Adding gamification to your sports marketing mix is an excellent way to boost engagement and drive revenue. At a high level, gamification is the process of adding game-like elements into an activity or task. This action taps into the same psychology behind the love of sports - competition and winning - and adds value to both the fan (inactive participant) and the player/teams (active participants).
Providing value to fans is essential for the growth of commercial sports. As important as star athletes are for growing a team, without fans, there is arguably no purpose for commercial sports. It is the fans that cheer from their couches, clad themselves in team merchandise, buy season tickets, and wait overnight for a prime tailgating spot. Those passionate supporters could instead choose to be participants and players themselves, or take care of the necessary funding to keep a local club active rather than relying on large sponsors. By tapping into this energy and keeping fans excited and engaged, sports teams are able to commercialise their audience and continue to grow via ticket sales, merchandise, sponsorship sales and more.
Traditionally, sports audiences were in-stadium or watching via broadcast TV; however, viewership is rapidly shifting to digital. For example, the 2021 Super Bowl had a TV audience of 98.2 million. This was a 5% decrease from the previous year and a continuation of a decline in TV viewership. Online streaming of the Super Bowl, however, was 7.5 million unique devices – a whopping 20% increase in the previous year.
This shift online presents an amazing opportunity for sports marketers to go where their audience is and offer new ways to attract, engage, delight, and reward enthusiastic sports fans. It also provides a great way to cultivate multi-directional dialogue amongst the viewers and create a sense of fandom and community.
1. Find the Biggest Fan
Asking fans “Who is the biggest fan?” is a surefire way to launch a conversation! We are pretty sure that nearly everyone knows someone who will self-proclaim that they are the truest, biggest [insert team name here] fan. Running a quiz or live trivia to test the veracity of that statement is perhaps one of the easiest ways to engage and provide value to fans off the field.
In 2021, sports and entertainment marketing agency MKTG partnered with Marvel Stadium (Melbourne) to run “The Big Footy Quiz” live trivia during half-time. This was launched over the Big Screen and prompted the entire stadium to play against each other to find the biggest fan.
The Big Screen showed a countdown to the trivia and provided the easy URL to their games Hub for fans to log in and play. The Live Trivia consisted of 12 short questions to test the crowd; the winner received a $100 Mastercard gift card and the top 100 entrants received a digital coupon for free chips, redeemable at any kiosk in the stadium.
Challenging fans on their passion point - fandom - was a great success: the campaign resulted in 13,975 unique impressions and 9,410 unique entries!
Read More: Case Study | How Marvel Stadium & MKTG created an interactive Komo Engagement Hub for fans to play and be rewarded in stadium.
2. Predict the Top Scorer
Live Predictors are an excellent way to engage fans in-stadium, over TV broadcast, and across live streaming. Much like finding the biggest fans, challenging your audience to apply that knowledge by predicting something about the event will tap into the game psychology of competition and winning.
Common topics are “Who will score the most goals?”, “Will [player] land a hat-trick?”, or “How many overs/unders?” Live prediction lends itself well to sports as the average game or event will provide multiple occasions for making a prediction.
For example, over Christmas No Limit Boxing ran a live prediction game to test boxing fans on who will win the match, how they will win (knockout or technical knockout), and what round will they win. This provided three opportunities for fans to showcase their knowledge and passion for the athletes and sports. The grand ultimate prize was $20,000 - a massive draw for boxing fans!
3. Upload Fan Moments
User-generated content (“UGC”) is content that was produced by someone with no official affiliation with your brand. It is quickly becoming a beacon for marketing as UGC can be “repurposed and leveraged to increase awareness, trust, and the authority of your brand.” Many consumers don’t trust advertisements, so building authority via your social media community is a more authentic way to connect with your fans.
To promote creating and sharing UGC, McDonald’s and Fox Sports collaborated to create the Cricket Classics Hub (available, here). The Hub is an on-brand microsite filled with fun games that encourage participation and community building - key tools to drive brand loyalty. Using Komo's Upload, Carousel, and Vote Content Cards, the Hub encouraged UGC by celebrating the great Aussie pastime of backyard cricket. Users could upload their own excellent catches and then vote on their favourite.
Not only did the Hub produce some excellent UGC, but it provided a fun way to connect with cricket fans across the country and boost brand equity for both sponsors!
4. Poll the Fans
Similar to Quizzes and Live Trivia, simple Polls are an easy way to build community and engage fans outside of the main events. Once the adrenaline rush of the game is done, a simple Poll asking “Who was the Best Player of the Game” or “Did the Referee Error” is a great way to reignite passion and keep the energy going until the next game.
Fox Sports and VB used this simple idea to drum up community and boost fandom during the NRL season by running The VB Hard Earned Hub. This platform allowed NRL viewers to predict which player will win the ‘Hard Earned Player of the Round’ award and enter to win the ‘Ultimate Grand Final Experience’. This simple, creative activation saw 11,865 unique impressions; 7,551 unique engagements, 7,689 total entries; and 4,263 unique entries!
Sports is all about unpredictability: what will happen in the next 30 seconds, who will be up at half-time, is [star player] going to play this match and more. The tension in sports is captivating and smart marketers will tap into that energy and carry it off-field to create a loyal fandom. Gamification aligns with this energy by making an activity like marketing more engaging and entertaining by using the same psychology to encourage participation.
With simple gamification tactics like polls, quizzes, live trivia, voting on fan activities and more, your brand can connect fans into the wider ecosystem, boost brand loyalty, grow your database of first-party assets, and increase sales. Engaged fans are more likely to support their team(s)/league(s), buy tickets and merch, boost the brand(s) across social, and stay active within sports communities. Sounds like a win to us!