screen experience tailored specifically to your audience that complements the main broadcast and brings your community together online.
- Bring in former players, local celebrities, or radio talent to host the show and add color commentary with a unique perspective that your fans can’t find anywhere else.
- Allow those hosts to interact directly with fans tuning in by bringing their social posts and comments to life on air.
- Leverage real-time polls to bring the voice of the fans into the show.
A great example of this concept in action came before the pandemic when FOX Sports ran their own watch party during the College Football Playoff National Championship, despite not owning the broadcast rights to the game. (Though they ran it out of a studio, this could easily be run remotely, with cloud-based graphics and real-time content.)
#2. Create a Virtual Tailgate Experience
Aside from the game itself, the tailgate experience is what many fans really come out for on game days, so think about other ways you could recreate this virtually. One of the simplest ways to do this is by creating a gameday or tailgate central on your website, with resources your fans can use to make their own tailgate at home.
- Gather up the best tailgate food and cocktail recipes, or teach people some new lawn games.
- Encourage fans to post photos & videos of their tailgate set up, and grow the recipe library each week from fan submissions.
- Stream pregame entertainment live, including a live DJ, band performances, or highlight reels.
- Bring the tailgate atmosphere online and incorporate sponsors for contest giveaways to reward fans for participating.
The University of Texas put together a wildly successful virtual tailgate campaign using Tagboard’s digital experiences, that generated over 65M impressions across Twitter and Instagram, and drove 320K views to the webpage (without a gameday to even tailgate for)!
#3. Let Fans Drive the Conversation on Air
Not having fans in the stadium changes the dynamic not only for gameday producers, but for broadcasters as well. Whether you pipe in automated crowd noise or not, you’ll want some element of real fan interaction to replace those live crowd shots. One of the most engaging ways to do that is to let fans drive the conversation on air through real-time social content.
- Scroll through the top social commentary during gameplay in a subtle lower third or ticker.
- Highlight celebrities or other athletes who are tuning in and posting about the game.
- Replace live stadium shots with photos of fans watching from home.
- Elevate the big moments by pulling up live reaction comments, GIFs, and videos.
- Craft your pre and post-game interviews based on real-time questions coming in on social media.
Turner Sports and UFC have executed this concept exceptionally well in their recent coverage of The Match II and #UFC250, respectively. With or without fans in attendance, this interactive element makes the audience feel like a part of the show and elevates the broadcast as a whole.
#4. Bring the Fans to the Players
While the effects of a fanless stadium are certainly felt by fans, gameday, and broadcast producers, remember the athletes are also playing without the energy and support of a crowd. Find a way to bring the fans to the players virtually if they can’t be there physically to support them.
- Put out a call to action on social media for fans to send in motivational messages and hype videos ahead of the game. Use Tagboard to curate the best entries with one click, and display those messages for players to see in the locker room.
- Collect celebration videos and GIFs from fans, and play them on the videoboard after a big play.
- Use real-time questions or congratulatory posts from social media as fuel for halftime or post-game interviews.
#5. Recreate the Stadium Experience Virtually
Recreating a stadium experience virtually will give you new revenue-driving opportunities to incorporate sponsorships, while giving your fans the traditional gameday experience they know, miss, and love.
- Ask fans to send in “Kiss Cam” or “Simba Cam” submissions and package the entries together in a live display or video.
- Gather up the best superfan photos and let people vote on a winner. Reward the winning photo submission with a prize pack or sponsor give out.
- Stand up a player or play of the game vote on your website or over social media.
- Release a custom filter for fans to download and have them send in photos/videos of it in action.
Sports without fans in the stands is uncharted territory for all of us; however, loyal fans are craving connection with their favorite teams and athletes now more than ever. It’s up to us as marketers and producers to get creative, and give them a unique gameday that’s unlike any other they’ve experienced before.
Want to dive deeper into these ideas or get started on one of them yourself? Reach out to us on Twitter @Tagboard or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s make it happen!