From Grassroots to the Major Leagues

How FanSaves is building an innovative approach to fan engagement.

By Angela Kryhul

Photo: FanSaves

Remembering the winner of a live sports competition is easy, but can you recall the names of the event and team sponsors?

If you’re struggling to remember, you’re not alone. Ninety per cent of fans have trouble recalling the sponsors of their favourite sports teams, according to research by Canadian tech startup, FanSaves Inc. Part of the challenge is keeping fans engaged with team sponsors, especially during the off-season.

“When teams sell traditional sponsorships, they’re often limited to physical inventory around the rink or the stadium with dasher boards, wall signs, jersey patches, etc. Paper coupons are not very sustainable and they don’t track data. And even if a social media shout-out is seen by a million people, where’s your true conversion?” says Shannon Ferguson, FanSaves co-founder and CEO.

“Our goal is to offer teams [a place on the platform for] unlimited digital sponsors, and to tell sponsors how many fans walked through their doors, whether it’s their physical or online location.”

How is the FanSaves platform different from apps already used by many sports teams?
We’re not reinventing the wheel. Many teams at the major league level currently offer promotions from their sponsors. But they have nothing cohesive that brings the fans to one place to see and redeem all of their deals in the same way. Fans are forced to download multiple third-party apps and go through hoops.

Does the platform work for any sport or non-sport organization?
We started at the minor professional level and for the past six years have been proving it out with smaller communities. The major league level is our goal. We now have over 1,500 [sponsor partner] brands across North America, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Hilton and Ramada as well as mom and pops.

While we are hyper-focused on sports, we have tested and validated multiple other verticals, such as downtown business improvement areas, chambers of commerce, events and festivals, media and entertainment, and universities and colleges.

At the end of last year, we closed the Dinos Athletics Department at the University of Calgary. The university has a few sponsors onboard and the goal is to get their students using the app.

How can teams, events and sponsors get the most out of digital inventory?
My advice is to take the insights and run with them. Technology is only growing and continuing to evolve. It’s so important for organizations to stay ahead of the curve, even when it seems scary.

The pandemic forced a lot of sports teams and businesses to recognize that everything is going digital. Tickets are going digital, concessions are going digital. Why isn’t your sponsorship catching up?

Describe some of your key partnerships for 2024
Last summer, we did a pilot with the Chicago Street Race Weekend and this year we will partner with them again. NASCAR really worked with us so that we were able to assure local business owners that even though the city was closing off downtown for the event, we were going to drive new tra!ic through their doors. And that’s exactly what we did.

We’re also in talks with multiple major league teams in the NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL. We really believe this is our biggest year yet.

When they co-founded the FanSaves platform in 2017, Ferguson and chief operating officer Kris McCarthy saw a niche opportunity to help sport organizations, teams and their sponsors boost fan engagement year-round, while tracking insightful customer analytics such as demographics, purchasing behaviour and preferences.

Chicago Street Race Weekend: As part of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season, Chicago hosted the first-ever NASCAR Cup Series street race, featuring races in the downtown core, a festival and concerts. Event organizers partnered with FanSaves to create an online resource guide to connect attendees with information and deals offered by local restaurants, accommodations and attractions.

Published March 2024

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