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Recognising and understanding individual fans is the key to building strong, lasting, mutually rewarding relationships. David Ingham explains how the smarter use of data can turn today’s supporters into lifelong superfans.

Fans make football what it is, but not every fan is the same. For every die-hard England fan watching the nail-biting final of the UEFA Euro championships at Wembley, there was a fan who had tuned in to cheer on their favourite player, or to check out the performance of potential signings to their club. Meanwhile, England’s epic victory at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 attracted legions of new fans to the game and inspired thousands of women and girls to get involved with the game. 

In short, football in England is attracting fans like never before. Some are attracted by the emotional highs (and lows); some for a sense of belonging and camaraderie; for others, it’s the inheritance of a long-standing family tradition, and others are likely to be players themselves. Tapping into those personal stories is the key to building strong, lasting and mutually rewarding fan relationships; but this is an area where many clubs, associations and leagues can fail. 

Data holds the key to deeper fan engagement

This failure doesn’t happen due to a lack of data – fans leave a footprint with every interaction, from attending matches, website visits, merchandise purchases or through engagement on social media. But many organisations lack the ability to collate that data – to understand their fans as individuals and to use those insights to provide the best possible supporter experience. 

Making sense of disparate fan data is an easy win, and it’s one that doesn’t simply deepen fan engagement but also generates additional revenue for the team, club, player or sponsor. At Cognizant, for example, we’ve been working with The FA and its online brand England Football to help them really understand their individual stakeholders, so they provide the right content to the right fan at the right time, on the right device or channel.

At the heart of this approach is the Cognizant Fan Persona Engine. It augments the fan data sports organisations already have with third-party data and sorts it into segments so clubs can deliver truly personalized content and fan experiences. At The FA, Cognizant has supported a new direct-to-consumer model that enables The FA to compete with the likes of Netflix and Nike for fans’ time and attention. Some of the results we have seen include England Football Learning Hub registering close to a million learners with over 12 Mn interactions within 9 months of its launch in September 2022.

Data can drive fan engagement at any level of football 

You don’t have to be The FA or a top-flight club to benefit from data-driven fan insights; even the smaller clubs generate hundreds of connections with their loyal supporters throughout the season, however these connections are not converted to deep engagements.

After all, it’s a virtuous circle. Rewarding fans in this way encourages them to invest in the club, increasing a club’s success resulting in increased budget for better equipment, improved grounds and new players, all of which gives the sport more opportunities to attract new fans. 

Start building closer fan relationships today

The good news is that it’s easy for any sports orgnisations to start developing deeper fan relationships through data. If you’re curious about how data can enhance what you know about individual fans, technology can do the heavy lifting to segment the data and facilitate bespoke messaging to fans, ultimately improving the game for everyone. 

If you’d like to know more about the Cognizant Fan Persona Engine, or our consulting and technology services for football more generally, please get in touch.


David Ingham

Head of Media,
Entertainment & Sports, UK&I, Cognizant

David Ingham

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