Sense, Analyze, Engage: How to Successfully Monetize Your Fan Ecosystem

I envy the ancient Romans. They had a world-class coliseum right in the middle of their capital city, and spent hours watching gladiators contest and chariots race. It was a great way for citizens to get away from the drudgeries of day-to-day life and enjoy the excitement. A trip to a stadium today is not much different. Except that there are jumbotrons and audio announcers vying for the attention of fans that until recently were exclusively focused on the playing field.

Broadcasters largely drive the at-home experience for sports aficionados, but in a hyper-connected world where fans are increasingly turning to tablets and large smartphone to take in a game, they have a newer opportunity to connect with this expanding market. Broadcasters offer third parties access to their viewers' attention and data, and have thus created a revenue stream through their loyal fan base.

An anachronistic mind-set and a fear of soaring technology costs dissuade many stakeholders in the sporting industry, including clubs from comprehensively digitizing their fan experience. But the reality is that technological rewards and fan satisfaction far outweigh the costs. It also has a measurable, positive impact on revenue. Why else do you think consumer-facing businesses like for example the retail industry, are developing their own chat bots that are designed to better engage consumers and nurture loyalty? According to experts, today's chat bots, instant messaging platforms, and sophisticated artificial intelligence tools can create seamless interactions between company-owned machines and customers.

Should the sports industry be any different? Absolutely not, and as we witness the gradual shift towards digitization of the fan experience and creative disruption of the sports ecosystem, it is a combination of 'sense', 'analysis' and 'engagement' that will create a robust revenue channel.

Sense, Analyze, and Engage

When I say 'sense', I refer to the ability to determine the pulse and sentiment of sports persons, fans, and sponsors. Analysis refers to deep diving into data to understand the actions of fans, and engagement refer to locating ways that were once unimaginable to connect with fans. For example, through data driven platforms and artificial intelligence. This enables sports clubs to monetize their fan experience through real-time advertisements and videos based on analysis, insights, and leaderboards, before, during, and after the event. The core aim being to constantly add value and richness to the sporting experience.

So what is the process by which technology can revolutionize and monetize sports while exciting the current fan base further? The answer lies in bringing old fans back, attracting new audiences, and creating a set of digital native fans.

Ideally, the activities around sense, analysis, and engagement should be implemented by a single provider and be accessible to fans, sponsors, and media on one easily navigable, integrated, and efficient platform. This is where solution-based IT companies like Infosys offer game-changing insights and implementations for monetizing sports in new ways. For instance, we can sense player stress, strain, and recovery with wearable technology like Whoop, or apps which offer video-based sensing. We can also sense the physical, transactional, and social traits of fans.

We can analyze the stress, strain, and recovery of players, and convert that into insights for fans. We can also analyze fans to help build profiles, create segments, and run digital marketing and monetization campaigns.

The final step before monetization is engagement. We know whom to engage (targeted to specific needs), when to engage, how to engage (which channel - app, Web, video content, physical billboards), what to engage (content, tickets, merchandise, ads), how to track results, and which players, sponsors, betting companies and betters should be in the loop.

Monetize every sports experience

This combination of sense, analysis, and engagement leads to monetization on an integrated e-commerce and socially active platform. So how can the sports ecosystem be divided and made accessible to every stakeholders needs, under a single platform? There are several ecosystems in any sport: fan, sponsors, club, advertisers, broadcasters, and gaming and betting. Each ecosystem has differing analytical and data needs.

Let's pick as an example, the fan ecosystem. Within this ecosystem, there are different zones, which can be monetized by providing the desired value-add to the fan. For example: tracking physical & digital fans (WPP, Google), engaging fans (Facebook, Twitter), club marketplace (Club website, store), in-game (merchandizing, refreshments), hyper-personalized mobile advertising and gamification (real-time games and leader boards with prizes).

A key strength of technology is that it can allow sports organizers to analyze data from various sources and delve deeply into what, where, and whom to engage in the target audience. It can tie a number of fan zones onto one e-commerce platform, create targeted ads and market based on match day and virtual attendance demographics, offer 'premium spot' auctions at different high-impact visibility points in the match, and localize delivery of content across the world.

(In my next blog post, I'll discuss some specific tools used to make nearly every sports match an event to remember.)