Photo by Rob Tringali

Pushing for the Next Era of the Ultimate Fan Experience

“Experience” may very well be the single word that’s dominated marketer’s dreams over the past couple of years. In the age of digital our attention is being pulled from screen-to-screen as if it’s on a magnetic pendulum. Yet, as humans, we yearn for something more, something pure, something real.

For brands, marketers, and experience geeks it’s finding the harmonious recipe for which to engage with supporters. This is the ultimate challenge in today’s sports world. As we digest stories about experience ad nauseam it’s time for the industry to find that balance with its most loyal fans.

Sports is big business. Your favorite sport, team, and player represent something bigger than you. Pulling at our most human instincts our favorites tap into our tribal traits. It becomes woven into our DNA. It’s inherently a part of us. As sports fans, we want to be involved in the most devoted ways with our team — we want to feel that unique experience that “the team did this for me.”

Chelsea FC of the Premier League recently took engagement to the next level.

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This is fantastic — a genuine, personalized touch. Kudos.

As a fan, let’s take this to an even grander level.

This is in-depth and likely a bit absurd but let’s push the boundaries a bit. Fans want more. Without becoming privy to proprietary team information, the fan would become entrenched within every aspect of the team. If the fan has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so be it. The team should carefully allow the fan dip their toes in hidden waters without being fully submerged.

Before you gasp in befuddlement, please read on.

“Teams should look at making this a yearly case study to improve future fan engagement. There would be a limit to the number of participants into the program every year.”

Matt Bowen

Teams should look at making this a yearly case study to improve future fan engagement. There would be a limit to the number of participants into the program every year. Fans should be chosen based on some of the elements Chelsea FC applied and the fan’s availability to attend all events. In order to get a true representation of a team’s fan base corporate sponsorship of this Ultimate Fan Experience is encouraged with the money helping offset the travel/ticket expenses for the fan.(in some select cases, offsetting all expenses)

this is a caption for this image. Photo is by Rob Tringali

Here’s my take on what would make the Ultimate Fan Experience extraordinary.

For purposes of this exercise I’ll use my favorite Major League Baseball team, the Detroit Tigers as an example.

  1. The ultimate package encompasses the ins-and-outs of an entire seasonal cycle which begins in the offseason. For the Tigers in 2019 this would most likely begin in October.(Don’t worry Tigers fans, the future is mighty bright)
  2. The selected group would have designated fan experience representatives from the Tigers organization. Say the group of fans is set at 12, there would be at least three representatives that are with the group throughout the season. This is to encourage a close-knit, personal relationship between the team and its fans.
  3. The schedule would include the Winter Meetings, Tigers Fest, Spring Training, 6–8 regular season games, the MLB Draft, and hopefully postseason. Again, the scope is broad but it’s to showcase the true nature of the team’s business.
  4. Being a case study, the Tigers would create a syllabus with entwined departmental interaction and goals for the group to study/discover over the course of the season. Fans would be allowed behind-the-scenes access with the following departments: Marketing(promotional/merch), Brand/Design, Ticket Sales(Business Analytics), Corporate Sponsorship, Game Day Operations(parking/gates/concessions), Player Personnel(salary cap education/game-day lineup decisions), Farm System, Scouting, Player Analytics, Technology, and Community Outreach.
  5. Each regular season game the group would sit somewhere different within the ballpark, taking detailed notes on the view, concessions, seats, bathroom access, overall enjoyment. The Ultimate Fan Experience would also allow fans to test(providing feedback) the latest technology being deployed in the park. This includes food and beverage tech, customized merch(to be created on-site and delivered to ones seat), AR/VR apps showcasing advanced player data, and ways to wager(yes, it’ll be here soon) on the game, at-bat, or next pitch.
  6. At the conclusion of the season the fans would present their findings. The team would digest the information, implementing improvements with proven significance. Of course, if a potential game changer is unearthed during the season(accompanied by a high r-square/low p-value) this gem could be immediately integrated in order to improve the team performance/fan experience.

Correct, this entire experiment could come off as preposterous. Bottom line — fans want more. Teams need to continuously enhance their offerings and there’s no better data than an inclusive, invaluable, and intimate experiment with its closest fans.

Think about the Ultimate Fan Experience for awhile. What do you desire from your favorite team?

*As a team in rebuilding mode the Tigers website is phenomenal right now. Yes, it’s the middle of winter but they’re really showcasing their farm system/prospects. This is exciting! Hopefully this translates to the in-season message as well.

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