Fan engagement needn’t just be about hitting commercial targets. As GlobalSportsJobs CEO Will Lloyd highlights: "Organisations have achieved a more profound kind of 'conversion' by using sport's power as a vehicle for social change." Here, we look at how fan engagement can transcend commercial aims.
Sport's advantage over many other industries is the inherently beneficial qualities of its product. Physical exercise is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the positive knock-on effects that sport can have. The best sports federations capitalise on this in their fan engagement strategies.
Philanthropic projects that achieve a wide range of positive social, community or health and wellbeing outcomes can help a sports organisation transcend its core audience.
The AIBA (International Boxing Association), for example, is achieving large-scale fan engagement and PR benefits, not to mention identifying the next generation of talent, by delivering boxing coaching and education programmes to thousands of underprivileged children in Africa.
On 1 July, the AIBA ‘Year of Africa’ Truck arrived in South Africa to begin a three-week tour, just the latest leg of a year-long trip around the continent. The truck provides a safe place for children to fall in love with boxing and to be educated in its values.
South Africa’s flag-bearer at the 1996 Olympic Games, Masibulele ‘The Hawk’ Makepula, accompanied the mobile gym and passed on his legendary skills. The target is to give over 750,000 young people across the continent their first taste of boxing and provide 4,800 training courses for coaches, officials and administrators.
The AIBA project marries the practical aspect of identifying potential talent with the community outreach programmes which will exhibit the virtues of boxing in schools. It’s a stellar example of using fan engagement to achieve positive outcomes for the organisation, but which also has a tangible impact on health, welfare, education and communities.
The FIH (International Hockey Federation) also provides an impressive case study on how fan engagement can transcend an organisation’s core audience by proving and extolling the intrinsic values of its product for a wider cause.
In the FIH’s case they launched the ‘50/50 Equally Amazing’ campaign, drawing on hockey’s strong tradition of equal gender participation and tying it in with International Women’s Day. The federation also joined the United Nations International Gender Champions network, which commits to breaking down gender barriers.
The FIH is justifiably proud of hockey’s equal male/female participant ratio, which goes from grassroots right up to international level. Their gender equality extends to their Executive Board (7:9 women to men ratio) and as part of the campaign, they also launched the Hockey Academy’s Women In Elite Coaching initiative to work towards parity in their top-level coaching structure. These positive messages not only engage new audiences, but promote the federation through strong associations with popular, worthwhile causes.
Another fan engagement strategy that achieved wider, laudable objectives is the British Olympic Association’s ‘I Am Team GB’ campaign. Launched amid the euphoria of the GB team’s return from Rio with a record 67 medals, it brought together a range of sponsors and well-known athletes to organise over 2,600 local sports events in which almost one million people took part.
The particular focus of the campaign was to engage casual or inactive participants; a target it certainly achieved, with 52% of participants admitting they were not (yet!) keen sports fans. A considerable PR coup saw ITV close down programming for an hour to encourage the public to get out, join in and get active. 68% said taking part in the day’s events had made them more likely to increase their exercise levels.
Cricket West Indies transcends its own commercial aims by forming a key pillar of the Caribbean's tourism industry. The governing body's increased engagement with touring fans of the West Indies' international opponents, via its new website and app, have boosted the number of year-round visitors to the island, with a positive knock-on effect for the hospitality sector, local economy and communities.
These four organisations exhibit highly effective ways that fan engagement can be used in a way that transcends conversion for merely commercial objectives. By broadening focus and harnessing sport’s potential to achieve a whole range of positive outcomes, the benefits for all concerned can be immense.
For more information on vacancies at the AIBA, FIH and BOA go to the 'search clients' section on GlobalSportsJobs.com.