Pursuit of Sports Fan Engagement



The Tampa Bay Lightning took the #3 spot in ESPN Magazine’s 2015 Ultimate Standings, Go Bolts! The Lightning beat out legendary franchises such as the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bulls, and the New York Rangers when ESPN compared 122 franchises on everything from fan relations to stadium experience.

With our January event focusing on the Lightning’s brand transformation, here’s a quick way to get up to speed on the competitive world of sports marketing.

The Sports Market

Referencing PricewaterhouseCoopers Sports Outlook 2015, the North American sports market is forecasted to grow from $60.5 billion in 2014 to $73.5 billion in 2019, with a CAGR of 4%.  The demand for sports sponsorships continues strong.  Total North America expenditures on sports sponsorships are forecasted to grow from $14.69 billion in 2014 to $18.30 billion in 2019, with a CAGR of 4.5%.  In 2018, for the first time, media rights revenue is projected to outpace sponsorship and gate revenues.

Explosion of Content

“Sports content has more than tripled in the past decade” KannanVenkateshwar, Barclays Plc Analyst noted in Bloomberg Business.  Check out Tampa Bay Lightning’s website or the other major sports teams in town and you will be overwhelmed by the content provided and video accessibility.  The passionate sports fan has every stat imaginable provided, as well as draft picks and even an injury report. Extensive video is available including game highlights, top plays, and press conference coverage.

Shifting of Screen Usage

How fans are experiencing games is changing as well.  Nielsen’s Year in Sports Media Report 2014 noted that digital viewing of sports exploded in 2013-2014, with high profile events like the World Cup in Brazil, the Super Bowl, NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cup.  Although time on sports websites did decline in favor of mobile, visitors are spending more time online overall.  Bloomberg Business reported that there is a fragmentation across devices and while ratings appear to decline, there are audiences that are currently not being accurately measured.  For example, ESPN cable subscribers who choose to watch ESPN on their mobile app aren’t reflected in ratings.

Access to Players via Social Media and In-person

Fans want to connect to their sports team via social media and access to professional sports players and facilities. The Lightning encourages fans to Follow Your Favorite Bolt on Twitter. Fans also want to see behind the scenes to understand the player experience.  The Lightning’s Rink of Dreams and the Buccaneers Women’s Movement, Siege the Stadium are two programs that offer access to the field or rink, touring the locker rooms and limited access areas of stadiums.

Future of Sports Fan Experience

Adweek reported that with emerging tracking technology, sports marketing is moving toward a more customized fan experience.  At the Pre-World Cup Experience in New York, Nike used QR code wristbands to track their fan engagement.  This collected data was used to modify post event marketing efforts.  Similarly, Verizon collected fan data at the Fan Zone on Super Bowl Blvd and then tailored the content on their NFL Now streaming app.  Fans were given a customized experience reflecting their favorite team, fantasy players, and video preferences.  The individual fan connection is becoming the standard in sports marketing.

By: Kathleen Rogers, an experienced marketing professional transitioning back to the workforce with a recent degree from University of Florida’s Art History program. She has ten years of media planning and buying experience in Tampa and New York advertising agencies.

Kathleen Rogers