One of my annual sports rituals is about to begin. On Thursday, May 27, my countdown to the start of Clemson’s 2021 college football season begins. Daily, I will change the wallpaper on my laptop and mobile devices to an image identifying the exact number days until Clemson takes the field against the University of Georgia to launch the beginning of another season for my beloved Tigers. Without exception, no day is missed in the countdown. While many of my friends, colleagues and clients believe my daily updates are “excessive”, “unnecessary” or even a bit “weird,” I believe the daily ritual is essential.
When it comes to sports, I am not unique. Many fans have rituals that must be acted upon or an entire season could be in jeopardy. Yes, jeopardy. Take it from Dave Barry, American author and syndicated humor columnist, who first articulated the phrase “concern rays” as it relates to sports fans. Barry believes that actual rays of energy emanate from a fan’s forehead that can actually change the outcome of a game. Powerful stuff.
My advice to my friends in the sports industry across the country? After more than a year of sports not-as-usual, get ready for fans to return in full force. Pent up team loyalty is about to be unleashed on sports across the country and globe. Concern rays are only the beginning…
Will the fan experience be different? Sure. Will the passion have lessened? No way. Bottom line, it is time for sports and sponsorship professionals to “fan up.”
What does “fan up” mean? As sports marketers, let’s reinvest in the fan experience. Let’s create new ways for fans to channel their energy as sports open up for 100% attendance in the venues many of us consider a “second home.” Let’s continue to focus on “ettendance” as well. Many of our fans will only return virtually in 2021, so we need to be prepared to enhance digital and social extensions to accelerate engagement. All the planning and idea generation that occurred during the pandemic cannot be forgotten.
It is time to:
- Dust off that big activation idea that has been “on hold” and bring it to life
- Incorporate new strategies to welcome a more diverse audience to your venue
- Poll the fans to ask their opinions about sports in 2021 and incorporate their ideas as fans are welcomed back
- Invest in activation strategies that help fans appreciate sponsors and increase sponsor recall
Let’s make 2021 the year of big ideas focusing on the fan experience. If we “fan up,” 2021 will prove special on and off the field for sports fans across the country.