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R/GA Live: Writing the New Playbook for Fan Engagement



Even during the pandemic, sports teams are connecting with fans in innovative ways

R/GA Live: Writing the New Playbook for Fan Engagement

From fans to athletes to everyone who works in the sports industry - the Covid-19 pandemic has brought massive disruption that promises to reshape the industry for years to come. In particular, this poses an interesting challenge for most sports franchises to connect with fans, often in completely new ways. This latest R/GA Live episode explores fandom in this unique time, taking a look at how the Los Angeles Dodgers have adopted new digital initiatives as players were unexpectedly off the field. 

Kyle Bunch, VP and managing director of R/GA's Global Sports Venture Studio, and Caroline Morgan, VP of digital strategy for the Dodgers, spoke about how sports teams are rewriting the playbook for fan engagement during the pandemic. As Kyle noted, in this year of massive disruption, sports teams have had to learn from this experience by exploring different tools and leveraging technology to provide new opportunities for fans. 

He emphasised that all sports leaders are grappling with fresh ways to connect with fans. “We’re all thinking about what we have learned through this as marketers, as communicators in connecting with fans, and connecting with audiences from a distance.” 

In 2015, R/GA Ventures and the Dodgers launched an accelerator to provide leading sports organisations with the resources they need to put innovation in play. Today, the relationship continues through the Global Sports Venture Studio, an invite-only community of sports leaders collaborating across the sports innovation ecosystem. 

Caroline’s background in the media entertainment industry in Los Angeles, which includes eight years in film marketing at Lionsgate, gave her the advantage of understanding how to engage with consumers and fans when launching large projects and products.

She now oversees the development and implementation of strategic digital media initiatives across social media, email marketing, online advertising, and digital editorial for the Dodgers. She serves as the lead digital marketing strategist focused on instilling brand loyalty within existing fanbases while also pursuing fan acquisition and fostering digital innovation.

"Our hiatus is an extended offseason in many ways,” she told Kyle. “We had this five-month lull where having to program content can be somewhat difficult because our main product offering wasn’t available. A lot of what we typically do in the offseason from a content perspective is to really try to tell more of a human story of who our players are and what some of their passions are outside of sports.”

Taking what traditionally happens in the offseason, and tailoring it into this new climate, makes for unexpected opportunities to develop and rebuild highly engaged audiences. 

“This offseason in particular, we had to focus on developing some ongoing content series and some episodic initiatives that we could introduce to give our fans more of a behind-the-scenes look. Coming from the entertainment space, we would see time and time again that behind the scenes, getting to peek under the curtain was something that fans were always interested in. The sports equivalent is giving fans a sense of who players really are.”

The conversation highlighted examples of some of the initiatives and content the Dodgers created to supplement the typical fan experiences that weren’t possible during the pandemic. Instead of focusing on the impact of the loss in the near-term, the Dodgers capitalised on this being the ideal time to enhance the fan experience at home, accelerating ideas they had considered before the crisis. 

“Our Dodgers hometown series was created to continue building our brand and tell the personal stories of our players and keep them human in the eyes of our fans,” Morgan shared. “We also launched Dodger Home Plates, which is our new home delivery food service we’re executing in partnership with Postmates. This is something we had long mused about from the longer-term development plan of how to create more 360 opportunities for enhancing the fan experience at home, and the circumstances around COVID made the timing paramount to push that up.” 

In many ways, the pandemic is an accelerant for lasting innovation that underlines the role of sports as a source for community and hope that extends beyond just entertainment. 

To see their full conversation, check out the video above and save the date for our next R/GA Live event to be held on Thursday, August 13th at 12 PM EDT. Speakers Clay Parker Jones, group director of Org Innovation at R/GA, and associate director Alexandra Vu will discuss practical ways to design a more human future of work.

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R/GA New York, Tue, 11 Aug 2020 16:42:29 GMT