Sparking engagement in times of Corona

You will learn about: 

  • The battle for attention

  • The impact of Corona on digital engagement

  • What sports clubs and their sponsors are doing to keep fans engaged

  • How to practice digital engagement at scale

The battle for attention

As the years pass, sports clubs are slowly seeing their audience grow older. Sports executives fear that the newer generations are not interested in sports anymore, although nothing could be further from the truth.

Generation Z, also known as digital natives are seen as a tough target audience to reach due to their low usage of traditional media channels and resistance to advertisements. By 2020, Gen Z is expected to account for 40% of all consumers. They are also one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market with a buying power of $44 billion expanding to $600 billion when considering the influence they have on their parents’ spending. Soon they are going to make up the majority of the workforce which will only further increase their buying power.

Age distribution/global population by age and sex; Male & female; Boomers, Generation X, Millenials & Generation Z

The newer generations enjoy a more fast-paced and personalized way of consuming media. Due to their habit of gaining instant information, it’s important to feel part of a community where they have a voice and can give feedback. They like personalized and interactive experiences and engaging with others. Ultimately they are a difficult audience to keep engaged due to their need for immediate gratification. That’s why having the right reward systems in place is critical in guaranteeing long-term engagement. 

Video games are the most engaging digital experiences due to their ability to play into both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Today sports clubs are not only competing against other teams but also against platforms such as Youtube, Netflix or video games like Call of Duty and Fortnite to gain and keep the attention of a younger audience. Afterall, video games continuously succeed to suck players into their online experience and create true digital engagement. Taking away precious eyeball time from sports clubs.

To illustrate how video games are establishing themselves in the market, Fortnite, the most popular battle royale game in the world has over 250 million players worldwide. An average player spends between six and ten hours per week in game. Some even play up to 21 hours per week. And that is not taking into account the time spent watching other gamers or socializing with friends about the game.

Digital usage is skyrocketing 

With people having to work from home and not being able to go out anymore internet usage and media consumption are increasing drastically. As people are spending more time online they are checking social media up to 29% more and the news with 39%.

With all sports events being cancelled, there is a large group of fans left that are seeking for entertainment. Which explains why platforms such as Youtube and Netflix are also gaining attention. The latter of which is having a worldwide 51% increase in usage. Both streaming services have announced to lower their bitrate to prevent network problems from happening, anticipating the rise in number of users and time spent on the platform.

Streaming services are gaining digital engagement from viewers during lockdown

Sports leagues were already on TikTok, the Coronavirus accelerated the trend even further. TikTok is a mobile app filled with short clips. For instance, super star athlete LeBron James is learning TikTok dances while others are taking on toilet paper challenges.

The app is most popular with the younger generation, which might be a way to attract younger audiences back to sports.

With all major-league games called off, video game consumption is also on the rise. Twitch, the market leader for streaming video games had a traffic boost of 20 percent. This year alone over 269 billion minutes of watching other players have been registered on the platform which is over 32.4% more compared to the previous year.

Not only the streaming services are seeing a big change in their platform usage. Steam, a game distribution platform, broke several records in the last weeks. Esports game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive got 1 million players at the same time, while the platform in itself reached a pique of 22 million users. As all the stadiums go quit, Esports are booming. Call of Duty released their new game Warzone on March 10 and reached 30 million players within 10 days of launching.

Gaming platform Steam is having all time high user stats due to corona lockdown

Sports clubs are shifting to online fan activation

With no live sport to watch, the media teams of leagues, clubs, and athletes are coming up with ideas to keep their fans engaged. We listed below some examples of how fans stay engaged with the club  through various out of the box initiatives:

Make personal & interactive content

Sports leagues and clubs are coming up with challenges and interactive games to keep their fans active during Corona. Keller Sports is launching an app that provides home training challenges on which fans can collect points to be redeemed for exclusive rewards. Two basketball players of Alba Berlin also offered digital sports lessons on YouTube to keep children busy during quarantine.

Get creative on social media

Athletes and their PR teams are stepping up their games by coming up with fun ideas to entertain and engage with their fans. The game broadcast organized by baseball player Trevor Bauer lasted over an hour and gained 250,000 viewers. A number that continues to rise as fans watch the archived videos. 

What athletes everywhere need to remember is that at the end of the day the fans are still there, they are just at home, craving two coronavirus-free hours.” – Ishay Tsur, a psychologist for Mental Jump, an Israel-based counseling center, who works with athletes

Spreading positivity & making an impact in the community

Lots of sport clubs have used their influence to spread positivity across their fan community. English football club Everton for example is leveraging their customer data to reach out to fans in need. Through their charity Blue Family they are offering assistance such as delivering groceries, picking up prescriptions, providing home learning opportunities and even donating food.

