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Sports enthusiasts aren’t standing still.

Like all consumers today – they’re adjusting to lifestyle changes, they’re active across an ever-growing spread of media and they’re forging new communities of like-minded people.

But what separates sports enthusiasts from everyone else? What makes the sports industry kind of unique? The answer: fandom.

Having an enthused, dedicated group of followers (often from birth) who track their teams online, watch games, check results under the dinner table, then head to social media to get the latest controversy is a gift – this is every brand’s dream.

But ‘fan’ and ‘customer’ don’t mean the same thing.

And sports brands can’t survive on selling ad space alone, they need fans to convert.

Get to know your fanbase from a personal perspective, then understand what drives them to purchase. Here’s how it’s done.

What good sports data looks like

Major teams and leagues have communities of fans scattered across the globe. 

Kyle Bunch, VP and Managing Director at Global Sports Venture Studio, explains the importance of getting to know your fan groups

“Those who can use data to build direct relationships – and with it, leverage them to maximise revenue per fan – will thrive.”

Take Real Madrid, for example. Its fanbase is said to be around 250 million.

Spain’s population is around 47 million according to the World Bank, meaning the vast majority of its fans are overseas.

So it’s a job to keep track of each fan group. Top drawer sports data helps you fill in the blanks, but there are a few key elements too look out for:


  • For any international business, a multi-market view of your audience is a must – and if you’re aiming to capture their hearts, then knowing each pocket of fans at a local level helps.


  • Complete harmonization means data gathered across regions is collected using the same methodology, so you can cross-compare each group in one platform with ease.


  • And for your cross-comparison to be effective, you’ll want detail. When you have thousands of data points at your fingertips, you’ll build accurate personas across regions from segments that make sense. 


  • The final piece of the sports data puzzle is speed. Adjusting to shifts is part and parcel of staying relevant. Find a data source that will give you quick answers when you need them most.

The kinds of insights you should be looking for

If you’ve got an engaged fan base, perhaps spanning multiple regions, you’ll know how valuable that addressable market is.

If we’re talking in marketing and sales terminology, half the customer journey is ticked off. You’ve got them through the door, enjoying the content, and integrated into the community, now’s the time to drive sales – whether it’s merchandise, subscriptions, tickets, you name it.

But there’s no merit to pushing unsolicited ads and products on your fans – it’ll only serve to push them away. With rich sports data you’ll be able to serve them things they really want, delivered in a way they’re expecting, with a message that’s exciting.

Below are three areas to focus on, along with some example questions you should be asking:


1. Brand advocacy

Knowing what attracts your fans to your brand and others they normally buy from steers you towards the right kind of product strategy and marketing messaging.

  • Are they more likely to talk to friends and family about a brand or product if it’s associated with their favorite sports league or team?
  • What other brand attributes do they like? Reliability? Sustainability? Humour?


2. Purchase drivers

It helps to think of purchase drivers as the final push. You’ve done too much good work to get the fans to this stage of the funnel for them to turn back now. 

Study which factors turn in ‘nah maybe later’ into a ‘hell yeah, let’s do it’. 

  • Are they more likely to purchase a product from a brand that’s associated with their favourite team?
  • Will they be more likely to buy if there are rewards, free shipping or discount coupons etc?


3. Advertising preferences

You’ll want to know the kinds of advertising and formats your fans respond best to, as well as the ones they find most intrusive:

  • Is it video, blogs, memes or all the above that they want most? What kinds of ads make them sit up and listen?
  • What kinds of messages make them tick? Funny? Informative? Straight-talking?
  • Do any types of advertising or sponsorship annoy them?

A good quality sports data set allows you to combine attributes.

For example, fans who (1) follow teams/leagues/brands on social media can be layered over (2) those likely to buy a product from their favorite team. This gives you an idea of those most likely to buy from a sports brand they love. Factor in their advertising preferences and you have the bones of an ad campaign. 

This is a simple example – in reality, you’ll want to segment your audience using dozens of attributes, and build out full audience personas from there.

Building personas that are actually human

To drive sales from your fans, you’ve got to know the person behind the giant foam hand – now more than ever.

Outlooks, perceptions, self-perceptions and attitudes all play a part in how they discover, research and interact with sports brands. Couple that with the usual regional differences and you’ve got all the reasons you need to get to know your fans in the most personal way you can.

Good sports data lets you look beyond fandom.

It reveals the emotional, human elements that take your fan persona off the page and bring it to life.

Here’s a sample of the kinds of things you should really understand.


1. Lifestyles

Fans will fall into multiple lifestyle categories – perhaps more so than other audiences because they’re spread across all genders, age categories, and financial band brackets. Regardless, it’s useful to pool your consumers based on common attributes, so you can tailor a strategy to each segment.

  • Which economic bracket do they fall into?
  • Do they have disposable cash?
  • What is most important to them? Family? Work? Community? Social status?


2. Attitudes and values

How they behave commercially has a great deal to do with attitudes and, while it shapes lifestyle choices, the focus here is squarely on psychographics. Buying stuff is an emotional process, so when you see the world through your fans eyes, it’ll become a whole lot easier to shape the perfect message.

  • Do they seek value over luxury?
  • What do they want to achieve by buying products? Social reformation? An easier life?  
  • Do they want to stand out from the crowd?


3. Perceptions 

Attitudinal data covers how they see the world, but perceptions give brands a window into how they see themselves. 

  • How would they describe themselves? A risk-taker? Confident? Decisive? 
  • What’s their outlook? Are they ambitious? Perhaps they’re pessimistic.
  • How does their perception of the sports industry differ from others?

A lot goes into understanding your fans, but guided by the right data, it gets a lot easier. 

By all means sell to your fans, but do your research first

Many brands would love to have the dedicated audience that many sports leagues and teams have.

But that doesn’t mean their fans are hovering over the ‘buy now’ button as we speak. 

Fandom isn’t just respect for a brand – it’s more emotional than that. 

And it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Serving generic, overly commercialized marketing campaigns selling products they don’t need is likely to have a negative impact.

Our newest data set, GWI Sports is coming soon – built to give you answers on all the above, along, with the speed, accuracy and depth you need to bring your fans into focus across markets.

sports data: woman holding basketball

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