There would be no sport without the fans. There is little debating this mandate as the fans make the sport great. Football is considered the number one sport in the world and its only so because of the love the fans have showered in it.
Initially, a fan's connect with the sport was limited to simple viewership, but as the sport has evolved, it has required additional efforts for the Sports governing bodies to give the fan something new, something different.
A fan is someone who has consumed the sport for years either in the stadia or on TV and has stuck to it thanks to an unforgettable experience. This thought was echoed by Srinivasan Gopalakrishnan, AVP Marketing & Commercial, Football Sports Development when he spoke at the India Football Forum.
“A fan doesn’t remember what he saw, but he remembers what he feels. So its important to give him an unforgettable experience either in the stadium or on the TV for him to stick with a particular sport,” said Gopalakrishnan.
The Indian Super League has been trying to create that kind of an experience for its fans, revealed Gopalakrishnan. “We have tried to make the experience of watching the ISL matches a memorable one. At the venue fans can have a Dominos pizza which is delivered to them at their seats. For viewers on TV we have got them together through social media platforms to give them a common thread,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan also highlighted having at least one ISL game everyday at a fixed time for the kick-off as a policy to engage the fans in a much better way.
“We decided to have at least one game everyday at 7 pm in the evening with an aim to tie down the audience at that particular time. We want the fans to associate a particular time with football and make him switch on the TV at that particular time. I feel this has worked really well for us as ISL has gained in its popularity from the first season,” added Gopalakrishnan.
Neetu Bhatia, the co-founder and CEO of Kyazoonga, who was a part of the panel at the India Football Forum discussing Fan Engagement & Experience disclosed that efforts put in to create better fan engagement have resulted in the increase in the number of women watching the sport.
“In India women weren’t too involved in sports initially, but with few changes in the fan engagement, there has been an increase in the number of women viewers for sports,” she said.
The sport, especially like football will have enough to get a person following it, but it is the experience that the bodies governing the sport deliver to these followers will help them transform into fans. And with new leagues like the ISL coming up to boost football in India, the organisers must work on creating that special experience which will help the league and sport take off in India.