The outbreak of the virus and its evolving versions have caused the stadiums of football, cricket, and the Olympics to wear a deserted look. The absence of constant cheering of sports fans, banners, and placards with bold font showcasing affection, whistles, waving flags, drums, cymbals, and what not from stadiums for over a year and a half has impacted fan’s engagement with the tournament. In addition to engagement, the absence has immensely hurt the ticketing revenues and other revenue sources i.e. merchandising. Although match updates, after-match discussions, memes, behind the scenes, social media, contests are the existing mediums to drive engagement but are insufficient for engaging in a meaningful manner. Recently, IPL’s Lucknow franchise Team opened a contest for the fans to suggest names for the new team in the upcoming IPL season, it was a success however the limitations related to social media platforms will not guarantee similar fan engagement in the future. For sports that do not have a year-long schedule such as Kabaddi, Indian Super League, or Olympics, maintaining off-season engagement is a herculean task.
Interestingly, sports tech startups having technologies like blockchain, AR/VR, gamification, and NFTs can drive fan engagement in sports in a virtually connected world.
According to a survey conducted by The Current State of Sports Technology, 78 percent of respondents believed that fan engagement technologies such as live streaming, content platforms, and esports will have the biggest impact on the sports industry in the next 12 months.
How sports tech startups can bring in fan management
According to a survey conducted by The Current State of Sports Technology, 78 percent of respondents believed that fan engagement technologies such as live streaming, content platforms, and esports will have the biggest impact on the sports industry in the next 12 months. Here are some of them:
Blockchain: Blockchain technology can help teams develop tokenised membership or precisely ‘fan tokens’ to engage fans. Fan tokenisation is an engagement model that has already begun in Europe and is yet to be adopted in Asia. In fan tokenisation, both the teams and fans can be engaged in various levels of team decisions such as voting for the colour of the jersey for the next tournament.
Player auction using token mechanism: When the player auction session begins team franchises can bring in heavy engagement from fans by taking opinions from them. Franchises through fan token mechanism can design a reward mechanism where fans can build their potential team and win rewards for correct prediction in the form of reward points that can be converted to fan tokens.
Gamification: Gamification for fan engagement is nascent on traditional social media platforms but holds potential. Playing games on blockchain technology offers great avenues of fan engagement during the off-season. The rewards for winning games can be in the form of fan tokens that can be exchanged for merchandise or financial gain.
What lies ahead for the sports tech?
A new report from the Capgemini Research Institute finds that Indian sports fans are accepting of emerging technologies such as virtual reality, gamification, and contests in their sports viewing experience both inside and outside the stadium.
Sports fans love to remain active and will never shy away from any opportunity that requires expressing their views and engaging with like-minded people for the teams they support. By saying meaningful engagement, we mean viewers crave a deeper engagement by becoming experts in their ways by understanding strategies of the game, the player statistics, and their strengths and weaknesses, which through technology the sports tech startups should utilise and drive fan engagement.