Optimal Website Design for Sports Teams
A well designed and maintained website is important to a strong fan / team relationship, and is an essential component of a team’s revenue plan. Strengthening the bond between the fan and the team drives higher revenue from the sale of tickets, merchandise, advertisements and sponsorships.
This article will help sports teams develop the best possible website to strengthen and sustain the fan relationship.
The home page creates the first impression. A good first impression entices the visitor to view more. Anything less than a good first impression causes the visitor to leave the site.
An extremely effective means to capture the visitor’s attention is with a banner atop the page. Banners often contains a series of rotating, eye-catching images that inform visitors of the latest team news. Images are often page-sized and are clickable for additional information.
The main content of the page appears beneath the banner. This content gives the visitor a sample of the most relevant information in the site, tempting them to explore deeper. Topics that are of most interest to the fan include: News / Trends / Insights, Player Info / Spotlight, Videos, Photos and Social Media.
The page should be visually appealing by being simple in appearance, readable, use pleasing colors and contain lots of attention-getting images. The best way to present information is with a grid-based page layout that reads left to right and top to bottom. Each element of the grid contains an image and caption which are clickable, allowing the fan to drill deeper into the site.
Clickable links are termed Call to Actions (CTAs). CTAs are indicators of the level of interest in the content, and are important for guiding fans to additional information. CTAs can be as straightforward as a clickable link or a button, or could be as elaborate as a form requesting additional information.
A very useful CTA are pre-programmed filter buttons that allow for easy drill-down in a section’s content. For example, your “News” section could have filter buttons for “All News”, “Photos” and “Videos” within the last “24 Hours”, “3 Days”, “1 Week” or “3 Weeks.”
The final element of the home page to be considered are advertisements. It’s important that the advertiser’s artwork visually compliment the site and not clash with the overall site color palette. Avoid possible visual conflicts by placing the ad in one or two background boxes that transition from the ad color to the website color scheme.
Ease of Navigation
A site’s navigation refers to the organization of content and the ease of finding information. Content is organized by topic and sub-topic, with the highest-level topic appearing in navigation tool. Sports teams usually only require two levels of content organization.
The most common navigation tool is the Navigation Bar that appears at the top of each page. Gaining popularity is the Navigation Icon (Navicon), which appears as a symbol with three solid bars at the top corner of the page. The Navicon content is hidden until the icon is clicked to reveal the details. Another attractive approach combines the Navicon with a shorter version of the traditional Navigation Bar. Any topic not presented in the Navigation Bar then appear in the Navicon.
The organization of the site content must balance the goals of strengthening the fan relationship and increasing revenues. The most common top-level topics are: Tickets, Team, Schedule, Community,Team Shop, News, Fans and Game Night. History is a common topic for the longer-established teams.
Selling tickets requires a careful balance. The team’s goal is to maximize ticket revenue, while at the same time being affordable to the ordinary fan. The key is to sell the complete experience of attending the game.
Selling the game experience often starts with 3D tours of the arena and seat-side views of the field / court. Frequently the team’s mobile application is presented under Ticket Sales for its electronic ticketing, same-day seating upgrades, and fan-to-fan resale features. Many mobile apps also include features like interactive arena maps and online concessions.
Ticket Sales should also link to the Game Day section that calls out experiences like entertainment groups, mascots, dance teams, promotional giveaways and special recognition for birthdays and large groups.
After selling the value of the average ticket, it’s time to upsell to premium seating. Again, it’s important that the fan be sold the value of premium seating experience. Images are essential to convey the true experience of the suites, lounges, loge boxes, private clubs and courtside seating.
Most teams use in-house Account Managers for premium and group sales, and third-party ticket agencies (e.g., TicketMaster) for regular ticket sales.
A word of caution when working with third party sites for ticket sales, team stores and arena amenities. Use of third-party sites often creates a disjointed experience because of poor integration, lack of end-user considerations, and one-way exits out of the team’s sites. At a minimum, a separate window should be opened to enter a third-party site. This allows for an easy return to the Team’s website.
The average Team section of a website is usually straight forward, but there are a few things that can be done to make it really stand out.
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Usually the Team page could double for a police line-up, with a mug-shot like photograph of each player and coach, followed by individual player statistics, team statistics and team standings.
An interesting alternative use action images of each player in place of the traditional headshots, along with a short biography and key statistics. A second next level of detail provides additional statistics and a link to the player’s social media account. Only at the third level of detail are the traditional player statistics presented.
When done properly, the team’s schedule can be much more than a simple listing of what team they are play and when.
First, the Schedule can be an important sales tool. The addition of CTA pre-programed filter buttons for month, day of week, start time, opponent, theme nights and giveaway nights allow fans to quick zero-in on the ideal game for them. In addition, the schedule can show options on how to watch the game, including an up-sell to streaming services.
