Especially in this digital age, the need to cultivate a direct relationship with your fans has never been more important or necessary. Whether sports club, league or broadcaster, engagement is the key to success across the board, discovers Mark Mayne.

The recent IBC Webinar, Fan engagement strategies to keep your audiences coming back, saw an expert panel get to grips with some of the most important questions in the media industry around the perception of audience, how that can be quantified and refined, and what this really means for engagement.

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IBC Webinar: ’Fan engagement strategies to keep your audiences coming back’

Fabian Birgfeld, Managing Director, W12 Studios set the tone by setting out the differences that have evolved since the traditional ‘broadcast’ audience was the only game in town, and the enhanced opportunities when considering a modern digital audience.

“The broadcast world was very much - by definition - broadcast. You need to make sure you caught as many people as possible with one game or event, and the [target audience] has been somebody who really cares about this event.

Now in the digital world, or the way we can think about fans and where the opportunity lies, we can broaden that greatly. You can think about the pre, during, and after the events and every one of those stages. I think the way we think about [events] is shifting the whole conversation towards essentially creating a one to one experience between the creators and the audience.

“I think in the world of broadcasting you are used to linear storytelling, but in the world of online or digital, you have the idea of nonlinear storytelling. You can completely redefine what storytelling means in terms of who is the actor who is the audience. You can bring in completely new interactive components. You can create a very rich experience…”

Hyperpersonalisation - more than just hype

Of course, the overall trend within media as a whole is to identify, then refine specific strands of content to appeal directly to specific elements of the broader audience, or in other words, personalisation. However, this tactic has been increasingly refined into what many now call ‘hyper personalisation’, where fans can feel that sense of direct connection, as Birgfeld mentioned.

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IBC Webinar: ’Fan engagement strategies to keep your audiences coming back’

Stephen Sidlo, Head of Media, Airspeeder picked up the theme with alacrity: “I think we have to understand where fans are going to be and where they’re going to find the information that they want, whether they want to follow the athletes, rather than the sport itself, for example… I would say the future of fan engagement is hyper-tailored content, which probably would scare me if I was a social media manager right now! They now have to create 1000 bits of content, which all say the same thing but are curated and tailored to a specific audience segment, but you do know you get high engagement off the back of it!”

Tom Roberts, Content Lead for World Sailing agreed: “I think there are challenges in preparing content for broader institutional silos, and we are looking into how we resolve that challenge: Giving everyone everything they want, but also having some editorial and narrative control of those aspects.

Read more Building audiences through better discovery, personalisation and engagement

“We are working with quite a broad age [demographic] as well, so varying technical literacy as well as different expectations too. So how we present all that information is going to be really hyper tailored in the future, a tailored experience so we can then give [our audience] exactly what they want.”

The metaverse of opportunity

Birgfeld was keen to speak to the opportunities of the metaverse too: “The opportunity here is to broaden your audience. And because of the democratisation of access to digital experiences, there is an enormous opportunity here to reach a broader audience. Now, for some people, it might mean going deeper into AR or VR experiences, but I think for some other people it might just be providing an entry point into the larger journey.


IBC Webinar: ’Fan engagement strategies to keep your audiences coming back

“I think the key challenge that everybody will face as to what the metaverse means, is will this be a one off that can integrate into the existing ecosystem, to create a platform where they essentially can continue the evolution? The key challenge that everybody will face is to ensure that they can translate it, they can transform how they go about doing businesses using all the new tools, and the ever changing tools to master the metaverse, or some other virtual environment.”

“I think there are no more excuses now - the technology is there. The limitation is your ability to execute…”

NFTs ask the big questions

The topic of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) was inevitably not far behind the mention of the metaverse, but from a pragmatic perspective far removed from the hype of recent years.

Birgfeld: “There is an opportunity, but there’s only an opportunity if it gains adoption. If there’s no adoption, there won’t be much. I think we need to distinguish between the value of creation in itself and the value of ownership, and the value of circulation of the idea versus the monetization of that ownership.

“I think the idea about how we redefine what copyright is, and redefine what ownership means - I think those are really important topics. And I think over the last two years, we have gotten a long way but we probably went too fast in one particular direction…”

Sidlo agreed: “We’ve had a great partnership with Saltwater Games, who are creating almost the metaverse for seller opportunities and their angle is that comes back to ownership. Back to the hyper tailored approach, when we talk about fan engagement, giving ownership back to fans around what they want is a growing market.

“It’s all about owning the pieces, either speeder or all other elements about the game that you’re able to get. We call it ‘play to impact’ so you own a piece and then the money gets used in the real world to plant trees or to do something physical. I think if there’s a direct link between you’ve got a stronger connection, a stronger bond with the real world as opposed to just baseball cards [to collect]…”

A final call for a top tip from each of the panel members produced some quick-fire gems, from Sidlo’s initial snapshot; “Be genuine. Being genuine is going to build fan engagement and trust”, which Roberts wholeheartedly echoed, to Birgfeld’s warning:

“People create experiences, campaigns, whatever, that are more or less one offs. Even if it’s the most amazing thing on the planet, there’s a very short memory of whatever you do in the space. So if you really want to make a difference, it’s very important that you build a platform [for future growth].”

Catch the full webinar, Fan engagement strategies to keep your audiences coming back on demand now, and get the full range of insights from the expert panel. Alternatively, check out the full on-demand IBC webinar catalogue and/or register for any upcoming IBC 2023 webinar topics that appeal.

Read more IBC365’s 2023 webinar programme