Right in time for opening day, agency Sapient and The Fenway Sports Group (parent company of the Boston Red Sox) have entered a multi-year partnership to improve fan engagement. This alliance marks the first time that Fenway has worked on a digital ad campaign of this nature, and will explore how best to leverage multi-channel environments to amplify how fans experience baseball both in-stadium and at home.
Fenway chose to partner with Sapient because the agency had prior experience working on sports marketing campaigns, notably the X Games.
“[We want Sapient] to help us figure out what the next decade is going to look like in terms of how we’re reaching out to the next generation of fans, how we’re connecting with them [and] what the ball park experience is going to look like,” said Fenway Sports Group EVP and Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy.
Fenway seeks to create experiences appealing to younger sports fans, focusing on those within the 18-34 demographic. In particular, they hope to improve Fenway's offerings in mobile, as more consumers access sports-related content and engage in real-time social media conversations on their handheld devices.
Sapient's CMO Bill Kanarick said that while roughly 50% of attendees at sporting events actively use a mobile device, current mobile experiences don’t complement what’s happening in the stadium. In other words, most in-stadium mobile experiences distract from the game instead of supplement it.
“At the very top of the list of the things that we’ve learned is the fact that the consumer is now bringing a very different expectation set to his or her interaction with sports, whether that’s consuming sports-related content outside of the stadium or particularly young people who are increasingly consuming that content across multiple screens,” said Kanarick, adding that eight out of 10 people in the US identify as sports fans. “Even inside the stadium, there’s the expectation that technology is going to aid the experience.”
Both Kennedy and Kanarick said it was premature to say what future campaigns might look like, though they indicated these campaigns will likely revolve around increased use of mobile apps consumers use to access sports-related content.
Major League Baseball (MLB) has attempted to build in-app experiences that supplement the game day experience. The MLB, for instance, released two apps a few years ago, At the Ballpark and At Bat, designed for stadium attendees.
For the Red Sox in particular, however, Sapient will first need to research the franchise’s fans.
“In developing future campaigns, Sapient will first seek to understand how Red Sox fans are using those apps, then work in close partnership with Major League Baseball Advanced Media to extend the use of those apps to Fenway park specific types of applications,” said Kanarick.
Another important step will be to incentivize fans that are not yet using these mobile apps, or aren’t using them frequently.
Additionally, Fenway wants to drive fans that prefer to watch baseball at home back to the stadium.
In terms of measurable results, Kennedy said, “It’s an overall strategy of how we’re connecting with our fans with a specific focus on digital. That means redsox.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and we measure all of those activities based on followers, or traffic metrics.”
Sapient and Fenway are finalizing a timeline to launch the first campaign, and according to Kanarick, creative efforts will certainly be bolstered by the creative agency Campfire, acquired today by Sapient’s digital agency unit SapientNitro.
And while Sapient handles media buying activities for some of its clients, Kanarick said Sapient has yet to discuss media buying with Fenway.
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