Fan Engagement on the Rise at DRFC

During the past 12 months, Doncaster Rovers have been working closely with Mark Bradley, founder of The Fan Experience Company.


In his latest #InRoversWeTrust interview with Club CEO, Gavin Baldwin, Head of Marketing, Shaun Lockwood and Viking Supporters Co-operative Secretary, Martin O’Hara, Mark details the work undertaken in the past year and the most recent survey results.

Just over 12 months ago, in the wake of relegation to the third tier of English football, Rovers took the first tentative steps towards a supporter-focused future.

Prompted by the results of the Club’s first ever supporter experience survey, which highlighted a growing sense of disillusionment, John Ryan, the Club and Martin O’Hara from the VSC established a dialogue with supporters, with the aim of re-discovering the club’s identity and using this to drive a new, more authentic version of fan engagement.

#InRoversWeTrust was born in May 2012 and now, 12 months later, with Rovers’ the subject of a Serie B presentation in Milan, a case study at a major Football League conference and the ‘cover story’ for football’s leading industry magazine, the results of our fourth fan engagement survey provide remarkable evidence of the club’s progress off the pitch.

‘Just a Pub Team Having a Laugh’

‘It was a simple notion’ says Martin O’Hara, ‘but one that’s always seemed to elude football clubs. If the club and its supporters share a view of what the Club represents and what its values are, then by designing all of its activities to reflect this, that sense of engagement should return.’

The identity that emerged was one that all Rovers fans would recognise: just a pub team having a laugh – a club that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with a history of overcoming enormous odds and always remaining grounded.

It’s been this identity – and a new tendency to ask the question ‘what would Donny do?’– that has defined this period of re-engagement on and off the pitch: from 8 year old Mac Wilson’s formal interview for the vacant manager’s post (it’s not known if he threw his hat into the ring with Paul Dickov) to Groundsman Andy Thompson being awarded Man of the Match for his snow clearing efforts in February.

‘Feeling Valued’

No club, to our knowledge, has ever set out to understand just what the various elements are that affect a fan’s feeling for his or her club at any given moment. So, with this in mind, the Club began asking fans, via regular surveys, how valued fans felt and what were the factors influencing their answers? To reflect the standard approach taken in the wider services sector, we also asked how strongly our fans would recommend match day at the Keepmoat Stadium to friends and family.

As the graph below shows, the results have been excellent, with feelings of value rising by nearly 50% over the course of a year, while recommendation scores (perhaps insulated by Rovers’ supporters’ natural desire to promote their club) also rising steadily.

Figure 1: Doncaster Rovers Supporters: Feeling Valued / Recommendation (2013 / 2014)








These results don’t just indicate that fans feel happier about the club, but they also give us an insight into exactly why.

Back in August 2012, the first most common factors influencing sentiment were the securing of a new lease on the Keepmoat Stadium, the arrival of Gavin Baldwin as new CEO and the feeling that fans now had a voice and could influence decision making at the Club.  To many, the club’s recent demotion may have explained the absence of any ‘on the pitch’ factors at this point.

As Rovers cemented first position (through a remarkable run of away results) and cemented first position in the League, one would have expected ‘on the pitch’ factors to dominate subsequent surveys. Remarkably however, even after the last day drama at Griffin Park, of the top 5 most common reasons for increasing feelings of engagement, only one (the team’s performance) related to ‘on the pitch’ with those above being joined by positive attitude from the club & staff towards supporters.

‘We believe this is a first in football’ says Gavin Baldwin. ‘Being able to track how fans feel about the club and understand what’s behind their feelings gives us a head start when it comes to doing the right thing. Many of the improvements we’ve worked on with Martin and other supporters have directly come about as a result of these insights.’

The Improvements Continue

And the improvements are many. Shaun Lockwood explains that ‘there probably hasn’t been a single area of operations that hasn’t benefitted from fan input. From marketing the club to match day entertainment, from travel to ticketing, there’s a freshness around the club and a feeling that we’re being true to our values.’

