As the world has adapted to the challenges of the past two-and-a-half years, sports clubs and franchises across the globe have strived to maintain and build relationships with fans by exploring increasingly innovative digital opportunities.
Indeed, one of the striking aspects of the sports industry in a world still grappling with Covid-19 is that teams of all levels and budgets have been able to embark on engaging and outside-the-box digital initiatives.
One such franchise is the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team, the Connecticut Sun.
In June, Connecticut Sun partnered with Virtual Tables, a virtual events solution company, to utilise its DigiSign platform.
This partnership removed geographic barriers and the need for a physical location to conduct a full-scale meet-and-greet session. Fans could even collect something to cherish forever in the form of a digital autograph, penned in real time.
A digital connection
Dan Tamburro, the Sun’s director of ticket sales and service, tells Fan XP that it is always a priority to have a connection with fans, even if a physical activation is not possible.
“It is important for us to continue to have events for our fans to be able to connect to our players,” says Tamburro. “During these times where we are not always able to have in-person events, we still wanted to find a way to have our fans interact with our team.
“Partnering with DigiSign and Virtual Tables is a great opportunity because not only does it keep our fans and players safe health-wise, but it also mitigates the amount of gas used with these high prices!”
For the Sun, the DigiSign partnership offers multi-layered benefits. It enables the team – and its players – to strengthen the bond with the established fan base, but it also give fans from further afield a unique experience.
“For us, specifically, it was about being able to have our fans and team continue to be able to interact,” explains Tamburro.
“However, a platform like Virtual Tables & DigiSign provides an opportunity for fans anywhere to be able to connect, hopefully in ways to amplify our players to a broader range of people.”
Merging physical and virtual experiences
The Sun plays its home games at the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The team was originally established as the Orlando Miracle in 1999, but financial strains in 2003 resulted in the franchise being bought out by the Mohegan Indian Tribe, who relocated the team to Mohegan Sun.
Over the last two decades, the Sun has built a large fan following, and is one of the only WNBA teams that does not have to compete with a National Basketball Association (NBA) team in the same local market.
With this in mind, Tamburro says that fan initiatives such as digital autographs can help to shine a spotlight on women’s basketball and women’s sport, whilst enticing new fans.
“The more awareness about our players that we can bring to the public, the better chance we have in getting people engaged with women’s basketball and the WNBA,” he said.
This new digital hybrid way of creating activations has inspired Tamburro and the Connecticut Sun to create more opportunities to connect with basketball fans, while keeping both fans and players as safe as possible in the post-pandemic world.
“We are always looking for more fan activations, as well as sourcing new and unique opportunities for fans to interact with our players,” explains Tamburro.
“We want all of our activations to be as safe as possible and would like to continue to generate ideas for what those activations might look like in the future.”
Photo credit: Connecticut Sun