ImagesMagUK_September_2022 SEPTEMBER 2022 images 41 MARKET INTELLIGENCE New era of digital fan engagement Digital experiences provide fans and brands alike with a range of exciting opportunities to unite everyone interested in sports. By taking interactions online, heat-applied digital triggers create the potential for PR moments, trends connected to social, cultural activities, and engaging storytelling. Tailored messaging can spark emotional connections with sports fans. A good example is online publication SoccerBible working with sports charity Common Goal and Avery Dennison to design and produce jerseys featuring a digitally-scannable heat-applied QR code in the inside neck. This directs consumers to a ‘Thank you’ message from Common Goal co-founder and exManchester United player, Juan Mata. According to audience research company GWI, in the US more than 50% of sports fans believe that sport is culturally important, suggesting engagement in richer content about their team would be appreciated. This new technology also allows companies to provide transparency about materials and product features without printing unnecessary labels, all the while collecting data in a friendly, nonintrusive way. The digitisation of sports branding is all about enriching the user-experience by bringing people closer to the teams they love. Social media plays a core role in this story as platforms provide a space where fans at home can join in the fun and share their experiences with others through images, videos, live chats and more. Within this shared experience, there is a trend for personalising sportswear for key sporting occasions – such as cup finals and major title clashes – and teams to share on social channels. Intersection of physical and digital with the internet of things QR codes, near field communication (NFC) and other emerging digital triggers are increasingly appearing at the intersection of consumer engagement through printed graphics on apparel and packaging. It’s surprisingly easy today to put messages in garments – via digitally connected embellishments, such as badges and heat transfers – to connect the garment directly with culture. Sports fans, like all consumers, are incentivised by rewards and special offers. According to a recent report by Cheetah Digital, 50% of fans are happy to trade their data for incentives like coupons or exclusive access through digital interactions. Businesses are starting to provide products, services and experiences that are customised via emerging technological solutions, especially since the events of the pandemic drove the public into their homes, away from sporting events. Digitally enabled physical embellishments, as well as cutting edge software and manufacturing capability, can provide everything a brand or organisation needs in order to celebrate its name, personalise products, and create digital experiences to connect with consumers through on-garment branding. Circular economy To address the sustainability challenge, forward-looking organisations are working hard to cut textile and materials waste in their supply chains. With the right partners, sports apparel manufacturers can produce only what is needed, when it is needed, reducing carbon impact. Embedded triggers on shirts can also allow consumers to access information about recycling. And by digitally enabling experiences, information and opportunities can be created with less physical waste and carbon emissions. With this new technology, we can also begin to view labels and heat transfers as portals to educational resources that review topics like the quantity of waste saved or locally sourced materials. With the Embelex range of smart embellishments, Avery Dennison’s view is that IoT (internet of things) technology will position the fashion and sporting industries closer to a circular economy, and help combat sustainability challenges within the respective sectors. The time for innovation is now Reimagining sports apparel as an ‘interactive creative canvas’ unlocks a range of imaginative possibilities and use cases. Consumer experience is front of mind for all brands, and should be for sports clubs and brands too. At Avery Dennison, we’ve found that the brands we’ve collaborated with can become far more human-centric when they connect through products, opening up new channels of communication. The opportunities to engage and entertain are endless. To keep up with the evolving worlds of fashion and sports fandom, brands need to adopt truly interactive digital marketing techniques, enabling customers and fans to relate more closely with everything they adore. Tailored messaging can spark emotional connections with sports fans, says Jeremy Bauer of Embelex