Spring­bok fan en­gage­ment taken to an­other level

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

MTN launched the Bozza cam­paign on Thurs­day in which one fan will travel with the Spring­boks for 18 months un­til the end of the World Cup in Ja­pan in 2019.

The per­son will, ac­cord­ing to MTN, “get the unique op­por­tu­nity to fol­low our Spring­bok rugby team around the world, mean­ing he or she will be the ex­clu­sive ‘so­cial eyes and ears’ of SA’s rugby na­tion.”

This spe­cial, hand­picked in­di­vid­ual will get a once-in-a-life­time chance to fol­low the jour­ney of the Spring­boks from the forth­com­ing Rugby Cham­pi­onship un­til the end of the Spring­bok cam­paign in 2019 in Ja­pan.

The per­son will be able to travel with the Boks, post like mad on so­cial me­dia and get ex­clu­sive in­sights to what makes the Boks tick.

Or, as we sports jour­nal­ists like to call it, they will be re­porters.

Ex­cept that they won’t be allowed to re­port on ev­ery­thing, ac­cord­ing to SA Rugby pres­i­dent Mark Alexan­der, as they will have to sign a “nondis­clo­sure agree­ment”, but just for some things, the ones that must re­main sa­cred and un­told. Like the Bok game plan.

This is fan en­gage­ment on an­other level, em­brac­ing the peo­ple who em­brace the spon­sors who em­brace the sports.

Fan en­gage­ment is a mix of the dis­cov­ered and undis­cov­ered.

The bat­tle to un­der­stand­ing what makes the prod­uct sell is the con­tin­u­ous fact-and-fic­tion rum­ble that is mar­ket­ing.

Take a sport, strip it down to the essence of the match and then try to en­hance and add to it with­out turn­ing it into a shouty blus­ter, a freak show that de­tracts and di­lutes. Not enough has moved on in South African sport, with rugby still stuck in the loop of dated songs, danc­ing girls and singers des­tined for ca­reers putting on shows in shop­ping malls.

There are cam­eras ev­ery­where, much to the cha­grin of the Aus­tralian cricket team.

There was a time when tele­vi­sion sta­tions be­lieved that in­ter­views with sup­port­ers in the stands was the most direct form of fan en­gage­ment, an idea that amounted to lit­tle more than the noth­ing­ness of cliche and showed that some fans should be seen and not heard. What makes great fan en­gage­ment?

Well, the core “prod­uct”, the qual­ity of the “brand ” – and those two words still feel un­com­fort­able to write – has to be good. Win­ning is good.

Look at the Lions and the Bulls from a few years ago. Loy­alty is more im­por­tant than win­ning.

A few years ago, En­tre­pre­neur.com out­lined a few things other sports could learn from the Na­tional Foot­ball League (NFL) in the US.

Their first point was to make the prod­uct ac­ces­si­ble. This does not only per­tain to mak­ing it easy to watch any­where in the world, but eas­ing the en­trance of new fans into the sport.

The NFL put names on the back of jer­seys, they had matches on Mon­day nights when peo­ple were home. Make it easy to be­come a fan.

In­vite fans to be part of the team. Lis­ten to the fans.

Liver­pool Foot­ball Club ap­pointed the for­mer foot­ball ed­i­tor of The Times news­pa­per Tony Bar­rett in Lon­don as the head of club and sup­porter li­ai­son.

Bar­rett, a long-term sea­son-ticket holder at An­field, was ap­pointed after a re­search project had fans giv­ing the club a low score for rep­re­sent­ing how they feel.

Bar­rett’s job was to “chair, co­or­di­nate and man­age the new fan fo­rums, as well as es­tab­lish a dia­logue with sup­port­ers and sup­porter groups more in­for­mally through so­cial me­dia and faceto-face meet­ings to help un­der­stand the key is­sues more im­me­di­ately.

“The five fan fo­rums . . . will cover the is­sues that fans stated were most im­por­tant to them – ticket avail­abil­ity, ticket prices, sta­dium, lo­cal sup­porter en­gage­ment, and equal­ity and di­ver­sity.”

Make the fan ex­pe­ri­ence one to re­mem­ber, em­brace so­cial me­dia, keep re­fresh­ing, but don’t change for the sake of change.

Fan en­gage­ment is about lis­ten­ing, not guess­ing or im­pos­ing. Just ask San­zaar about Su­per Rugby.

When an ad trum­pets that 18 has now be­come 15, you know that some­one got things very wrong.

Fans need to know that they are recog­nised for what they bring to the sport. They need to know that they are val­ued.


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