Much like wider society, sports – and sports events – are continuing to prioritise digital engagement as a means to connect to new and existing fans. This has a number of clear advantages, such as the potential of a truly global reach, engagement that is easily measurable, and the opportunity to target specific cross-sections of (potential) fans, be it by location, age, or gender.

As highlighted by BCW’s International Sports Federations Social Media Ranking, the impact of COVID-19 has further accelerated the drive for digitalisation, with many fans around the world unable to attend sports events. The results have largely been impressive, and have enabled many sports organisations to continue to connect with their fans in a particularly challenging time.

While this has proved to be a necessity in times of a pandemic, if we look beyond this period, when fans will be able to attend sports events again, sports organisations are perhaps missing an opportunity to stand out in their unique way by solely focusing on digital efforts.

COVID-19 has taught us many lessons, but perhaps none more prevalent than that of the importance and benefit of human interaction. In its ever-increasing drive for communications efficiency, sport organisation must also consider how to ensure positive human-to-human engagement in their events, because it is often this that makes lifetime memories – and lifetime fans.

At sports events, the difference between good and excellent service can often be minimal, but its impact can be great. Sports events should think carefully about the training and incentivisation of staff and volunteers, to make sure that they go ‘above and beyond’ to offer truly exceptional service to attendees.

Moreover, systems should also be put in place to deliver an ‘above and beyond’ human experience – whether it be provide small free samples of food and drink for those waiting in queues; inviting young attending fans to assist organisers in completing small tasks, such as putting out corner posts; or using pauses in on-field action, such as halftime, to play games among those in attendance.

Digital engagement is of course important, and must continue to be pushed by sports event organisers. But such a push should not come at the neglect of human-based interaction on event days – it is this, after all, that may distinguish your event more than anything, and turn one-off attendees into lifetime supporters.