It’s been mentioned a number of times by different writers of the prevalent “‘marketing myopia’ in the sport industry. One of the symptoms of this short sighted thinking means the core stakeholders (the fans) are not well understood in terms of needs, wants and motivations.
Good research here should include not only quantitative but qualitative research as it can be difficult to elicit ‘latent needs,’ particularly because much of the fan value is related to emotional and higher-order needs. In this sense, sport organisations should consider tools like ethnographic research or ’embedded marketers’ to really get into the head space of the heavy-user (brand loyal) consumer.
One Day Cricket
A fairly basic example I recall is the recent Australian TV mini-series ‘Howzat’ about Kerry Packer’s establishment of the renegade World Series cricket competition. Packer based his multimillion dollar investment on the back of his own insights into consumer needs, which led to One Day and Day/Night cricket games.
The same deep insights can help add value to sponsors as well. Tennis’s Australian Open a couple of years back was sponsored by wine brand, Yalumba, I remember thinking was particularly clever. It linked the Open competition, Andre Agassi’s biography (titled ‘Open’), a short but intimate personal moment of reflection with Agassi in which the viewer of the commercial was spoken to intimately and personally as the ad for Yalumba. It all tied back neatly to the ‘openness’ or lack of inhibition that results from the socially lubricating effects of drinking wine.
Hand-in-hand with research is analysis of the customer life cycle and segmentation. Insights made from research should help design experiences and engagement to move new and existing consumers up the escalator to higher levels of involvement. The ‘escalator’ is much like the brand loyalty ladder or funnel in a purchasing decision. Along the escalator, hand rails of feedback can be established. There are points that data can be gleaned and examined.
I love the example of Adidas’ virtual reality TV screens in Scotland. I can imagine what a mind-blowingly wonderful boost to the esteem of a child fan to meet and chat with one of their soccer heroes.
What do fans really want?
The great thing about convergence and social media is the data that comes with it. I definitely see these as important tools to create and deliver value to consumers, but first sport marketers need to understand what that value is.
The key learning: understand your customer from the bottom of their heart and the depths of their psyche. Then you can find the means of building fan loyalty.
Image courtesy The National