In the fast-paced world of Premier League football, digital technologies shape fan experiences, making sustained fan engagement crucial. The recent approval of the Fan Engagement Standard (FES) is a game-changer, steering clubs towards meaningful connections with fans, especially after the European Super League backlash.
This marks a pivotal shift in the club-supporter relationship, empowering fans to influence club decisions for a more constructive partnership. While Premier League clubs historically faced challenges in fan engagement, innovative strategies are essential to bridge the gap and resonate with diverse, digitally connected fan bases.
Fan engagement is the key to success and expansion. The Premier League Fan Engagement Standard offers a structured framework, but understanding brand engagement and brand equity, and aligning it with the FES is crucial for clubs to fortify their brand presence.
In the digital landscape, anticipating trends like VR, AR, and AI is essential. These technologies provide opportunities for immersive fan experiences, enhancing the overall engagement. In this digital age, fan engagement is the lifeblood of football clubs, serving as enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
The Premier League's global appeal requires clubs to strategically enhance fan engagement, recognising that football clubs are more than teams – they are brands. Fan engagement is not just a matter of pride; it is a strategic imperative influencing attendance, merchandise sales, and global fan base augmentation.
Introducing the Sports Brand Equity & Fan Engagement Model (SBEFEM)
The Sports Brand Equity & Fan Engagement Model (SBEFEM) is a novel framework developed to comprehensively evaluate sports brand strength. It addresses the lack of a unified framework for systematically scrutinising, evaluating, and elevating fan engagement, providing a benchmark for football clubs.
Synthesising six dimensions of brand equity with an equivalent set pertaining to fan engagement, the SBEFEM offers an all-encompassing perspective on a brand's stature in the sports industry. Research conducted spanned a spectrum of studies, articles, and reports in sports marketing, brand management, and fan engagement.
Despite a wealth of insights, the absence of a standardised framework was evident. The SBEFEM not only fills this void but also addresses the lack of a recognised benchmark for football clubs. The Premier League’s Fan Engagement Standard, while a necessary introduction, falls short as a direct marketing or academic framework for monitoring and assessing fan engagement from a brand perspective.
Six Dimensions of Brand Equity
Brand awareness: Measures the brand's consumer recognition.
Brand image: Assesses consumer perception in terms of attributes such as excitement, prestige, and trustworthiness.
Brand satisfaction: Measures consumer contentment with the brand's products or services.
Brand loyalty: Gauges the likelihood of consumers to repurchase the brand's products or services.
Brand advocacy: Measures the inclination of consumers to recommend the brand to others.
Brand resonance: Measures the depth of emotional connection consumers have with the brand.
Six Dimensions of Fan Engagement
Utilising the English Premier League Fan Engagement Standard (FES) as a foundation, the SBEFEM incorporates six fan engagement dimensions:
Fan voice: The extent to which fans feel they have a voice in the club.
Fan participation: The extent of fan involvement in club-related activities.
Fan experience: The quality of experiences fans have at the club's matches and events.
Fan loyalty: The level of commitment fans exhibit towards the club.
Fan satisfaction: The extent of fan contentment with the club.
Fan advocacy: The likelihood of fans recommending the club to others.
And their impact on perceived value and the following:
Attitude: The extent of positive feelings towards the sport brand.
Behaviour: The extent of engagement in activities related to the sport brand.
Cognition: The extent of knowledge about the sport brand.
Connection: The extent of feeling a connection to the sport brand.
Co-creation: The extent of fan participation in creating the sport brand experience.
Community: The extent of feeling a sense of community with other fans.
Various factors, including fan demographics, history, team performance, and type, impact when and how fans engage with a club, such as:
Age of fan
Tenure of fan (at which point/age did they become a fan and for how long)
Experience of playing sports prior to and whilst being a fan
Success of team
Reason for team loyalty - hometown, current location, family history, team performance, favourite player, broadcasted most on TV (Deloitte, 2016)
Type of fan – casual, loves the sport, die hard/committed (can they be elevated)
Financial status (most fans are outpriced of games)
The SBEFEM serves as a strategic tool to understand and influence multiple aspects of fan engagement. Assessment of these dimensions allows clubs to tailor strategies, fostering positive attitudes, driving desired fan behaviours, enhancing knowledge, strengthening emotional connections, enabling co-creation, and cultivating vibrant fan communities.
In comparison to existing models, the SBEFEM stands out for its comprehensive integration of both brand equity and fan engagement dimensions. This unified framework enables clubs to align strategies more cohesively, establishing a robust and meaningful relationship between the brand and its fans in an era where fan engagement is crucial for sustained success and growth in the sports industry.
Implications for Premier League Football Clubs
Fan engagement gains paramount importance in the globally followed Premier League. Clubs can utilise various channels, including social media, email, and in-person events, tailored to their unique fan base. The SBEFEM, when considered alongside the Premier League’s Fan Engagement Standard, provides a more comprehensive approach for football clubs to assess, maintain, and enhance their fan engagement activities and practices.
Football clubs should develop a comprehensive fan engagement strategy based on a clear understanding of their fan base and aligned with overall goals and the FES. Utilising data and analytics for continuous improvement, clubs can enhance communication, involve fans, and leverage digital technology for innovative engagement. The SBEFEM provides a valuable tool for sports brands globally to assess brand equity and fan engagement, complementing the FES.
Fan engagement stands as a pivotal determinant of a sports club's triumph, fostering a robust relationship with supporters and cultivating a positive club atmosphere. For English Premier League (EPL) clubs, prioritising meaningful engagement involves attentive listening, fan involvement in decision-making, and the establishment of a welcoming and inclusive stadium environment.
The SBEFEM framework offers clubs a structured approach to assess, monitor, and enhance their fan engagement strategies, aligning seamlessly with the Premier League’s Fan Engagement Standard (FES). Given the global fan base of the EPL, effective fan engagement strategies are paramount, and the SBEFEM serves as a valuable tool for clubs to tailor initiatives according to their unique fan base characteristics.
Clubs can use the SBEFEM to inform their fan engagement initiatives, ensuring a personalised and effective approach. Transparent communication, regular updates on club developments, and the incorporation of fan feedback into decision-making processes are pivotal aspects of maintaining fan engagement. By leveraging the insights from the SBEFEM, clubs can navigate the complex dynamics of brand equity and fan engagement, creating a more engaging and rewarding experience for supporters.
To learn more about: Fan Engagement and the FES, as well as what clubs can do better
If you have any questions about the Sports Brand Equity & Fan Engagement Model (SBEFEM) or would like to pilot or develop this framework further then email: email@example.com