4 Examples of Gamification in Sports Fan Engagement to Watch for in 2023
Once upon a time, gamification in sports was a concept that only existed in sci-fi movies.
Sports fans were used to physically going to their team’s stadium to cheer their heroes on with scarves and flags and to experience the thrill of live sporting events, with all the sights and smells that went with them.
In the digital era, where much of sci-fi has become reality, the virtual experience now competes alongside this live spectacle. In fact, the two often intertwine.
The new generations of sports fans are more fickle than their older relatives. They want 24/7 interactive content that’s not just within the confines of the in-stadium experience. If they don’t get it, then they may be inclined to switch to a team or sport that has.
Data from US analysts Two Circles shows that Gen Z fans typically have four or five favorite hobbies or sports, compared to just two or three for the boomer generation.
The broadening nature of sporting interests in the United States
Source: Two Circles
Gamification in sports marketing is helping sports organizations meet this demand. Helping them create vibrant online customer communities, it’s giving them the tools to drive engagement, unlock new revenue streams, and increase brand appeal.
But it’s not just in sports that these game elements are taking hold. It’s a global trend that’s set to see the gamification market hit $30,7 billion by 2025, according to analysts Markets and Markets: more than triple its 2020 figure.
The explosive growth of gamification across the world
Leaders and marketing managers at brands who haven’t started to incorporate gamified features into their customer experience are running up against big issues including:
- Missing out on their brand’s share of billions of dollars generated by gamification right now
- Knowing where to start when it comes to incorporating this technology into their customer experience
- Figuring out which gamification elements work best for their brand.
But rather than feel lost, these business leaders should be excited.
If you’re one of them, you’ll have seen how the latest technology is giving sports clubs and other organizations opportunities that they couldn’t have dreamed of just a few years ago.
In this article, we’ll examine how gamification in sports marketing is driving customer engagement and four real-world examples of brands that are using it to its full potential.
How gamification is driving fan engagement
Gamification in sports combines three key features of the digital era to make the live experience more thrilling for customers: the latest wave of digital technology, social media, Web 3.0 and video games.
By ticking these three boxes, it satisfies millennials and Gen Zers, those younger generations who will form the backbone of sports brands’ customer bases for decades to come.
To these digital natives, using cutting-edge technology like Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and QR codes is part of everyday life, and gamified sports products combine them with the live experience to excellent effect.
If you’re a marketer in the sports industry, you’ve probably seen this in action in various modern stadiums. In-person interactive experiences, like taking photos next to AR-generated avatars of the athletes are now commonplace.
In their seats, fans can watch spectacular pre-game shows via their smart device camera, including virtual fireworks and holograms. Once the game has started, they can view real-time player stats (i.e. heatmaps and attributes) superimposed onto the field of play and contribute to in-game polls and quizzes.
Social media, that great online phenomenon of the 21st century, is also deeply ingrained into gamified sports experience. The ‘me’ culture that major platforms like Instagram and TikTok engender means customers are not only willing to become content creators for your brand, but expect it.
This user-generated content (UGC) is powerful. Research from US research company TINT found that 91% of consumers are more likely to share content about a brand if they see that brand re-sharing customer content.
Video gaming is the third major pillar of sports gamification that makes it such an attractive tool for young consumers who consider themselves to be gamers.
If you’ve spent time watching esports, then you’ll have seen how this multi-billion-dollar sports/gaming hybrid has created a whole new genre of its own, but there’s another emerging industry that’s helping gamification of sports reach its zenith.
Fan-controlled games could be described as real-life video games. Spectators get to pick teams, have a say in strategies, and vote on which players receive perks. In the interactive racing Formula E, for example, fans vote on which driver receives a five-second energy boost that could ultimately decide the fate of the race.
The digital communities that these strands of gamification form need a home, an online ecosystem where fans can meet to access content and special offers, compete with one another, and interact with the organization behind the live and virtual events.
Dedicated projects, such as digital fan platforms, are stepping into this breach, providing a virtual meeting place that puts all of a club’s gamification features in one place.
The 4 sports gamification projects that are changing the game
The internet is awash with adventurous gamified solutions that are helping to increase conversions, boost revenue, and enhance the customer experience. So much so that finding the best examples for inspiration is a time-consuming task.
Here are four recent examples that best illustrate how gamification can transform a brand’s marketing strategy.
1. The soccer app that blends AR with the live experience
The exciting potential of adding augmented reality to the matchday experience has spread to the world’s biggest soccer organization, FIFA.
At the recent FIFA World Cup, fans were able to view real-time player metrics via their smartphone cameras for the first time.
All they had to do was hold their phone up to the pitch while in their seat to capture the athletes in ‘pitch recognition mode’. Once in place, they could click on any player as he played to reveal his name, team, and key stats including his current speed, a heatmap of his movements, and ball possession percentage.
By doing this, FIFA is feeding the demand for more in-depth game analytics from spectators as the sport becomes more data-driven. This blend of live action and tech wizardry gives fans, particularly younger generations, the immersive experience they crave, while also ensuring they attend live matches.
