3 Ways Sports Brands Can Use Data to Increase Audience Engagement

Becoming data-driven is not easy - but here are a few small steps you can take to better understand your audience, gain better insights from your data, and keep on top despite the COVID-19...

Becoming data-driven is not easy - but here are a few small steps you can take to better understand your audience, gain better insights from your data, and keep on top despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

With live events cancelled and audiences continuing to be unable to attend games, the sports industry has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. While things moved swiftly to online-only, live events in physical locations normally constitute a key source of revenue for many sports brands. This is why marketers in this industry have had a tough time discovering new ways of engaging with their fan base while simultaneously keeping sponsors and advertisers happy.

The reality is that, although online streaming means that audiences still have access to games, this only solves one piece of the puzzle. The other - how audiences engage with brands online and how these interactions can be enhanced and monetized - presents a significant challenge to sports brand marketers.

Nonetheless, challenges breed opportunity and in this case, many marketers are turning to data analytics to discover new insights into their audience. In this article we outline three ways sports brands can utilize audience data to bring additional value to their marketing performance - not only during COVID-19, but afterwards too.

Understand the Value of Data

To be able to understand audience behavior at scale, you need lots of data. Venue attendance, TV viewership, social media engagement… all of this information is usually siloed away in external tools or scattered Excel sheets, with parts of the business often focusing only on a certain channel or audience segment, rather than looking at the whole picture.

Getting this data, cleaning it, and transforming it into data ready for analysis is a complex challenge. With everything now more or less in the digital realm, sports teams that have already gone through this process have experienced a significantly easier transition, and much better equipped to maximize the value from online fan engagement.

For those sports brands that have yet to undertake this process, the first step is to appreciate the value data can bring in terms of truly understanding their fans and accurately measuring the value of each and every engagement.

Try to Get the Full Picture

Looking into a dashboard in Google Analytics or Facebook Insights can give you some useful information on your audience - but that’s just a piece of the overall picture, and it’s difficult to draw any valuable conclusions on overall performance. To really distinguish between the value of engagement on Instagram and YouTube you need to compare data. But all is not lost. Before even getting to the heady task of integrating all your data sources, you can use some of the existing available data points to get some new ideas.

Many sports teams have been using video platforms such as YouTube for a while now, but with most of the engagement and monetization coming from other channels, they have not always been seen as a primary tool. Now, more than ever, understanding how audiences view your content, such as live streams, interviews, or influencer fan channels, is important in both understanding what sparks their interest, and how your brand can benefit from it.

But the true value comes through combining your content published on video platforms with community building tools such as Facebook or Twitter. This enables you to create a strong connection with your fan base and brings brand new ways to engage with them. Sharing new types of content, such as ‘behind the scenes’ videos or any other interesting stories about your team, can generate a huge rise in engagement rates.

Learn how the Philadelphia 76ers used data to understand the interactions with their fans on social and offer their partners new ways of connecting with the target audiences

Know How to Leverage New Channels

With audience attention now split between multiple platforms, it can be difficult to choose which one is best to engage with your audience on, so quite a few marketers end up engaging across them all. Sadly this means those teams will need to invest a lot of time and budget in producing content for channels - which generally ends up with wasted resources and low ROI. Others tend to focus on just one or two channels to the exclusion of all else - but this Hail Mary approach runs the risk of missing out on key opportunities.

For instance, creating short, funny videos of your club’s stars on TikTok may turn out to be a much more successful and cost-efficient way to drive audience engagement, instead of producing hours and hours of live streams on YouTube. But, you won’t know this if you don’t track and analyze the data. Testing out different channels is essential - but set yourself specific KPIs around those channels and be prepared to use the results of your data to inform how you adjust your strategy (and budgets) moving forward.

Turn Data into Revenue

If you can get the right data and use it to drive engagement, this means not only enhancing relations with your fan base, but also sponsors and advertisers. Prove that their ads will be more successful as a pre-roll on your YouTube content and you are one step ahead of your competitors.