It’s All About The Community, Sports Fans Gary Parkinson February 1st, 2016 What is your preferred method to watch sports and consume related content? There was a time when sitting down to watch a game or learning about the highlights on the evening news were the best ways to follow your team of choice. But today audiences have more options.An online sports community thrives when fans discuss league standings, superstar players, inspiring sports stories, and game highlights. Today, most of these conversations happen in the digital sphere, and sports marketers are focused on building fan communities that engage the fan base through digital content.Boost Brand Awareness Using Interactive CommunitiesAn online community that publishes engaging content, hosts passionate debates, and uploads video highlights or game recaps will accumulate larger audiences and create more interest in a sports brand.Take for example the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which boasts a reputation as the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world. Though the company built an impressive following of MMA fans in North America throughout the 2000s, the UFC’s core audience in Europe, Asia, and other markets emerged at a slower rate.To increase their presence in emerging markets, the UFC used the Conor McGregor vs Diego Brandao fight in Ireland on July 19, 2014 to build a new community for European MMA fans. The company used content marketing software to create a live event on the day of the fight, publishing content for eight hours prior to the main event of the evening and allowing fans to interact with the content as it was uploaded to the live feed. The strategy attracted 25,000 unique visitors to the community and resulted in 5,000 users hitting the UFC Fight Pass Subscription page - a conversion of approximately 20%. The UFC case study reveals that online communities are powerful tools to help sports marketers break into new markets.Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao full fight highlightsby trendingvideoclips via YouTube Build A New Community Using Existing CommunitiesWhat if you want your marketing campaign to reach hundreds of thousands of fans based in countries all over the world? How can you improve your chances of attaining maximum reach and greater engagement if your existing network has limitations?You might consider joining the brand new Facebook Sports Stadium, a new feature added to the social media platform. Facebook prides itself as the world’s largest sports stadium with over 650 million engaged fans interacting with the platform and the new Sports Stadium feature compartmentalizes all content related to an important game in one convenient location.A live score and game clock are embedded into the top banner of Facebook Sports Stadium but the feature also includes four tabs for each game tracked by the platform - Matchup, Friends, Experts, and Stats. The Matchup and Stats sections publish content about the game in progress, while the Friends tab is where fans interact with their friends about an ongoing game or publish user-generated content into the feed.The Experts section is an opportunity for sports marketers to attract new fans to their sites. Game-related content is published into this tab by teams, leagues, players, journalists, sports media, and other informative sites that are verified by Facebook. If you want your brand inserted into the Experts feed, you should contact Facebook and discuss your options.Don’t Forget About Trade Deadline CommunitiesIn addition to discussions about the games, league standings, and the road to the post-season, sports fans are just as eager to talk about anticipated trades of key players. Many professional sports leagues have designated trade deadline days and chatter heats up in related sports communities as the end of the transfer windows approaches.Today is trade deadline day in the English Premier League, and is one of the most popular transfer windows in the world of sports. Fans eagerly await final transfers of players to clubs within the Premier League and abroad, and anticipate any surprise moves involving well-known or highly skilled players.One of the biggest moves ahead of this year’s deadline involved Andros Townsend, a popular midfielder who rose through the ranks of the Tottenham Hotspur academy and also a reliable midfielder for the English national football team. Townsend fell out of favour with the Spurs and did not start a single fixture for the club in the 2015-16 season. He was subsequently transferred to rival club Newcastle United.While the move was expected due to the friction between player and team, the official transfer made headlines on social media. Fans of Tottenham, Newcastle, and other Premier League followers posted content on Townsend’s personal Twitter account to wish him the best of luck with his new squad at St James’ Park.Sports marketing sites also provided fans an outlet to discuss the Townsend transfer. The site NewsNow.co.uk created a forum about the transfer where fans, journalists, and marketers published streams of comments and user-generated content to discuss the Townsend trade and factors that led to Tottenham’s decision to part ways with their young midfielder. The forum became one of their most popular streams of content throughout the week and presumably generated impressive amounts of user engagement and founded a new community.Sports Bring People Together The most effective sports marketing tactic is to build a community where fans can publish or interact with content and discuss the big game. Passionate sports fans love to talk about the players, the games, and the industry. By providing a destination where fans can have these discussions and share opinions, you will build a following of prospective customers who are all interested in what you can provide.Community engagement is a powerful form of marketing. Make sure your plans for 2016 include online destinations for people to interact with content.