If we can't bring you to the game, then we'll bring the game experience to you.
That attitude sums up the broad and innovative efforts being made this season by Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade to keep its fans united in the face of unprecedented impediments to actually hosting them at Turkish Airlines EuroLeague home games.
From filling the stands at Stark Arena during games with images of and messages from the fans to hosting them on video conferences with current and former players, Zvezda is creating a virtual community to match the huge and impassioned one that has always met in person at EuroLeague home games.
The Always with Crvena Zvezda initiative falls under the club's season-long campain, Together We STAND, both of which build on the historically strong bond the exists between the club and its legions of fans at home and abroad. Last season, Zvezda's marketing efforts won it the Silver Devotion Award that is given each season in a ranking of all 42 Euroleague Basketball clubs.
"Step by step, with good planning and execution, we established over a nine-year span a strong community of our supporters all over the whole world, through all social networks," Janko Stankovic, Crvena Zvezda Marketing Director, said. "We are very proud of the fact that we changed the way of thinking of our 'average' supporters, who are very important for the everyday life of our club, with every single action they take: buying season tickets, buying commercial content in the official fan store, and be part of our loyalty program."
That loyalty is more than evident by the fact that, even when they are not allowed to attend games, Zvezda fans have bought more than 1,000 season tickets this season on a contingency basis, depending on whether they will be able to eventually able to witness 10, 20 or 30 games from all the club's competition in person.
The project of their images and messages, sent by the fans themselves, on screens during the games also speaks to Zvezda's closeness to its supporters. All of the video messages received were shown directly to the players and technical staff to reinforce the bonds between them and the fans, and to convey the same support the team usually hears from the stands. At least 40% of the season-ticket buyers participated in the message-sending push before Zvezda recently played at home against Real Madrid.
Earlier this month, Zvezda started a new Viber community, complete with branded stickers. Coming next are live video conferences between players and fans on Instagram and Facebook. And in the works is a new podcast including former players and influencers discussing everything of importance to the Zvezda fan base.
"The situation is difficult on a global level, but these are the circumstances when each of us must do our best," Stankovic said. "In the most difficult circumstances, hard work and creativity can bring an advantage."