If it’s one part of the fan engagement spectrum that I have consistently championed over the years for clubs and my clients it has been to acknowledge, promote, utilise and harness the diverse skill sets of their fans.
Fans have skills that can help a club in many ways whether it be from graphic design to podcasting and what we’re seeing more and more of is that teams are realising that they can create deeper emotional loyalty, new revenue opportunities and provide extra engaging content to their members and fans by working alongside these fan groups.
Teams like the MLS Seattle Sounders are one of the best in the business when it comes to harnessing the skills of their fans. Every year they do a ‘Posters By The People‘ and a scarf design contest which allows Sounders fans of all ages and skill levels to contribute match day poster and scarf designs which are then voted on for by fellow fans and either used across the clubs official social media channels or produced for fans to wear on game day respectively.
It’s an incredibly effective and simple way to bring these fans closer to the team, highlight the skills and passions of their fans and overall it’s a positive thing to do. It’s not going to work for every team and it’s certainly never going to take over from the quality output that team staff do but it’s just a great look for a club to illustrate that they’re listening to their fans.
One reason for the proliferation of fan generated content has been because the barriers for entry into both graphic design and podcasting for instance have been broken down. You can now create quality designs and effective podcasts as a result of free design platforms like Canva whose intuitive platform enables anyone to get started creating content as well as podcasting’s explosion which has seen every man and his dog set up a podcast with the very basic of equipment. For both graphic design and podcasting the costs are also much lighter on the fans wallet these days as opposed to the past where expensive graphic design software and a recording studio would have stopped many fans from getting started.
Now obviously the vast majority of fan generated content creators out there are not at the level of professional graphic designers or creating professional studio recorded quality podcasts such as what the league or teams contribute however what it does do is highlight that fans have these skills, that they’re building their own fan groups of fellow supporters of the same team and that their voice and that of fans voices globally are growing louder every day as they realise that they can create content that is highlighting their love for their team.
It’s impressive to see the rise and rise of the fan voice across the globe as they can now create content that other fans enjoy and engage with. Clubs should absolutely start tapping into this more and more as it shows an appreciation of the fans effort and compliments the work that their in house teams do whether that be in writing, podcasting, graphic design or other related fields.
I recently posted this thread on Twitter highlighting the creative efforts of NRL fan content creators here in Australia after what has been a stellar year for the code with ratings, revenue, memberships, crowds all up as well as the establishment of the NRLW and games in Perth and Denver.
The game’s greatest asset is the fan so it is important to acknowledge these fans as they are constantly pumping out the positive, passionate and engaging content and I feel this illustrates my point that it is both vital and rewarding for clubs to find ways to engage, highlight, promote and harness the diverse range of skills of their fans as it is a win-win positive thing to do.
Having worked very closely in the podcasting space in recent times I have seen the rise of people wanting to get their passion into podcasting and as I said above the barriers have now decreased with a very basic bedroom podcasting set up costing well under $100. Podcast quality has also increased so while some pods may not be at a high quality level, whats happening is that fans are getting better the longer they stick with it. There’s also an incredibly strong community amongst these podcasters too. They do it for the love of the game. They promote each other and therefore that of the game and their team. They are broadcasters and should be taken seriously.
Some of the podcasters out there in the NRL include:
Fifth And Last
NRL Boom Rookies
2. Statistics/Game Data
Fans like stats guru Andrew Ferguson who runs one of the best league sites out there in Rugby League Project is an incredible fan generated site which houses a massive range of rugby league data and is an absolute credit to the game. I find myself using this site a lot as do other NRL fans. Another fan doing good things with stats is pythagoNRL.
3. Sports Science
In a classic case of a fan using their diverse skills to offer the rest of us an insight into player injuries and recovery, the NRL Physio has provided some really interesting insights and analysis for NRL fans this year. The NRL should find a way to utilise his skills as fans have greatly enjoyed his insights and graphics in real time during games on social as he provides game player injuries and recovery information and analysis. He knows he’s not affiliated with the NRL and that what he says is only his opinion however he has built an incredibly strong trust with fellow fans as a result of his skills and willingness to want to contribute to his passion.
4. Independent Broadcasters
The independent fan NRL media, broadcasters and writers like The 81st Minute, Steele Sport, League Unlimited, Nothing But NRL, Steve Mascord, James Smith, RLeagueLive, JasonNRL and even to an extent ‘The Fan‘ which while it may be shown on Fox Sports is run by mega league fan Andrew Voss who consistently provides outstanding behind the scenes storytelling that fans greatly enjoy.
5. Fan Club Social Accounts
The NRL fan club accounts across social constantly provide fellow fans with a passionate atmosphere at games as well as insights and analysis throughout the week and add to the stories and content from the club but from their perspective as hardcore fans.
Some of these include:
6. Social Commentators
The often hilarious NRL social commentators who constantly provide cheeky laughs, clever analysis, interesting stats, glorious memories as well as cutting through the media bullshit, crisis merchants and spin that often snakes its way into the game. In fact what we’ve seen this year is that as a result of the positives in the game as well as the huge level of fan generated content and these positive fan voices in NRL that fans have collectively called out the rubbish reporting and negativity in rugby league.
Some of the accounts to follow on Twitter for instance include:
7. The Graphic Designers
The graphic designers like PixelRugby and MattHainesSport as well as others who’ve put their own skills and spin on things to create interesting NRL content like jersey designs and artworks are to be applauded. Perhaps a game day poster idea could be something teams could think about for 2019 and then have these around town prior to a game to promote the match.
8. The Hardcore Fans
And then there’s fans like
@troypod78 who travelled 19259.4kms for 24/24 Parramatta Eels matches this year, documenting his journey along the way for fellow NRL fans to enjoy. What were some of the other great NRL fan stories you enjoyed from 2018?
Overall it’s been a huge positive year for both the NRL and NRL fans and I just wanted to put this together before the start of the NRL finals start tonight to shine a light on some of the creative content creators and fans out there who go above and beyond for the game. League’s greatest asset is the fan and the faster clubs around the globe realise the benefits of working closer with these particular fans and their skills, the more the game, fans and the code as a whole will grow together.