Pre-pandemic, attending sporting events was a habitual commitment. Being a member of a football club or a fan of a BBL team meant you’d automatically turn up each week at matches to support your team.

However, COVID turned these usual routines upside down.

A survey by the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) found that 43% of polled sports clubs had seen a decrease in participation numbers, and a similar decline in volunteering. While it’s clear the pandemic has played a role in this decline to an extent, it seems there’s a deeper-lying issue — fans aren’t feeling a real connection to their clubs.

Naturally, it will take some time for them to bounce back.

But left unchecked for too long, this lack of engagement, coupled with skyrocketing ticket prices, limited membership incentives and fan participation could greatly diminish their love of the sport. It’s critical, now more than ever, for sports clubs to dive deeper to connect with the community and reignite their love of the game through relationship marketing.


Since COVID, 43% of polled sports clubs had seen a decrease in participation numbers, and a similar decline in volunteering.


A deeper understanding of sports fans

The most important ingredient of any sports club is its members. Clubs can’t rely on prospective members to simply show up. They need to employ strategic marketing techniques to attract new members and retain the ones they have, ensuring everyone is receiving the services they expect.

To create a relationship that goes beyond game day, sports clubs must connect with fans on the right channels at the right time. With data shared from fans directly to their clubs and leagues, known as zero-party data, it’s possible to know what makes fans tick as well as the best ways to engage with them.

According to Cheetah Digital’s report for sports teams and associations, 55% of fans will share psychographic data points like purchase motivations and product feedback with sports brands. Even more, half of all fans surveyed say they desire incentives like coupons, loyalty points or exclusive access in return for their data.


Clubs need to work on gaining new members and retaining old ones in order to build up fan engagement.


Getting it right

Whether to boost match-day excitement, connect with fans, monetise a global audience or increase content relevancy to reach a specific demographic; the following sports organisations are creating innovative and impactful digital experiences that drive epic fan engagement experiences.


The All Blacks use marketing and fan participation to successfully drive fan engagement.


The All Blacks

The All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand is a standout in the space for the innovative way it collects valuable audience data and marketing opt-ins. In advance of the Rugby World Cup Final, the All Blacks tested its fans using an image of the All Blacks team, asking members to pick the lineout ball that’s covering the real match ball.

To reward fans for their continuous support, those who entered with the correct answer went into a draw to win a poster signed by the entire All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad. On submitting their entry, participants were required to enter their name and email address, providing All Blacks with valuable audience data for future marketing promotions and communications.


The Australian Open also has an inspiring method of collecting marketing opt-ins.


The Australian Open

The Australian Open must also be commended for its inspiring method of collecting marketing opt-ins. To capture rich and valuable audience data, Yahoo!7’s channel, Seven Sport, teamed up with ANZ to drive engagement amongst tennis fans with a data-centric sweepstakes.

Published to the Seven Sport website, the sweepstakes gave participants a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask an Australian Open player any question – the ultimate prize for any tennis fan! To get involved, participants were required to submit their name, email address and phone number, and choose their favourite player who they wanted to have answer their question.

The best question of the day was then announced live on air and was answered by the winner’s chosen player.


fan engagement

If sports clubs want to understand their audience, they need to keep their eye on the ball.


Kicking fan engagement  goals

No doubt Australians and New Zealanders are some of the most enthusiastic fans in the world and sports like rugby, Australian rules football, tennis and cricket have historically drawn massive crowds. But if sports clubs don’t keep their eye on the ball, capturing fans’ motivations, intentions and preferences at scale to provide a truly personalised experience, then they’ll lose. The only way a sports club can remain competitive in this new digital era is by understanding its fan base deeply – and that journey begins with data.


Author Bio

Jake is a passionate, confident and highly motivated Strategic Account Executive focused on driving business outcomes through scoping and implementing practical and leading marketing technology solutions for enterprise businesses. His passion for loyalty, personalisation and marketing has led him to work with the leading SaaS technology company Cheetah Digital, which allows him to move organisations to the forefront of the industry they compete in.

About Cheetah Digital

Cheetah Digital is a cross-channel customer engagement solution provider for the modern marketer. The Cheetah Digital Customer Engagement Suite enables marketers to create personalised experiences, cross-channel messaging, and loyalty strategies, underpinned by an engagement data platform that can scale to meet the changing demands of today’s consumer. Many of the world’s best brands, including Starbucks, Hilton, Neiman Marcus, Levi’s, and Williams-Sonoma trust Cheetah Digital to help them drive revenue, build lasting customer relationships, and deliver a unique value exchange throughout the customer lifecycle. To learn more, visit


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