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This One Trend Will Revolutionize Fan Interaction in Sports by 2020

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Ruzhdi Morina

Chatbots Are the Latest Trend in Sports Business to Stay on Track with Fan Interaction

This article is a part of a report series using fan engagement research conducted on matchday during the 2018 International Champions Cup. Read the other articles to learn more about fan engagement in social media:

Intro: The Perfect Matchday
Team Specials: Real Madrid / FC Barcelona / Borussia Dortmund / Chelsea FC / Bayern Munich / ManCity
Social Media Specials
: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

To remain competitive in today’s fast-changing markets, it is especially important to identify the latest technologies and trends in sports that provide the best possible fan experience.

Most sports teams have identified some important issues, such as the need to interact with fans throughout the whole fan journey (pre-game, live, and post-game, as well as off-season) to reach high engagement. However, the majority of sports team have not found an adequate solution for that problem.

Challenges that have to be tackled include the need for team presence throughout the entire year, not just during the regular season (Sports Venue Business, 2017). Off-season offers a lot of time for potential sales, and that’s why the focus must be also set on 24/7 team presence.

Furthermore, it is a priority to interact with fans that are not physically present on matchdays, namely by engaging them via digital media. This is because fans tend to turn to the internet over the TV to enjoy games on the go, often through live streaming on their mobile devices. Another obstacle is providing personalized content for fans that addresses them individually. (Business Sports Institute, 2017)

It is only when sports teams address fans and provide them content that fits their personal needs that fans will become customers (the-future-of-commerce.com, 2018).

To provide a superior fan experience, identifying fan preferences is essential to unlocking untapped opportunities. Real-time messaging can help to capture key moments of the fan journey as they occur and deliver fan-driven data that, in turn, helps to produce fan-tailored content (The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce, 2018).

“Not all activities bring the fan and the team into direct contact. Not all of them lead directly to revenue. But all of them have the potential to boost affinity by embedding the team experience deeper into the fan’s consciousness, day in and day out, in-season and off-season.”

— Deloitte, 2017

Furthermore, the gambling and betting part continues rising. Predicting the outcomes of seasons, games and even individual plays become more popular among fans. New mediums like chatbots create new markets where fans can make wagers or predictions (Deloitte, 2018).

”Our growth’s going to continue to come from media,”

— Torrey Galida, COO of Richard Childress Racing

Furthermore, live streaming and virtual reality form a major part of modern fan engagement. Virtual reality and augmented reality allow for the creation of individual fan profiles through data analytics which makes it easier to satisfy fan’s demands. Social media is used to provide live updates on games, integrate promotions, and implement live streaming to interact with fans (Red Card, 2018).

What can sports teams do to meet all of their fans’ demands, aware of the trends mentioned above?

The answer could be found in an emerging technology: chatbots.

Chatbots allow for real-time interaction 24/7 with fans all over the world, as well as providing personalized content from data analytics (Fan Arena, 2018).

Furthermore, chatbots do not require developing a new app, as they can be integrated into any existing messenger. This is a big benefit as modern consumers dislike downloading new apps. In 2017, 51 % of US smartphone users downloaded zero new apps per month. 75 % downloaded two new apps or less within a month (Chatbotslife, 2018).

“Recent survey findings conducted by the Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics discovered that nearly 73 % of CEOs agree that cognitive computing/AI technologies will play a key role in future business. Almost half of those surveyed will be ready to adopt these technologies by 2019.”

— DZone, 2017

Subscriptions within the chatbot allow push notifications which ease team presence and fan interaction throughout the entire year. A chatbot can comprise features such as predictions, trivia games, live voting, news, live-updates during games, fun facts and much more.

@FredlChatbot in Facebook Messenger

Instant feedback on a fan’s performance and the possibility of comparing results with friends or checking their score in the leaderboard enhances engagement and fan experience.

Moreover, sports teams can include polls, game reminders, and ticket purchase possibilities in their chatbot to ask for fan’s opinions or to provide convenient access to their content (Facebook IQ, 2018).

As the research revealed, all observed teams have the broadest reach on Facebook. However, the engagement rate on Facebook was very low compared to other platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

Facebook offers the potential for fan interaction as teams have the biggest reach on this platform. However, teams do not take advantage of this potential.

As observed, fan pages have partly started to integrate chatbots for communication with fans, but official pages have not used this technology yet.

Facebook Messenger has great potential for the implementation of chatbots. With a growth rate of 11% within a single year and 1.3 billion monthly active users globally, it is the second-largest messaging platform worldwide. This messaging app also expects to grow to 2.48 billion worldwide users by 2021 (Statista, 2017).

Chatbots can be the key to increasing fan interaction. They provide fan-tailored content and data analytics to identify upcoming trends. Fan interaction can happen at any time all over the world.

The technology can be integrated into any existing messenger, which is a big advantage since the development of a new app is not needed.

Facebook Messenger offers a big opportunity for sports teams, especially in soccer, to reach their fans and increase interaction.

Read more about:

Intro: The Perfect Matchday
Team Specials: Real Madrid / FC Barcelona / Borussia Dortmund / Chelsea FC / Bayern Munich / ManCity
Social Media Specials
: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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