“The expectations of fans are always evolving and changing so what is regarded as the ‘fundamentals’ today will continue to be redefined tomorrow.”
June 24, 2022
Alex Edney is the Creative Director for data and sports marketing company InCrowd, one of the leaders within the sports industry. Here he explains the changes they have been witnessing across the industry while working with their wide range of clients.
How has UX been changing?
Previously, sports rightsholders did not have to compete as hard as they do today to gain their own fans’ attention. The potential for fanbase growth for rightsholders has grown considerably but there is a real threat for the share of attention from their own fans and users. The ‘build it and they will come’ approach is over.
The greatest representation of this approach in the sports industry has come more in the form of various identity rebrand projects that rightsholders have gone through over the last few years. Upon releasing the end product, any ‘failures’ are reported widely and rightsholders are often accused of not listening to fanbases. The same principles can be directly applied to digital Product Design.
“Good UX design is usually noticed particularly sparingly but challenging UX design is routinely publicised.”
The Products that InCrowd build are always propped up with significant amounts of quantitative/qualitative research and analysis before the main definition stage takes place. It might seem like to cost more financially in the short term but this approach will and does reap rewards in the longer term and sets the course for a healthy product development cycle.
Why is creating a seamless UX so important for sports brands?
The margins for success for sports rightsholders are particularly constrained and along with the fight for the share of attention, it produces a formidable challenge.
Good UX design is usually noticed particularly sparingly but challenging UX design is routinely publicised.
As there are multiple audience types to cater for, it requires a detailed and comprehensive understanding which is enabled through significant and ongoing research to cater for those key fan and commercial journeys.
This ongoing research powers UX strategy and definition producing tools that enable user journeys for seamless purchase, interaction or communication processes.
What do you see working well? What are fans looking for?
The expectations of fans are always evolving and changing so what is regarded as the ‘fundamentals’ today will continue to be redefined tomorrow. Linear and more ‘hygiene’ lead content/features are now regarded as the absolute minimum in terms of expectation.
“Fans don’t just want the core linear/hygiene-based content that they can get from multiple sources.”
Gamification is a currently real area of focus for the industry. Fans want personalised recognition for their loyalty and commitment on a continuous basis from the club, leagues and/or media organisations that receive their attention and fandom. Fans don’t just want the core linear/hygiene-based content that they can get from multiple sources, they are now looking for what they can get in return; in the same way, you receive loyalty points when you go shopping.
There are also a wealth of opportunities available to sports rightsholders to continue the theme of personalised experiences for their fans. The one size fits all is now dead. Rightsholders are looking to increase their global footprint and with that comes the increase of different audience profiles that they must cater to and tailor for whether that be ticket sales or unique access to individual player-specific content.
What’s the importance of balancing how branded content is integrated into the fan experience through engagement with them?
There will always be a market for placing the logo of a brand or sponsor on the front of a shirt or on a LED screen at a stadium but there is further potential and value in other digital markets. The sheer amount of linear focused brand messages that are presented to a fan has real potential to overwhelm and ultimately get lost/reduce in value.
“The InCrowd team is constantly learning in order to understand where those moments of value are that we can provide to a fan on an individual basis.”
Within those digital experiences that a fan encounters InCrowd believes that the greatest impact for both the fan and a brand can be within personalised moments that actually matter to the individual. The InCrowd team is constantly learning in order to understand where those moments of value are that we can provide to a fan on an individual basis and where a specific brand can target their message where there is potential. InCrowd believe that this type of interaction will deliver far more value in the longer run.
How do InCrowd’s products assist sports organisations from this perspective?
The objective of InCrowd’s product development strategy is to always and consistently improve the relationship between sports rightsholders and their partners to the fans themselves.
InCrowd do this by empowering the rightsholder to use our sports-specific and centralised Customer Data and Experience Platform (CDXP) which allows for communication, segmentation, gamification, partnership activations as well as insight from our analytics tools.
Examples of our fan-first B2C product development strategy can be found within the SkyBet EFL Rewards app which showcases how we employ gamification designed to specifically target particular audiences and activate partnerships during the moments that matter.
Driving ROI through data-powered digital experiences
With data, app, web and in-stadia solutions managed by a powerful customer data and experience platform (CDXP) and supporting professional content, data and strategic consultancy services, InCrowd helps leagues, clubs, federations, venues and sports media activate the full potential of their dedicated and passionate audiences, driving significant ROI for the organisation and commercial partners.
InCrowd works with multiple sports organisations and clubs including UEFA, FIFA, EFL, Sky Sports, Premiership Rugby, URC, Rugby Football League, Formula 1, ECB, ICC, Indian Premier League and multiple clubs across the Premier League and Championship, helping them deeply connect with their fans converting fan interaction into ROI & advocacy.
To find out more or set up an exploratory call with InCrowd, no obligation, email: firstname.lastname@example.org