Engaging sport fans through social media

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Engaging sport fans through social media

The era of social media has brought about a rapid change in consumer behavior across Saudi Arabia, and an increased focus on sport in the Kingdom brings both opportunities and challenges.
Among the opportunities are creating and developing sport media and marketing strategies that engage fans and increase participation.
Among the challenges are the questions of whether we should promote athletes or let them do it themselves, and whether to focus on the traditional sports or develop the less popular ones.
Tweets from various federations may get thousands of virtual impressions, likes and shares. But what real impression do they leave — is it positive or negative?
You have to grab the interest of your followers, especially if you want to increase awareness of the sport and get them involved.
Posting records and achievements is all very well, but people are now demanding more creative content. When it comes to sport, it is all about making it personal and relatable.
There has been slow progress on that front in Saudi Arabia, but we are seeing a change in the Kingdom’s sporting scene. Children no longer rely on the TV to get their sporting fix. They are glued to their smart phones, hooked on social media apps such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
According to GlobalWebIndex report, Manchester City became the first Premier League Club to hit 1 million YouTube subscribers, and in its research the GWI stated that one in two Internet users is now watching sports coverage online.
Another good example of media engagement was Nike’s campaign called “Nike on Demand” and “Just Do It,” where they focused on the emotional benefits of sport.

Tweets from various federations may get thousands of virtual impressions, likes and shares. But what real impression do they leave — is it positive or negative? You have to grab the interest of your followers, especially if you want to increase awareness of the sport and get them involved.

Dr. Razan Baker

Even with less popular sports, engagement with younger viewers and fans works — such as the British Table Tennis Association’s live stream on Facebook getting more than 2 million sets of eyes on one of their events.
The key element to motivation and encouraging people to get off the sofa and get involved is targeting the emotional aspect of sport.
Likewise, engaging women is a key element of this approach. When companies started to create brands with a message addressed to women, they knew they were addressing society through to its core.
This tactic has been seen abroad with female celebrities adopting these positive messages to get more women into sport, and it was also seen in Saudi Arabia with campaigns such as “Your Sport is Your Protection” from the Saudi Federation for Mass Participation.
Companies are using new technologies to attract the younger generation, airing events using virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality, not to mention 360 views as well. All of them allow fans to be as close to the real experience as possible.
What can we do to increase not only awareness but also engagement between athletes and their fans? Firstly, we need to educate athletes and remind them about their role as ambassadors of their sport.
Secondly, we need to get the athletes more involved in the community, where they can talk about their life story and share their experience with the fans.
Thirdly, we should be opening the door for marketing companies to come up with ideas of engagement based on Saudi society’s traditions, culture and ambitions. Finally, media and marketing industries need to invest, collaborate and explore new creative ideas of engagement with sporting authorities to be able to promote a healthy lifestyle for society that is balanced with an increase in awareness.

Dr. Razan Baker is a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Bowling Federation, a specialist in corporate social responsibility in sports, and a sports columnist/journalist. Twitter: @RazanBaker

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