The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the sports fan experience upside down. The ongoing sports events around the world are enough to back this statement.
In Tokyo Olympics 2021, most fans were excited to witness the new fan experience since the international Olympic committee announced the event date. But what they saw was far from what they expected. The venues were empty, stadiums had large TV screens, and the rhythmic cheering of in-stadium fans was missing. Though the event organizers tried their best to fill the silence with recorded cheering and live video sessions with fans from different parts of the world, they couldn’t replace the presence of fans supporting their favorite team or athletes.
Though fan experience has been significantly hit by the pandemic, sports fans are trying their best to keep up with the changing sports landscape. Let's see how:
It’s no secret that the pandemic has kept fans out of the stadium for almost two years now. But avid sports fans are coming up with innovative ways to experience the same thrill they used to have in the pre-pandemic world.
For example, in Argentina, fans found a clever way to keep playing soccer while following physical distance to curb the spread of COVID-19. They created a human foosball pitch with zones for every player.
Likewise, fans of Zwift, a cycling platform, kept the social element of the sport intact by using the platform to exercise and engaging with other participants socially — just like they would in a physical environment.
Fans have also turned to e-sports to meet their sporting needs, similar to sports businesses that have moved to virtual events to keep up with the changing needs.
It’s amazing to see that sports fans are utilizing technology to engage with one another and players while also watching their team perform in the real world. Despite that, sports without fans shouting in the stadium feel soulless.
Technology is shifting the fan experience
Gone are the days when fans were satisfied with televised recordings of matches. Now, they crave live sporting actions. When they have the option of watching live sports using their mobile devices, why would they go for televised recordings anyway? This has also led to a surge in demand for sports streaming among fans.
With sports streaming, fans can consume live sports in the comfort of their home. This is also helpful for sports businesses. They can provide fans with live updates and streams of ongoing games and meet their needs even when they are not allowed to be at the venue.
A 2020 Capgemini Research Institute report suggests that 69% of fans believe that the use of newer technologies has transformed their viewing experience — both outside and inside the stadium.
Post-pandemic, technology will play a bigger role in improving the way fans connect with sports. It will also fill the gap between the experiences that they used to have before the pandemic and the experiences they would have had if the pandemic never came into effect.
For instance, ChampTrax is helping fill the gap of rhythmic cheers in the stadium by enabling fans to record their audio while they watch a game at home. The platform collects the sounds of hundreds and thousands of fans and creates a collective audio stream in real-time that is played during the matches. A similar approach was seen at Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Not only does technology help with creating a real fan experience in the age of virtual experience, but it also helps with optimizing in-stadium fan experience. Many tools and programs have been developed that enable sports businesses to collect feedback from all the fans, both inside and outside the stadium, offering them valuable insights into their services and whether fans had an eventful time at the venue or not. This can help them eliminate common issues that fans usually face at the venue, such as long concession queues, parking, etc.
Technology is speeding up connectivity between fans, sports content, and teams and players. But incorporating the latest technology isn’t enough, especially when fans have high hopes from live sporting events.
The key to making fans come back to you lies in personalizing the sports experience. Regardless of where your fans are watching the game from, whether in the comfort of home or the stadium, you need to provide them with specific real-time insights into the game. This is especially important for fans watching a live game at home, which is the case amidst this pandemic. This will show up as improved fan engagement, stronger loyalty, and increased bottom line.
While fans post the pandemic will most likely want to be where they belong — in stadiums — they are currently meeting their sporting needs through virtual events and platforms that help them engage with one another and the players. There’s also a shift in the fan experience as of now, but we hope it comes back to its previous form sooner or later while keeping all the good things that the pandemic brought.
It’s no secret that fan engagement is key to an optimal fan experience. But effective engagement begins with connecting emotionally with fans. And we hope that the information in this blog will help you build a strong emotional bond with your fans that lasts for years.
If you need a fan experience management platform, feel free to get in touch with us today.