Springbok fan engagement taken to another level
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.