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Community engagement: 5 minutes with… Rich Cheary

Sports organisations have become increasingly adept at engaging with their loyal fan base. We grab five minutes with Publisher’s Toolbox MD Rich Cheary to ask what lessons publishers can learn from them when it comes to engaging with their reader base.

By Rich Cheary

Community engagement: 5 minutes with… Rich Cheary

Q: When it comes to digital publishing, what are the challenges and opportunities sports organisations face?

A: Sports organisations are in the media game, with a need to serve fresh content to a hungry, engaged digital audience of fans across a variety of platforms, 24-7.

And so much like the digital transformation and acceleration that more traditional media groups have had to undertake, we’re seeing sport clubs, leagues, player associations and national federations in a race to refocus their models from physical to digital – to establish and grow their own branded platforms, sustainable digital communities and critically, transactional relationships with their fans.

This includes establishing digital ecosystems that can meet the critical digital trends in sportstech right now, including media rights management, media workflow, fan engagement, gamification and D2C video streaming.

Q: What can publishers learn from sports organisations?

A: Community engagement in the digital era is an area that sports organisations are able to pioneer because of the passion that fans have for their club, athletes or national team for example.

Because of this, I think sport has had more success in facilitating digital engagement between their brand, the fans and sponsors in a way that is incentivised and brings value to all stakeholders. Whether it’s through campaigns or some form of gamification, fans are always eager to register and contribute – building further loyalty and knowledge of the user base – but, of course, key to all of this is having the branded platforms and digital infrastructure in place to facilitate this engagement.

Traditional media just don’t enjoy that level of loyalty and so I think publishers need to be more creative and more focused on putting the digital capabilities in place to attract sponsorships and entice their audience to engage and contribute on their own branded platforms, where audience members can register and be rewarded – with the end goal of transforming registered users into paying subscribers.

Q: When it comes to increasing fan engagement, what techniques have proved most successful?

A: At PT, we’ve seen the value of transforming fans into content contributors through branded UGC campaigns – to increase genuine fan media co-owned by the organisation while unlocking previously untold community stories that resonate with other fans.

The trick is in enticing the casual fan on social media into your own branded ecosystem. Gamification and reward are the key elements – creating a sense of competition among fans. In terms of the incentivisation, it’s not always about a physical prize, discount or experience on offer – it’s about tapping into the competitiveness of the fan with things like leaderboards that crown the “Super Fan of the Month” for instance that bring a level of prestige within the fan community.

It’s critical that at the beginning stages of your journey that your “ask” of the fan is extremely simple and that you provide an excellent user experience and simple registration process to avoid drop off. Once the casual fan becomes a registered fan, you can then look at further enticements to collect further fan data and begin to understand your audience better and provide more personalised experiences.

Q: How can sports organisations improve the opportunities for their sponsors and commercial partners?

A: Campaigns that create a genuine sense of fun and interaction between the fans and partaking sponsors is key in terms of offering more digital value to commercial partners – and therefore sustainability.

Sports brands should be looking at their fan-facing digital properties as akin to a “digital stadium experience”, where fans can come and interact with sponsors in a dynamic way that creates memorable interactions.

For example, AR brand scanning via an official club app is a way in which sponsor brands can come alive via the simple act of scanning a logo to unlock “hidden” or bonus content, discount offers or more.

Interactivity is the key.

Q: Where do publishers need to focus their resources on, over the next twelve months?

A: The objective when publishing any form of content, be it a news or feature article, service offering or sponsored content, should be to entice further engagement or to generate a transaction.

Whether your commercial model relies on sponsored content, advertising or subscriptions, or a mix of the three, the basic needs remain:

  • Who’s the intended audience? It’s important to get to know your customer profiles, if you don't already. This is a huge focus in sport right now.
  • What’s the expected call-to-action for further engagement? Seamlessly direct users around the your site and retain their attention.
  • Is there a form of transactional outcome? Ensure appropriate advert association and coverage; look at the expected sponsorship value of your content; and look to incorporate brand activations or subscription services to unlock premium content.

Q: What’s in the pipeline from Publisher’s Toolbox?

A: PT stepped into the sports market in 2019 with the launch of our PT SportSuite brand, following an exciting decade of product development alongside global media groups. We’ve been fortunate in the past three years to prove the viability and suitability of the PT digital media ecosystem to meet and adapt to the sports market’s needs through partnerships and via multiple rollout programmes with large brands – taking any learnings along the way back to our traditional media clients.

We’ve learnt that our scalable ecosystem – allowing for a staggered digital acceleration approach – makes us extremely attractive to multi-brand or multi-tenant organisations. We’ll be looking to forge new relationships with leagues, associations and tournaments to increase our current market share while continuing to adapt our PT suite of tools and products for sports’ specific needs.

About us

Having become a leader in the digital transformation of media groups, Publisher’s Toolbox is making an impact as a reputable, reliable and professional global innovator of digital media products and services.

Our mission is to provide affordable content and community creation tools for small and large teams, allowing them to compete with some of the world’s most prestigious media groups and brand agencies.

Our unique suite of digital products have helped traditional publishing, brand and broadcasting agencies, educational institutions and sports organisations establish sustainable content ecosystems through incentivised community engagement across print, mobile, video and augmented reality.