On the business side of things Everton keeps their fan base engaged even with the suspension of matches. That’s why right now Everton is committed more than ever to provide content. According to CRM manager Danny Harris lots of Everton fans never get the opportunity to go see a live match, but that doesn’t mean they can’t support the club in a different way: 

“The experience has to be tailored to every individual.”

A perfect example is the team sending personalized birthday message videos from players to fans, which generated an open rate of 45% and lots of positive social media feedback. 

Sports are moving to esports

English football club Leyton Orient immediately organized a Football Manager game via Twitter where fans could vote on polls to determine everything from the team’s tactics and substitutions to the tone of the manager’s half-time talk. Even though in the simulation the team lost 1-0, fans still enjoyed the experience of participating and engaging with their favorite team.

A few tweets later the Ultimate Quaran-Team, a FIFA 20 esports knockout tournament featuring professional clubs from around the world was born. Clubs are being encouraged to stream their matches on Twitch to gain more exposure and engagement from their fans. Since launching the online competition Orient’s Twitter has increased by 22,000 followers.

fifa ultimate Quaran-team; Fifa knockout tournament

Cycling organizer Flanders Classics also gained international success with their live streamed digital Tour of Flanders. The cycling race was watched all over Europe and not surprisingly also reached a younger audience, again confirming that young people are still interested in sports, as long as it’s brought in the right manner.

Live streamed digital tour of Flanders

Tomas Van den Spiegel, CEO of Flanders Classics said:

“In Flanders cycling will always be popular, but internationally you have to look for concepts that can reach a younger audience. They are not watching their TV for 6 straight hours. Now we have discovered something that might work in the future.”

So, how do you practice digital engagement at scale?

Online activations are undoubtedly a worthy alternative during this pandemic. Fans are hunkering for interaction with their favourite clubs. While the initial engagement is often generated with extrinsic rewards such as offering gift cards, money, merchandise or discounts , in order for engagement to be sustainable it has to rely more and more on  intrinsic motivators  such as the human desire of making progress and leveling up.

An engagement platform that is only focussed on cash or prize rewards will eventually become unsatisfying and unscalable. The overjustification effect explains that if a person expects a certain reward from an activity, and he/she doesn’t get it over time the intrinsic motivation will get lost because he/she is focussed too much on gaining the rewards instead of the activity.

Kayzr, the largest esports and online gaming platform in the BENELUX partnered up with StriveCloud to launch Kayzr 4.0. The original system rewarded players with coins which they could use to buy things in the online shop. This created a scalability challenge due to increasing prize cost per user.

Kayzr 4.0

The tournament system only allowed competitions at specific times in the afternoon with a moderator from Kayzr monitoring the match. Kayzr wanted to shift to 24/7 matches without adding any additional costs. However, from a players’ point of view this means less virtual coins for participating in the matches. 

In order for Kayzr to grow its user base scalably, the cost of retention needed to be reduced without risking massive loss of engagement. To help Kayzr succeed in this transition, StriveCloud redesigned the experience to a 24/7 League system without the need of moderators to supervise the matches. To ensure no engagement would be lost, the experience was made more competitive. By adding more excitement to the platform with elements such empowerment, unpredictability and surprise the game in itself became more intrinsically rewarding.

Kayzr 4.0, Updated Kayzr Platform after strivecloud solution

“People are coming for the rewards, but if you take them away engagement suffers. With StriveCloud’s help we created a new reward system focused on moments of surprise and user empowerment, and engagement is higher than ever.” – Pieter Verheye, Community Manager @Kayzr


The results were astonishing with 30,000 gamers spending 15 years straight of playing esports 24/7 in just one month of using StriveCloud. That is 1 year of 24/7 concentrated eyeball time for sponsors! 

Too long, didn’t read? Here’s what you missed:

With infinite amounts of content to watch, younger generations are turning away from traditional media. While sport executives fear that younger generations are no longer interested in sports, it’s actually the platform which has become obsolete. Fans these days enjoy a more personalized and interactive experience. With the internet at their fingertips the battle for eyeballs is real.

To scale that engagement without adding additional costs, the experience should be intrinsically rewarding. Meaning that the reward system is not solely focused on prizes, as the activity in itself is exciting through elements of surprise, unpredictability and empowerment.

COVID-19 has only increased our digital usage. Big winners during lockdown are platforms like Netflix, YouTube and Twitch. In anticipation of this trend, and with no live competitions to broadcast, sport clubs and athletes are going online. Teams from all around the world are doing their best to publish fun content, create social media challenges or do charity work. Instead of live competitions, leagues are organizing esport events where they can engage with fans.


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