2. The fastest-growing live sports channel on Twitch
Hailed as the ‘great fan-run football experiment’, the Fan-Controlled Football League (FCF) is what you get when you cross the NFL with a video game.
Taking place via Twitch live streaming, fans get to draft players, pick the team lineups, and call crucial in-game plays. They even vote on team names, logos, and colors. The results of each vote are sent to the quarterback on-field, who then instructs his team to carry them out during the game.
On top of this, fans earn credits, known as FanIQ, that determine their place on the FCF leaderboard. The more calls they get right, the better their team does, and the more FanIQ they get. Those at the top of the rankings get more power and influence.
The FCF fan dashboard
The league’s format has proved a hit with young viewers who crave this kind of modern-day interaction in traditional sports. After its first season, it had amassed almost 10 million total live views, 125,000 app downloads, and 2.2 million fan interactions.
It was enough to raise $40 million in seed funding from investors in 2022, as the fastest-growing live sports channel on Twitch went from strength-to-strength.
3. The loyalty platform that amassed over 50,000 downloads in less than a month
As a leading European esport team with a multimillion-person following, Team Vitality knew they had to build on their success of the last decade.
Central to this was a need to bridge the gap between the Web 2.0 world they knew so well (social networks, website, and web app), to the nascent Web 3.0 world universe of blockchain technologies and token-based economics.
Team Vitality also knew the potential of gamification and the need to infuse it into their marketing: their customers are esports fans, after all.
V.Hive, the first support-to-earn program based on blockchain, is powered via a back office created by software specialists Fanprime.
The program gamifies the user experience through a points-based rewards system and the use of a unique NFT avatar.
Fans earn points from the moment they sign up for performing simple tasks, such as connecting their blockchain wallets and social networks and unlocking their avatar once they reach a certain amount. They then embark on a series of quests during which they can add to their points tally and rise up the rankings against their fellow fans.
Also, the more points they get, the more choice they have when customizing their avatar, including special NFT wearables.
Their ranking not only determines how cool their avatar looks, but it’s also a status symbol within the game. Should they reach the top tier of fans, known as the ‘Best Bees’, they access exclusive fan experiences including meeting Team Vitality players.
This new support-to-earn system brought immediate benefits to Team Vitality and its stakeholders. It had found a new way to reward its fans for their support, while improving its marketing and data capture methods at the same time.
Anyone doubting its success simply needs to look at the platform’s opening success: over 50,000 downloads and 10x engagement on social networks in 30 days. A true hive of activity.
4. The plug-and-play solution that increased fan spending by 50%
French soccer club ESTAC Troyes had a dilemma.
Established in Ligue 1 (France’s premier league), they had over 300,000 social media followers but an out-of-date membership program and inadequate data collection methods. This meant they were unable to create effective promotions which maximized fan revenues.
Fan engagement was down, much like the resulting stadium occupancy rate.
How could they unlock the growth potential of a fan spend that a third of a million people should generate?
Like Team Vitality, they enlisted the help of Fanprime. The rewards platform ticked several boxes that ESTAC urgently needed to fill.
First, the platform’s plug-and-play format and extensive API network let ESTAC’s marketing team quickly build a centralized fans community that connected all club mediums, including its website, ticketing department, and e-shop.
Being a white-label solution, ESTAC could also restyle the Fanprime platform into the club’s image and colors, a huge attraction for fans who felt they had access to their own slice of the club when signing up.
In partnership with the data & CRM solution Arenametrix, an automated strategy and marketing campaign helped the club triple its customer engagement rate and expand its contact database by 14%.
Yet, it wasn’t so much the quantity of fan data that the platform brought in (though considerable), but the quality. Having unrestricted access to a newly enriched central pool of data gave ESTAC the ability to optimize its marketing campaigns, including targeting its most devoted fans with specialized one-on-one promotions.
The result? An increase of fan spend by 50% across the board and a brand new digital fan community, with the potential to expand into one of the largest soccer customer bases in France.
Fanprime: Build your own digital community with gamification and fan rewards
Gamifying your brand’s customer experience may sound like a challenge but making the leap into a digitized and monetized era of fan interactions may not be as daunting as you think.
As Team Vitality and ESTAC Troyes found to their benefit, Fanprime’s turnkey solution is ready to start firing as soon as you jump on board.
- Full control over its back office that gives you complete control of how to set up your brand’s gamified loyalty platform
- A network of sophisticated APIs that let you integrate each of your brand’s platforms, as well as allow your customers to quickly connect theirs
- A large scope of gamification features that let your customers access exclusive benefits and personalized rewards right away
Whether you’re looking to expand your consumer base, improve the data collection of an existing one, or increase average fan spend, Fanprime has the keys to the new gamified fan experience that will help you achieve it.
Ready to change the game? Sign up to Fanprime in minutes to build your own platform that will bring unprecedented rewards by using gamification in sports in ways that will excite your customers.