You need to know your fans’ personalities if you’re going to successfully market to them: Edelman’s Anjuli Bedi

Sports marketers need to understand their fans’ personality types to properly mobilise and engage them, according to Anjuli Bedi, Edelman’s Singapore-based associate director, analytics and psychometric analysis.

Bedi, speaking at Mumbrella’s Sports Marketing Summit, said the success of sponsorships, brand deals, and internal marketing lies with understanding who your fans are and why they care about your team.

“The challenge remains: Who am I actually marketing to? Who are the sponsorships impacting? Are they actually resonating with my core fans?,” she asked rhetorically.

“And how am I going to know that if I don’t know who my fans actually are and why they’re engaging?”

The key to answering those questions is assigning your fans a personality type and understanding from there how it impacts upon the performance of their fandom.

“Why would an extrovert want to go to a game dressed in a particular costume? It’s an opportunity to socially engage with other fans. And that’s a core personality element that you’re then able to play on. But you have to identify that attribute first,” she explained.

“Or, let’s say in the case of neurotics, they might be so anxious about the outcome of the game that they don’t sleep the night before or they want to watch the game at home so they can stress out.”

To understand who a brands’ fans are, Edelman uses machine learning to analyse millions of Twitter posts, forums, and open text sources. Where fans congregate will depend on the sport itself and, of course, their personality type.

“We will scrape millions of different posts, use a training data set of about 5,000 posts, link them back to psychological attributes, and then once we have that training data, then we’ll actually train the rest of the model and the rest of those posts,” Bedi said.

“So then we actually have our distinct clusters where we are able to look at neat psychological attributes and fan personas based on the text data that we have collected.

“Once we have the personas, then we can use different machine learning techniques … and I’m actually going to predict the types of behaviours and affinities that one will have based on their personality. And again, personality is a very powerful predictor of behaviour.”

She explained that, in the context of the football World Cup, fan personas were developed: patriot, explorer, guardian, follower, connoisseur, and observer. The persona into which the bulk of a brand’s fans fall into will shape the brand experiences designed for them. So Nike, Bedi explained, would focus on releasing merchandise designed to inspire pride and collectiveness if it knew fans of a particular sport or club were primarily patriots.

Bedi also spoke about the fan journey Edelman relies upon, similar to a traditional customer journey, but specifically mapped out in the context of fandom. The standard journey involves five stages: discovery, exploration, consumption, enthusiast, and fan.

“The last two stages [enthusiast and fan] are perhaps most interesting,” said Bedi.

“So the first are the enthusiasts. These are typically known in traditional marketing conversations as your brand loyalists or your advocates. So these groups of audiences are advocates, both offline and online, so they’ll talk about, on social media, a particular team and why they were so awesome, or they’ll have the same conversation offline.

“And the last stage is fans. These are when consumers’ association with the brand becomes part of their identity. And they form experiences and content around the object of their fandom. And again, that is why they are so powerful. Because they activate those other stages.”

Bedi said the importance of knowing who your fans are (from a personality perspective) and where they are on the fan journey matters, because it has a “very big impact on the types of content that you release to these particular audience groups”.

“Once we actually know the types of motivations and personality attributes of our consumers, that helps us shape channel strategy, messaging, and our influencer strategy,” she said.

“Again, it can actually predict the types of influencers that will have a bigger impact on certain fan groups and fan personas.”


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