10 March 2017
When you look back a few years, attending sports matches or events was all about the day: arriving at the stadium, finding out the team or the running order of things, grabbing some merchandise and a programme, chanting, cheering and shouting your way through, and then heading home to tell your close ones all about the experience.
I remember when we were first sponsoring Sale Sharks, we would pitch up camp at Edgeley Park, wrapped in hoodies and bobble hats with a flask of mulled wine and enjoy the match. I don’t think we ever saw anyone with their phone out.
This was the case not so long ago, but not so much now. At sporting, and even music, events it is often hard to see what’s happening on the pitch or stage because of the number of phones in the air! With 360-degree social media, a plethora of apps for live analysis and extra insight, and virtual reality; sport is more connected than ever and the matchday experience has been transformed.
With compelte visibility on social media, the pre- and post-match engagement opportunities are huge, as is the demand for a constant stream of content about new signings, new developments and new achievements. Equally, Twitter and social networks give fans access to players. Fans and teams are more engaged than ever, rather than waiting in the cold for an autograph outside the players’ entrance.
Unquestionably, this has meant a shift in the priorities for the businesses behind the sports teams, who are facing the challenge of staying on top of things. Matchdays need buildup, interviews with players, social media campaigns, online promotions and news drip-fed up until the event starts. It’s an unenviable task for larger clubs and events like The Olympics or Manchester United; but even more so for the much smaller clubs trying to get a foothold on the sports market with limited resources.
That being said, the match day experience is no longer the only touchpoint for engagement, for merchandise sales and for nurturing brand loyalty.
Social media, apps and websites are not only enhancing the matchday experience itself, this level of connectivity and access is also giving sports clubs and professionals access to global audiences and markets well after the matchday is over. Sales don’t stop when the match is over and the shop shutters are down.
It is an exciting time to be a sports fan, and there’s no doubt that we will see more, bigger changes to matchday and sporting event experiences in years to come. I wouldn’t be surprised if, soon, we’re able to have that stadium experience from our own front rooms with the help of virtual reality!
Undoubtedly, there are extraordinary opportunities to be had, but, for me, it still comes down to that physical experience of being at the match, feeling the cold on your face and the buzz of excitement when a goal or try is near.