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The shift from social to DTC digital

Here’s a truth: As many as 99% of your fans may never attend one of your games in person.


You have fans around the country and the world, and many millions of those fans support your team and athletes in near and far-away markets. Many will never attend a game. You are visibile to these fans, thanks to broadcast, social and digital media (including OTT streaming services and direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports apps). This visibility is largely anonymous and playing on the reach of platforms such as Twitter, Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook does not mean you own the fan or the digital experience.


Whether you like it or not sports organisations are media and entertainment organisations – you are creating compelling content that millions want to access. Teams need to own their fan engagement. Sponsorship revenue, ticketing, merchandise sales and any new commercial streams are all driven by fan loyalty and understanding who your fan is makes absolute business sense.


Social media and broadcast act as a funnel to capture the attention of fans, but Teams today are making major steps to move fans into their own digital walled environments. Within this space you can capture the rewards (fan data, loyalty and revenue) from fans that follow them.


The Shift to "Direct-to-Consumer"

DTC digital engagement is where sports properties can build genuine centralized fan communities. These communities are more meaningful, consistent and measurable than those on social channels. Plus, there’s the opportunity to create a branded UX that’s all yours. These apps are perfectly suited to serve fans all the short-form digital content and experiences they want, 24/7. It’s the new sports broadcasting for always on-the-go audiences.


Several current trends have propelled this social-to-DTC shift in digital strategy for leagues and teams.


  1. The push for Zero-party and First-party data - outsourcing the fan to social places control of the user data in their hands. With you own DTC channel you can better understand, target, engage, transact and incentivise your fan. You are the gatekeeper of your fan base.

  2. Control of messaging - by creating and managing these digital communities in your own walled garden, you can nuture content and autentic experiences that best support your brand objectives.

  3. New forms of content - as fans move from wanting highlights to "content beyond the highlights" you can build a content strategy and distribution channel that builds deeper bonds with your most connected fans around the world. Thereby optimizing the return on the content generated.

  4. Advancements in digital platforms - in an owned digital universe, Teams can offer fans an integrated experience - loyalty, rewards, stats, analysis, special views, transactional promos and incentives. These are attention grabbers and growth drivers. Serving across digital and mobile todays platforms enable Teams to serve different segments of their fan audience customized offerings.

  5. Gateway Economics - a DTC channel not only promotes your core business revenues - ticket sales, attendance, merchandise, but offers sponsors and commercial partners a new route to your fans. "What you call a fan, others call a potential customer" - the difference is that you are now the Gatekeeper to your fanbase and you can monetize the way sponsors, sportsbook, NFT, e-comm partners access and target this fan.


Fortress helps Teams develop DTC digital experiences. Our platforms orchestrate the loyalty and engagement programs of some of the worlds biggest sports brands. Reach out to us to learn more.

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