Two months into quarantine and the idea of a sporting event with fans in attendance still feels like a daydream – well at least for everyone outside of the Belarusian Premier League who are still business as usual. However, it does appear the Bundesliga, La Liga, and others are ready to begin transitioning to a new normal of closed door matches to finish out the 2019/20 campaigns.
When sports leagues do return to action, the look and feel of match day will be significantly different from what fans are used to. Instead of being packed shoulder-to-shoulder with one another, seats will be empty. Stadiums will have an air of quiet to them that could only be described as eerie.
In preparation of this, a few organizations have chosen to get creative and build an ‘authentic’ match day experience for players and the viewers at home.
For example, The Korean Baseball Organization has chosen to fill their stadiums with banners of printed fans – all wearing masks of course – to have the stadium appear full from afar.
Borussia Monchengladbach have gone a similar route, but will take it another step by placing cardboard cutouts of fans throughout their stadium once the Bundesliga returns. For a small fee donated by the fan, the club creates the cutout and then places it in a seat in the stadium. To date, over 8,000 fans have donated.
The Chicago Red Stars, who were unable to play their home opener on April 25th, instead chose to host a Fauxpening Day Tailgate over Zoom with fans and the players.
🍻 In just three short hours, we celebrate together🍻
— Chicago Red Stars (@chiredstarsPR) April 25, 2020
Opportunities for Teams
Seeing these ideas made us think – what else can teams do to engage fans once their seasons begin? Here are a few of our favorite ideas that you might see once sports start back up:
Virtual Supporter Sections
Whether in a stadium or at someone’s home, large gatherings won’t be permissible when closed door matches begin. Fans who would have been throwing a viewing party won’t be able to do so anymore. Instead, teams could host virtual viewing parties each week to compliment the OTT viewing experience. Fans could watch and banter with their friends as they would have in a non-Coronavirus impacted world… just virtually. The Los Angeles Dodgers recently held a virtual party for 11,000 fans – is this a sign of things to come?
Robot Player Escorts
Prior to each match, players traditionally walk onto the field with a young fan in hand. As that won’t be possible due to health guidelines, it creates the opportunity for a fan to experience this virtually. A player could enter the field for the pre-game ceremony with a mobile robot or video device in hand that brings the match day experience to a fan in a remote location. This could be opened up to all fans, too, for a unique pre-match angle.
Social distancing guidelines recommend people stay 6 ft. away from each other to combat COVID-19 and flatten the curve. Having a full supporter section is at odds with this, so instead, what if teams honored their most loyal fan(s) or ran a contest for a lucky fan to serve as the lucky singular fan in the stands. An energetic fan dancing around and causing a ruckus could serve as a fun visual for those watching at home and a potential motivator for those on the field. Think Duke speedo guy from the 2000s… but by him/herself.
Interested in discussing other creative ways your team or your brand can counteract a monotonous environment when play returns? Let’s chat!