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Exclusive CEO Comments: How Digital Engagement Boosts Commercial Value

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peaking to Ministry of Sport, Komo Digital CEO, Joel Steel, discussed how digital tech can and should be used to boost the value of commercial partnerships and commercial assets for rights holders.

Steel said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sport has created a greater focus on digital engagement, but sporting organisations must remember it is all about their fans.

“I think it’s becoming more of a required business focus; the opportunity has always been there,” Steel told Ministry of Sport.

“Everyone knows everyone lives on their phones, everyone lives online, whether you’re watching a broadcast at home or you’re in a stadium watching live sport.

“You look around the stadium and 50% of the people are still on their phones so there’s always been that opportunity, but it has been brought to the forefront of everyone’s thoughts now with the lack of in-person events going on.

“The opportunity is there now for the teams to make the first move and it’s been nearly a year where COVID-19 has made it really tough in Australia.

“Probably the start of the AFL season [in 2020], when that shutdown, everyone thought this is real in sport, the same within the US as soon as the NBA shut their season down, everyone realised its something we actually need to take notice of.

“There’s an opportunity for clubs to get on the front foot and provide that service to their fans, because that’s what its about, without the fans there is no sport,” he said.

Talking about what more sports clubs need to do to achieve better digital engagement results, Steel said it’s about investing more time and money into growing data.

“Some are really advanced, but the majority have a long way to go still,” Steel said.

“That’s a top-down issue where they are probably under-resourced, so it’s probably not the fault of one person that’s trying to do 100 things and try and manage socials, their digital, their fan engagement online.

“There’s potentially one or two people trying to do all of that at the same time and then gather that data and then give it to someone else to do something with it.

“From the top there needs to be more resources, time and money put into taking advantage of suppliers and technology like Komo, and once they have realised that and the value it can bring, not just to the fans, but commercially for themselves and their bottom line, they will see results.

“Growing their first-party data and being able to use that to create ticket sales, merch sales and everything else is huge, and then to be able to push that back to the sponsors and say ‘this year, we’ve grown our first-party data by 20%, do you want access to that?’

“All of that is going to drive more value for sponsors, which means you’re going to drive more sponsorship dollars, and then if you’re providing the level of service and technology that Komo can provide to the sponsors, they’re more likely to see that value, get that ROI, and then potentially come back and pay more money,” he said.

Discussing the role Komo plays in enhancing digital engagement for sporting clubs and brands, Steel said: “One of the things we do really well is walking that line between fan experience and fan engagement and providing the best possible experience as quickly as possible.”

“Any online community or user in this day and age are very aware that everyone is trying to get their data, and we are aware of that and try to create an ecosystem where they don’t feel like they are being data-mined.

“They feel like they’re getting value, and then they’re more likely to give the brand or the team whatever information they’re looking for, whether it is the data market research, delivering digital coupons to redeem a free product, whatever it might be, I think that’s the key.

“Where Komo fits in is providing a platform which makes it extremely easy for the teams and the lack of resources they have now, which is the flipside of the coin with the opportunity in digital with COVID.

“Everyone wants to do it, but no ones got the resources to actually put the time into doing it.

“Our platform makes it extremely easy to create these immersive digital experiences, create competitions, so that should solve the resource problem, and we are continually growing the platform to make it even easier with content integrations.

“The resources within the club can create the content nice and easily, but then its about how do their sponsors get the most out of their sponsorships, especially when there’s potentially no in-stadium or at least a severely reduced crowd.

“How do we get a deeper and meaningful connection between the brand and fans.

“Even when people were in stadiums, we would do activations in stadium where we would get an 80-90% recall rate from activations we were running, and this is from Nielsen poll surveys that were done.

“We were told the standard recall rates for this particular team were 30-40% at the most, and its because people are now actually interacting with the brand and are highly engaged.

“You can utilise all your assets, still get your brand across to the fans, but when you get a good percentage of those highly engaged, that’s where you can gather the data in a non-invasive way,” he said.

When asked what advice he would give to sporting clubs across the world to better understand the value of digital and to get a return of value from investing in digital engagement, Steel said you have to be completely committed.

“Invest in the resource, if you invest you won’t see that return in the first three months, but over six, 12, 18, 24 months you will get that return tenfold,” Steel told Ministry of Sport.

“It’s like anything, if you do anything half-assed, you’re going to get a half-assed return, so invest in it properly, understand what your goals are and then understand how digital can help you achieve those goals and then you just have to double down.

“It’s not going anywhere, it’s the way of the future, so invest your time and money in it and of course, invest in Komo,” he said.