International sport tourism is experiencing incredible growth, which means more opportunity for sponsors to tap into fan excitement while they’re away (travelling to a game, travelling for business and/ or engaging international fans). The emotional nature of sport drives spontaneity. Witnessing a game-winning goal or a walk-off home run is a feeling that few activities can recreate. This provides an opportunity for brands and sponsors to captivate away fans with compelling experiences in their team’s home arena.
Fans are globetrotters.
Due to the global availability of sport broadcasts and live streams, fans have been supporting teams without geographic restrictions for years. Like NBA fans for example, who can watch their favourite teams from 215 countries worldwide (Long, 2016). Domestic and international visitors account for $5.2 billion in annual Canadian sport tourism (CSTA, 2016). Understanding the value away fans can bring opens a wide breadth of new sponsorship opportunities for brands everywhere.
Innovations in the sport tourism marketplace are also bringing fans closer to their favourite teams. Here are a few smart examples of sponsors using tech to tap into fan passions as they travel.
Membership programs provide fans and teams an opportunity to unite globally on one platform. Recently, Delta Air Lines partnered with the Seattle Seahawks to launch 12status. 12status allows Seahawks fans to earn Delta Air Lines miles for supporting their team. Giveaways include one mile per passing yard at home games and 1,200 miles if fans at Seattle’s home field are loud enough to cause five false start penalties against the LA Rams. With such a flexible rewards program, 12status allows members to receive direct incentives regardless of their geographic location, which translates into a stronger affinity to the brand.
Five years ago, the BC Lions created Operation Orange. Through this unique initiative, select fans fill empty seats on the BC Lions’ air charter, travelling with their team to receive a VIP away-game day experience. This exclusive experience helps distinguish their product and creates a sense of belonging with fans.
The Fantrotter app is a great example of how start-ups are helping fans get closer to their team. The app allows users to view team schedules while simultaneously booking a flight, hotel, or rental car in their selected destination. Another great app for sports fans, Fan Wide, is helping fans find viewing parties throughout the United States simply by keying in their location. With Fantrotter and Fan Wide, fans now have a simple and convenient way to follow their team wherever they are.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is another brand that recognizes the value of away fans. A partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins allows AAA to offer away game hospitality packages inclusive of game tickets, round-trip transport and accommodations. Through these packages, AAA is attracting more fans throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
Brands like PrimeSport are also capitalizing on the hospitality package trend. PrimeSport is a secondary ticket seller that packages their tickets with hotel accommodation, transport and in some cases, VIP perks. As an official partner of North American teams like the Detroit Red Wings and leagues like NCAA, PrimeSport provides fans an inclusive, worry-free, event package. AAA and PrimeSport put fans in the driver seat and make it easier to plan their next sports excursion.
Many opportunities exist for brands to collaborate with away fans, like the partnership between British soccer team Southampton FC and British telecom company, Virgin Media for example. Through their partnership, Virgin Media caps ticket prices for fans travelling across the UK at £10 less than the standard £30 ticket price. A sports betting company, 888sport, has formed a similar partnership with several soccer teams in the English Football League Championship, offering free game day travel throughout England for fans of partner soccer teams. These collaborations draw fans across England, which helps stimulate the local economy and provides a unique in-person atmosphere for the home team.
Score with innovation.
Sport tourism is a competitive, multi-billion dollar global industry, yet some sponsors fail to think of engaging opportunities for fans outside of home games. There is plenty of room for innovation to the in-person experience. Few people can say they have had the chance to fly across Canada in a plane full of BC Lion football players, but be assured those who do rave about it. With a heightened need for consumers to feel personally connected, tapping into their passions when they’re outside their normal day-to-day gives sponsors a tremendous opportunity to drive fan engagement in an unexpected way. Bringing fans the game they love no matter where they are is a smart play for your sponsorship dollars.
Sources CSTA. (2016). Sport Tourism Cheat Sheet. Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance. Retrieved from http://canadiansporttourism.com/sites/default/files/docs/cstacheatsheet2016e.pdf Long, M. (2016). Arnon de Mello on how the NBA is growing - and growing basketball - in Latin America. Retrieved from http://www.sportspromedia.com/quick_fire_questions/arnon_de_mello_on_how_the_nba_is_growing_and_growing_basketball_in_latin_am