NFL fans are already obsessed with their hometown team. So how do teams go about increasing the engagement of a radical fanbase even more?
That’s a question that James Royer, the Director of Digital Media & Strategy of the Kansas City Chiefs, seeks to answer every day. James is in his third season with the Chiefs where he oversees their social media digital content strategy as well as the team’s Mobile App.
The focus of this episode of Appy Hour is the Chiefs App: the role it plays in fan engagement, how it drives content consumption, and what the future of the app experience will look like in Arrowhead Stadium.
James begins by explaining that with the fragmentation of social media and mobile app landscapes, owned & operated platforms are very valuable. The mobile app space is evolving and now includes ticketing, breaking news, entertainment, and various additional communication methods.
James sees this evolution occurring in how people are utilizing the Chiefs app. In September, the App accounted for 62% of total pageviews across the Chiefs platforms. That number increased to 72% in October. He sees this as a huge potential business driver. As fans are naturally engaging with the team more and more over their phones, James wants to provide content and experiences that are relevant to them.
James believes it is critical to make content on the app more accessible. Recent tests the Chiefs have run show that people are receptive to Push Notifications, especially when injury reports are released throughout the week. There is a “Breaking News” element that draws in fans.
The team’s goal is to be more aggressive with push notifications. This includes pushing video highlights the morning after Chiefs wins in order to celebrate with fans. So far this season compared to last, pageviews are up 219% and unique visitors are up 32% in the App.
A huge focus going forward will be “geo targeted” pushes. It is important to communicate differently with fans in Arrowhead Stadium than with fans watching at home; There should always be a focus on relevant information.
James has seen that if someone doesn’t use the app within two weeks, they’re probably not coming back. The watershed moment is when someone opens the app for the first time and starts to engage.
The Chiefs see that once someone is in the app, they have as high as 14 pageviews per visit where they explore and discover. People don’t go to websites to discover, but they do behave that way while browsing apps, and James sees this as a huge opportunity to deliver content.
For the App’s first Augmented Reality program, the team partnered with Coca-Cola, their longest running partnership. Coke was selling a 16 oz. can with the Chiefs logo, and the campaign’s goal was to drive sales of the can. Through interactions with the Coke cans, the App provided a “Most Refreshing Moments in Chiefs History” video experience highlighting the team’s best moments over the years.
There were codes embedded in each of the 6 different videos available through the App. Fans then had the opportunity to enter the codes in the Loyalty Program portion of the app for a chance at a grand prize of tickets to the Chiefs vs. Cowboys game in Dallas.
This campaign drove 3 areas of growth:
1) It provided an activation with one of the Chiefs oldest partners, Coca-Cola
2) It drove Mobile App downloads
3) It encouraged fans to enter into the team’s Loyalty Program.
The results of the campaign were hard to ignore, as the team began to get knocks on their door from other partners. The team began to ask, “How can we engage with additional sponsors in similar ways?” This campaign provided valuable learnings for the Chiefs so they can work on enhancing the in-stadium experience for next season via the Mobile App. This effort is even championed by the CEO and Chairman of the Chiefs himself, Clark Hunt.
James knows that not every fan is just looking for content, so the team partnered with Sideline Sports to create a Bingo Application within the Chiefs App. Much like the AR Campaign, this effort touches multiple business objectives: It is sponsored by Sprint and it awards loyalty points to fans. Over 13,000 people use this feature of the App and it’s growing every week.
The Loyalty Program started as effort to get fans to engage at deeper level, but it has expanded well beyond that. Rewarding fans for things that they are doing anyway allows fans to enage in the world of the Chiefs and the NFL at a deeper level. Prizes include game-worn jerseys, in-game experiences, trips around the country and more.
Creating engaging content and trying outside the box efforts like the campaigns mentioned above train fan’s behavior to go into the App on gameday and interact with what is new. Season Tickets are even renewed in the App now through a connection with Ticketmaster. These efforts incentivise fans to repeatedly come back and ask, “How do I become more engaged with the team?”
James sees the future of the Chiefs App and the World of Mobile Apps in general as bringing customizable features to audiences.
The Chiefs don’t use customer profiles at this time (such as companies like Starbucks do), but James sees an opportunity here to create customized experiences. This would allow the team to answer the question, “What do the fans want?” as opposed to, “What can we drive to the fans?”
Mobile Ticketing is also a pillar of the Chiefs Mobile App future. This year the team offered a “Bud Light Gameday Pass” which essentially costs $200 for a season ticket, but it is available on the mobile app only. They also offered the “Charlie Hustle Pass” through the App which appealed to millennial market with a “random seat” element to the purchase.
The ability to use tickets printed from home is going away. This effort will reduce the risk of fraudulent tickets and increase security measures in stadiums. Mobile Ticketing numbers for the Chiefs have more than doubled every year since 2015.
In a more general sense, James sees apps capitalizing on experiences based on physical location. He always asks the question, “How do we provides benefits and utility to you?” For example, can his team have an integration with ordering a car service to the games? How is the experience different at home with friends than in Arrowhead Stadium, and how can the App cater to that? “It’s really about being specific in that moment,” says James.
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