May 19

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Meet Your Fans Where They Are

Katie Rudy

May 19, 2021

customer experience, customer personas, drone racing, fan experience, fandom, sports business, sports marketing

Insights from Flip the Switch Podcast:

We sat down this week with Rachel Jacobson, President of The Drone Racing League.  If you don’t know anything about The Drone Racing League (DRL), they’re a technology company first and a sports league second.

They are young enough to act like a startup (the league is 5 years old), but have the global footprint, sophisticated event operations, the broadcasting agreements and leadership like Rachel (who spent 21 years in the NBA) to make them competitive with the Big 5.

That startup mindset has allowed them to be agile.  As Rachel put it, they are “moving the market as fast as drones.” To reach an audience of fans interested in betting on drone racing, DRL pursued a relationship with DraftKings and had an agreement with its first state (Colorado) in 51 days.  51 DAYS!!  No paralysis by analysis in this organization.

But to partner with DraftKings required an understanding of who currently makes up the DRL fanbase and those in the wider funnel that they are trying to engage on a deeper level.  

This was my biggest takeaway from the conversation.  The Drone Racing League meets its audience where they are.

DRL appeals to multigenerational audiences – Rachel mentioned there being something for her 11-year-olds, she and her husband and her parents. Relationships with sports personalities like Chris Bosh bring your traditional sports fans in. Their fans are into sports betting and gaming.  However, it’s the tech-setters that DRL appeals to the most.  

So who are tech-setters?  They are Gen Zs and millennials who love new trends, new technology, esports.  They are content creators.  They immerse themselves in the experience, like Jay Christensen and Anthony Jaska, who went viral for their drone footage of a bowling alley in March

The ancillary programs that the DRL has built to capitalize on that audience are incredible, showing the opportunities available in STEM through DRL Academy and establishing a partnership with PlayStation to create a simulator that fans can train to be a professional drone pilot from their own couch.  

None of this would be possible if DRL didn’t make a significant investment in data analysis and researching who their fans currently are and who they want to reach. Rachel even pointed to that as the most worthwhile investment that DRL has made. 

“We’ve invested to learn more about our fans and we’re now a data and insights-driven organization.”

-Rachel Jacobson, President, The Drone Racing League

Does your organization truly know who makes up its fan base? Have you identified your current fan segments and aspirational target audiences (deeper than just age ranges and ticket-buying history)? What are the non-athletics-related activities they love?  What has changed for them in the course of the last year?

As the digital footprint expands, sports organizations are moving beyond just studying ticket purchasing data to analyzing concessions, parking and merchandise, social media engagement, app downloads and more.  It’s like that famous children’s book, “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie”. Well if you move beyond studying ticket purchasing data to looking at the whole picture, how might your organization then move beyond classifying your fans simply as “donors”, “season ticket holders” and “casual fans”?

If you move beyond classifying them in broad terms, could you better predict food and beverage trends at concession stands and find new merchandise lines that could offer more revenue opportunities?  And if you know these niche audiences, that probably opens the door for some new sponsorship opportunities. If you think like DRL, rather than trying to pull in the broad “18-34 year old demographic”, would you find that there are segments like the tech-setters in your fan base too?

One of the best ways to do that is through customer personas, one of our core competencies here at EngageMint.  Customer personas humanize your fanbase and help paint the picture of their needs and their desire to connect with your organization.  If this is something your organization has never attempted, our customer persona guide offers some of the attributes you should consider.  And reach out to us if we can help with this process!

As we begin to emerge from this pandemic and fans fill stadiums and tailgate lots again, your fans want to know that you will meet them where they are. 

And it starts with knowing who they are. 

For even more insights from the DRL, listen to our full conversation with Rachel

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