It was only within days that the country, particularly the sports and live entertainment industry, suddenly realized the actual severity of the coronavirus. Quarantine restrictions have led the cancelation of events and postponed entire seasons that fans had long been looking forward to.
Almost everyone is taking a hit one way or another: be it disappointment from canceled events, boredom stemming from social distancing, or real business harms done to teams and brands. While we hope for the speedy recovery of those who are affected and the fast containment of the virus, what’s most unnerving is probably not knowing the duration or the ultimate impact of the whole situation.
That’s why more than ever, we need solidarity. It’s important that as teams and venues, you’re continuing to engage your fanbase even though they are not going to be physically at your venue. Maintaining this fan-first focus now benefits your organization in several ways:
1. Showing your fans the support they deserve during these difficult times
Yes, your business is probably suffering now that revenue from tickets, merchandise and F&B is fast dwindling. From the fan’s perspective, their situation is no better. Not only are their regular lives and jobs being disrupted, but they have to face the fact that their favorite games and events of the year are no longer happening (For example, this fan drove 400 miles for his annual spring training pilgrimage only to find autograph sessions banned for health reasons). Continuous supportive messaging serves as a huge consolation for your fans.
2. Prepping them for when this is all over
It’s important to think in the long run especially when the outlook feels challenging in the short tun. Keep in mind that this crisis will end — when it does, how do you ensure the maximum enthusiasm and readiness on your fans’ part to return to the games? That’s why this period of time is actually your golden opportunity to build up anticipation and hope for what’s coming next. We’ll elaborate on how to do that exactly later in this blog.
3. Make sure you are steadfast in your effort to preserve fan retention and loyalty
How do you make sure that during this time, you’re not losing your fans that you would otherwise engage with in person? In addition, with this disruption, will you lose your fans to their other priorities in life, or simply to the sense of uncertainty and frustration they’re feeling? It’s definitely time to be creative and engage with your fans in other ways so that when the season returns, your fan retention and loyalty hasn’t taken a hit as a result of the quarantine period.
Now that we’ve established the importance of consistent fan engagement when fans are not physically at your venue, let’s discuss what are some ways to achieve that. Given the limitations of not having any events going on and not being able to offer an immersive fan experience at the venue, it requires a little outside-of-the-box thinking.
But hey, that’s the fun part isn’t it?
1. Focus on multi-channel communication
People are likely to be online — A LOT — while they’re stuck at home. Capitalize on that and establish connections across all platforms, especially since they will spend a lot more time browsing website online, checking emails, scrolling through social media feeds and fiddling with their phones. Since offline activities are restricted now, online digital channels are your best bet.
We especially want to emphasize the importance of social media. What would people do when they don’t have much going on at home? They’ll pull out their phones and start scrolling through their social media feed. And for once, there won’t be much going on in the day-to-day to distract them. This is the prime time for you to be creative with social media campaigns to generate social interactions and build a community born out of solidarity and mutual support. Therefore, post consistently; ask questions; elicit comments and shares; conduct surveys; encourage photo submissions...there are a thousand and one ways to encourage interaction and engagement on social media during this time. And it’s really the opportunity for you to organically reach as many fans as you can.
2. Make your creatives / copy relevant
Coronavirus is a serious matter and thousands of families have been severely affected. As a brand, it’s crucial to maintain a respectful and appropriate tone throughout all communications.
However, it’s still necessary to be uplifting and hopeful. The reality is dire enough, so if the messaging and digital campaigns you’re running during this time are engaging, positive and comforting, fans at home would really appreciate that sprinkle of positivity in their everyday life. For example, even though March Madness has been called off, maybe you can run your own bracket challenge on social media and engage your fan community to vote on their favorite jerseys, their favorite stadium photos, or their favorite concession items. Who wouldn’t appreciate an alternative bracket challenge like this?
Most importantly, you need to maintain a level of transparency and honesty. That’s the only constant when the outlook is unclear. Give your fans timely updates on the progress and decisions, while being honest about what’s unknown and what’s to be determined. Constant communication will likely assuage fears and nurture trust among the fans.
3. Be personal and relationship-driven
Sometimes we overlook the fact that we are all humans and simply all share each other’s sentiments in the face of a crisis. Empathy, therefore, is a crucial element in helping all of us get through this together. Whenever you can add more personal touch and more face-to-face, honest communication, take advantage of that.
An example would be letting your players record video messages to the fans to keep their spirits high, or even send personalized videos/support to fans who are especially struggling with the situation at hand. Humanizing your messaging would be one of the best ways to keep your fans involved, appreciated and entertained when they otherwise wish they could be at the game, cheering on their team alongside fellow fans.
Lastly, we want you to know that the entire FanFood team is committed to doing all that we can to support you and your team through this pandemic outbreak. We will continue to serve you helpful content and provide value in any way we can. This crisis is only temporary — and we are determined to work through this with you together.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions, concerns or simply want to get in touch, feel free to chat with us online or email email@example.com.