NBC Fan Fests forge deeper connections with US soccer fans

Photo credit: NBC Sports Group.

For English-language soccer fans in the United States, no league has done a better job in connecting with supporters throughout the country than the Premier League courtesy of NBC Sports. So far this season, NBC Sports has already launched two Premier League fan festivals. And the third one, to be held in Boston this weekend, will be the broadcaster’s most ambitious one yet.

Staged over two days instead of the one-day events that we’re accustomed to, the Boston Fan Fest will be next door to an iconic venue that will be familiar to Americans for many different reasons.

“For us to utilize Fenway as a backdrop and as part of the broadcasts outside is something that is very special and should be very exciting for viewers both there and at home,” said NBC Sports Director of Consumer Engagement Dan Palla, who spoke by phone to World Soccer Talk.

The advantage of having a two-day event instead of a single day for the Fan Fest is that the broadcaster and clubs can reach more fans, said Palla. “More clubs and fans will be able to participate. And that’s a big part of it. We’re excited because Saturday is going to lay the framework, and it’ll be a big day in its own right. But it will all continue to build towards the Sunday match of Liverpool-Tottenham.”

That connection to Liverpool Football Club is key, but it’s just one part of a huge weekend.

“It isn’t necessarily the reason we’re in Boston, but it feels like a very relevant story that we really want to make,” explained Palla. “Working very closely with the Liverpool folks and Fenway Sports Group – just like we work with every single club – we’re very excited. That’s a very relevant story especially they’re in the midst of a title race and to have an American ownership group being across the street.”

The experience of a Premier League Fan Fest can be enjoyed by both the attendees and viewers at home.

“The thing that’s most important is that we want everybody who comes in to this event [via TV or in person] to feel a part of it,” said Palla. “Whether you’re watching at home and submit a photo of you watching with your dog or your family or your friends in the bar, the idea is that these days are for the fans. They’re for the folks to be appreciated, and to realize that they are one of many.

“We want to acknowledge the people that come [to watch the Premier League on NBC Sports] every single weekend. And especially now that we’re entering a title race and a really important part off the season, this is the best time to celebrate being a Premier League fan.”

Photo credit: NBC Sports Group.

Palla discussed where the idea of the Premier League Fan Fests came from in the United States.

“It started in a NBC Sports marketing brainstorm going into last season as we thought about interesting new ways to really set out to showcase the Premier League scene that already exists here in the States,” Palla explained. “I lived in New York City for a number of years up until recently, and to get to know the [Premier League] and fans, I would go to all of the different supporter bars and clubs, and have a drink, so I could get to see it first hand. And I was always shocked about how much more the [Premier League] was able to draw people in, and that’s part of what I fell in love with getting to see the clubs and the culture.

“It’s a great scene but it’s all done earlier in the morning. It’s usually done in dark pubs or basements or people’s houses. And this was the opportunity to take it out into the light, and to really display it not only in a major city around a big weekend but also on broadcast television so that everybody who does watch is rewarded because they’re part of this bigger community.”

Another goal of the Premier League Fan Fest is to make a deeper connection with soccer fans.

“Furthering loyalty is a very big part of what we want to do. We want to welcome you back every single Premier League Morning to watch with this and not to come to just one game. But to also take in many matches and continue to come week after week.”

This weekend’s fan festival will span five match windows (three on Saturday, two on Sunday) and will feature a soccer skills challenge, the Premier League trophy, club mascots, special guests, and more. The broadcast begins on Saturday on NBCSN at 7:30am ET.

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