Second, the Schedule can augment, or even replace, elements of the News section. The Schedule section is good place to put game recaps, including summary statistics, box scores, game details, videos and photographs, for completed games.
A community outreach program is essential for teams trying to strengthen the fan relationship. The website is the best place to document the program, if a team is truly willing to commit the resources to its community program.
Community outreach initiatives can span the gamut, ranging from grassroots outreach, youth programs, sport camps, health and wellness, team foundation, education, non-profit fund raising, group tickets to non-profits and donations to non-profits.
Progression of community outreach activities can be updated the same way team activities are, using news articles, videos and photo galleries. If a team is truly committed, they can report on the quantified impact on the community, such as: total grant amounts, number of donated tickets, number of completed community projects, hours of youth program education, etc.
On-line team stores are a big plus, especially if your wear a common size and desire a popular item. It’s important that the Team Store be enticing, to lure the interested buyer who may not have a compelling reason to shop. One way to attract the attention of interested buyers is with models wearing the team attire having fun.
Once inside the store, items must be displayed in three dimensions (i.e., as if hanging on an invisible manikin). Items lying flat on a white background don’t present well.
Shopping the team store can be daunting given the choices available to the fans. Pre-program filters are essential to sort through the available items. Common shopping filters include: player’s jersey number, apparel type, man / women / junior, new arrivals and clearance.
And if you have one, give attention to the Team Store at your playing venue. Fans may need a gentle reminder that shopping while at the game is always an option.
There is a wide array of approaches to presenting the News.
Some teams treat news simply as public relations articles, with the game writeups and box scores found in the schedule. Other teams provide extensive game coverage, including pre-game notes, post-game articles, box scores, game stats, video highlights of the game and key players, post-game interviews and a photo gallery of the game.
Regardless of the approach taken, the key is to keep the presentation simple, easy to navigate and organized. It is a good idea to curate the content, providing editor’s pick, trending topics, and pre-programed filter buttons. This is especially true of the video content. Be certain to label each video and photo-gallery with opponents played and the date of the game.
Many teams like to present photo-galleries one picture at a time, with a filmstrip to the bottom or side showing the upcoming picture. This presentation makes it difficult to scroll through game images, which often numbers several dozens. A better way is to display all photographs in a medium-sized grid. Individual photos can be enlarged by clicking. A nice treat for the fans is to allow the photos to be downloaded.
It usually a good idea to make news articles, videos and photo galleries accessible from the home page and the navigation bar.
Fan & Game Night
Sports are nothing without the fans at the game. If there were any cause to go overboard on a website it would be for the Fan and the Game Night pages.
The fan’s game night experience begins long before the game. The aim is to help the fan select the best experience and make ticket buying easy. Fans can select the game based on promotional giveaways, theme nights and game night features. They can select their seats based on a 3D tour of the arena and a 3D seating viewer, and can choose special fan experience packages (e.g., rally line, pre-game warmups). Tickets can be purchased on the team’s mobile application, that also allows tickets to be transferred, sold or upgraded using the same app.
Getting ready for the game the fan can learn what to expect by viewing on-line content on the arena and an A to Z guide for frequently asked questions. The fan can also see what entertainment to expect at the game. And for special occasions, fans can request special call-outs on the Jumbotron for anniversaries, birthdays and large groups.
Fans can use the mobile app to get to the game, find the best parking, or if they prefer, arrange for ride sharing. An interactive map on the mobile device guides them to the entrance closest to their seats. And once in their seats the app will direct the fan to the nearest restrooms, nursing stations or the food or beverage station of their preference. The fan can place their food and beverage order before leaving their seat and have it ready for pickup, or for certain sections of the arena, the order can be delivered to their seats. A Fan Assist bot, or live chat, can answer any questions the fan may have.
For the serious fan, the mobile app can also provide live game streaming, instant replays from multiple angles, play-by-play, real-time stats and real-time social media.
Nearly every league provides their teams with a template for their website. Don’t be locked in to what you think you can do with your web site. These templates are only starting points and can be highly customized.
The approach outlined above demands a commitment on behalf of the team. Don’t try to take on too much and over-extend limited resources. Teams should prioritize their needs in developing their website, improving those area in greatest potential benefit, both in terms of fan / team relationship and the goal of incremental revenue generation.
About the Author
Andy Nietupski founded TTL Sport Media in 2015 after a corporate career of business start-ups and turn-arounds. TTL Sports Media helps sports organizations optimize their business results using the latest digital sales and marketing techniques. TTL Sports Media publishes thousands of pieces of content annually and curates a catalog of more than 100,000 items. On behalf of its client interests, TTL Sports Media annually publishes nearly 200 articles and makes greater than 1000 social media posts.
Copyright 2020 Andy Nietupski and TTL Sports Media