For any team, league or sport, there’s a tremendous universe of fans who don’t fall neatly into the “die-hard” bucket. They might only attend one or two games per season. They might watch half a game on TV, or only when with friends. They might glance at the sports section, “like” sports-related stories in their newsfeed, and they’ll probably get a little invested around the playoffs. But don’t ask them to name all their team’s draft picks, or know which schools their team’s assistant coaches came out of.

These fans are the future of sports.

Die-Hards Casual Fans
Pays attention? Around the season, through good times and bad. Sporadically; more likely to care when team is doing well, or has a big game coming up.
Ticketing Frequently buys tickets. Game attendance is a big event. May purchase tickets, but not a central part of fandom.
Sports media consumed Avid consumer of TV, digital, radio etc. Sometimes, but isn’t a major focus
Digital habits Push notifications for team news

Apps/streaming services for watching their team or sport

The ESPN app installed, possibly
Sports is about… A special, unique connection to a team, player or sport, worthy of committing significant time and resources to. An opportunity for entertainment, a great night out, or social engagement.


The casual fan opportunity

Casual fans, not the die-hards, present the most significant growth opportunity for a majority of sports teams, leagues and brands.

The advantages of a targeted casual fan engagement effort include:

  • Year-round engagement. There are opportunities to engage fans well beyond the game. Although sports are seasonal, many follow their team throughout the entire annual cycle – from preseason through the trade deadline, and even during the offseason. There are countless times in the season that marketing can target to get their fans involved, even when a team is not playing.
  • Deeper lifetime value. The more teams understand what motivates fandom, and supports the interests of their fans, the more likely those fans are to become committed over time. Fans can now watch and follow teams anywhere across the leagues by streaming online and by interacting with them through digital channels. Technology opens doors to new markets very quickly, effectively changing the game for gaining and retaining team loyalty.
  • Improved return to sponsors. There is an opportunity to provide value and deepen relationships with sponsors and advertisers. Advertisers and sponsors want to see a good return on their investment.
  • Increased brand value. Branding is important for most organizations, but even more so for sport teams. To develop a brand that resonates with both deeply committed and more casual fans, you have to understand what fans want and expect, how to help shape their perspective and behaviors.
  • More opportunities to engage. Ultimately, by engaging fans, you can better create targeted engagement tactics to move fans up your engagement funnel. By understanding what motivates fans from casual to deeply committed, you are more likely to convert unengaged or under-engaged fans into more valuable members of your fan community.