The sport’s industry was in need of a refresh before the pandemic hit; however, Covid-19 has made it very clear that clubs and teams need to diversify their core offerings and rethink the ways they interact with their audience, in order to increase fan engagement and open up new revenue streams. As we all know, many sporting events have been cancelled worldwide or held without spectators, and so clubs need to reclaim the losses from unsaleable tickets and impacted sponsorship deals. As the industry struggles to survive, increasing fan engagement digitally has become a massive priority.
Through digital fan engagement, clubs can adapt to appeal to a new, younger audience and encourage a sense of loyalty and belonging. They can open up new revenue streams and improve ROI for investors and sponsors alike as many aspects of the game move increasingly online. The global e-Sports market is estimated to reach US$1.6 billion by 2023, with the majority of this revenue coming from sponsorships, merchandise, tickets and streaming. This puts further pressure on clubs and teams to enhance their online presence as there is a risk of losing fans to other entities such a e-Sports.
Several major sporting organisations are already utilising fan tokens to engage their fans and create new revenue streams. These fan tokens act as the club’s own virtual currency and can be purchased with a variety of currencies. Fans can then exchange these tokens for merchandise, collectibles, or even matchday experiences, thus creating a greater connection between the club and the individual and increasing their visibility to new potential deals with brands or sponsors.
Digital collectibles such as digital trading cards expand on an already popular revenue stream for clubs. By moving away from physical memorabilia, fans can trade more easily online and across geographies. Blockchain technology allows clubs to create completely unique one-off digital assets or limited-edition digital collections. Some of the benefits of this is that they can never be destroyed, forged or replicated, and they have a completely transparent cryptographically secured audit trail that allows fans to prove ownership and of course bragging rights.
Blockchain-based solutions are exactly what clubs and teams have been looking for in order to create the perfect loyalty programmes. Through blockchain, every record and transaction can be validated and processed, proving ownership of rewards and providing transparent audit trails that give sponsors greater insight into fans’ preferences, helping them create more targeted deals that encourage profit-building behaviour. This leads to improved ROI and a more fruitful and transparent partnership with the club and the fan.
Most teams around the world are failing to reach their full digital potential and establish a network that encourages and rewards fan engagement. Before the pandemic smartphones and tablets may have contributed to an erosion in live game attendance with viewers deciding to live stream the action instead, and the last year has only made this situation worse. The future of sports includes a far greater focus on digital initiatives to drive revenue and engagement while increasing ROI for sponsors. The future of sports will be driven by digital solutions that engage, reward and monetise the fanbase effectively, solutions such as loyalty and rewards programs, fan tokens and more. This will create a stronger bond with their current fans, and may also both broaden and strengthen their overall customer base.