Home > Uncategorized > Engagement (no, not the wedding kind)

Engagement (no, not the wedding kind)

Engagement is the measure of how deeply an event has captured the attention of a user. Stronger engagement yields a greater opportunity for influence.

Participation is a great way to deepen engagement. I’m writing this while sitting at a University of Kentucky football game. I applaud the sporting establishment that has convinced fans that their cheering at a sporting event is in fact participation. While I don’t fit neatly into the target fan profile, this explains why the more engaged fans around me are becoming hoarse with anger over the 14-point deficit UK is currently suffering. The great fallacy here is that some guy sitting in row 40 has very little potential for influence in the outcome of the game. Yet he still pays $35 for a ticket, for the experience of being within earshot of the eleven jersied individuals who have a direct effect on the game’s outcome. I just heard a small group of fans excitedly chanting the play clock’s countdown as it approached zero. I’m pretty sure the quarterback didn’t notice.

Yet, there have been developed several means through which common game attendees can become participants in the experience.

1. The jumbotron:
People love seeing their own face on TV. Parents are super-proud of seeing their team logo bedazzled toddlers dancing for the camera (and athletics marketers love all the free promotion). An indicator of the depth of this engagement: in spite of the collectively negative stadium emotion following an unsuccessful series of plays, fans in front of the camera always appear jovial and confident that their team is number one.

2. Beach balls:
See the photo attached to this post. In spite of paying the equivalent of seven meals in order to enter the gates of this event (and likely as much travelling here, parking, and tailgating), attendes are easily distracted from the game and engaged by the chaotic travels of a $2 beach ball throughout the stands. If I was Coca-Cola, that beachball is where I’d want my logo.

3. Location subdivided mini-games:
Ever seen a personified pile of nachos race around a track? By assigning different seating sections to a character, a more personal competition can be fostered among subgroups of fans. And I’m suddenly compelled to find the nearest concession stand.

4. Promotional offers:
‘Take your ticket to any Lexington-area (pizza establishment) for a discounted pizza and one free topping per touchdown scored by the home team. Now isn’t that a great incentive for fans to cheer their team to run up the score?

5. Onfield half-time fan challenges:
‘Kick a field goal and win a car!’ Fans can more easily relate to other fans than to players. So bring one guy onto the field with a slim chance of success in the challenge, talk about the sweet prize that he is not likely to win, and get 30k people to really hope that he (someone with whom they strongly empathasize) defies the odds.

This interests me as my company looks for unique ways to engage people in public places with our large-format touch screens. My observations have led to this simple conclusion: revenue-generating sporting events are not wholly about the game. They are about the fan experience. From an engagement perspective, the act of watching the game only captures the base layer of fan attention, but by virtue of a long, steady progression has the ability to grab attention for a long duration. Several other aspects of the fan experience, which have been near-seamlessly integrated into the event, provide deeper, yet only temporary, fan engagement.

As with other advertising platforms, I suspect that good sports marketers find a way to maximize the area under the curve.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2010/10/18 at 10:27 am

    (In response to: http://kykernel.com/2010/10/18/sunday-football-teleconference-coverage)

    Let Cobb say what he wants. Maybe he actually sees through the layers of alternate motivations that are placed on top of his sport of choice.

    I’m not against what revenue-generating collegiate sports have become. The fan experience is awesome. Stadium food, cheerleaders, the band, doing the wave, rushing the field, singing the fight song. But to say that the event that is a college football game is solely about the sport of college football is false.

    A college football game is a great opportunity to capture the attention of 67,000 people. This is often put to good use, such as highlighting the academic and social advances made by outstanding individuals in the university community, people who can not as easily garner the weekly attention of 67,000 people. It is also a great opportunity to market products and services to game attendees. And in spite of the recent dynamics between the Kernel and IMG, revenue from athletics events like this helped pay for my college experience at UK, as well as the SEC football experience that brings great comradery among members of the Big Blue Nation.

    The point is this: fans attend a football game for many reasons beyond watching the players on the football field. Fans and athletes might want to take a closer look at each others’ motivations before assuming that we are all pulling in the same direction.

    I wrote a blog post about some of this while watching the game (and being sufficiently distracted from the sporting event by a beach ball bouncing through the stands): http://nicksuch.posterous.com/engagement-no-not-the-wedding-kind

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