Martin O’Hara was present on the day the Belle Vue Bar was christened and it wasn’t long before people were raising a glass of 1879 to it either. ‘1879 outsells our other beers by four to one, right now’ adds Shaun Lockwood. ‘It’s another example of the result of the club listening to fans and trusting their judgement.’

Rovers’ once again won a Family Excellence Award in 2013, one of only 8 clubs to win the award in every year since the scheme was founded in 2007. Regularly sold out, the Family Zone boasts Nintendo Wii stations, face painting and Donny Dog appearance with kids getting the opportunity to do some ‘shirt shaking’, to form a guard of honour, to take penalties on the pitch and to form a ‘high five’ line.

Magic Moments

Having such detailed insights into what the club means to supporters has augured in a new era of ‘random acts of kindness’ at the Club. ‘Sometimes’ Shaun Lockwood explains ‘people who work in football forget they’re stepping on holy ground. Things that are sacred to supporters are often not given a second glance by people in the Club. We wanted to put that right.’

One of the club’s favourite pieces of correspondence in 2013 was from an away fan who, together with his children, was invited to watch his team warm up from the comfort of the dug out. ‘Unforgettable’ was his comment, while those Rovers fans who received a ‘thank you’ call from a first team player, moonlighting in the ticket office, won’t forget the experience in a while.

May 2013: Maintaining Momentum

With Rovers promoted, a sense of pride and anticipation has returned, but the results of the latest survey confirm, once again, that this is largely down to the engagement work undertaken by the #InRoversWeTrust team.

Now bolstered by the addition of two Supporter Liaison Officers Lee Croft and Mark Hughesman – genuine supporters who will ensure that the pace of change is kept up and the voice of the fan continues to drive improvements – the Club is looking to extend the ‘magic’ in the Championship.

The latest survey indicates rising contentment, but also highlights where the club still has work to do. ‘We may have taken a lease on the stadium, but we still have work to do to make it recognisably Rovers’ says Gavin Baldwin ‘while we know that elements of the refreshments and retail service could be improved. That’s why the latest survey asked fans to suggest products they’d like to see on sale.’

‘We also know that we could do even more to promote the Club and, especially, the improvements made. We think an Open Day could work well, so we’ve used the latest survey to ask fans what they’d like to see us do at such an event.’

Gavin Baldwin promises the club won’t rest on its laurels: ‘we can’t afford to be complacent or to assume that being in the Championship will suddenly become the only focus of fans. It’s right that we’ve created rising expectations and it’s important that fans continue to challenge me and my team.’

But the last word goes to the supporter: ‘The fans feel valued and there is a sense of unity within the club again. This has to continue next season whether we are 1st or 24th.’

With Rovers’ fifth #InRoversWeTrust survey scheduled for later in the summer, fans can be confident that the Pub Team will continue to have a laugh.

Courtesy of Doncaster Rovers and Mark Bradley, Fan Experience Company.

Goodform CRM Summit

The future? It’s all in the data…

Goodform held their annual CRM Summit at IBM’s swanky South Bank abode on Monday, attracting an international cast of speakers and delegates who were determine to pick their way through one of the most complex challenges facing sport marketers  today – their data and what to do with it.


An early start from fcbusiness HQ was needed to get to London in time for the 9.30am start – missing breakfast is not something that is done without good reason in these parts!

But, 4 hours from setting off we made it their in time to see Goodform MD Alison Dalrymple pay homage to her late husband, ex-cricketer and sports-CRM visionary Stuart, and welcoming us all to the 2013 edition of this much-anticipated event.

From the off the theme was clear, with a trailer from the film MoneyBall setting the agenda. This year it would be about data, data and more data.

Refreshingly, however, Goodform had invited case-studies from sports businesses at various points in their data-journey. From the impressive and infallible brand-strategy of Leicester Tigers RFC, through to the open and honest Silverstone, who knew their challenges and were just on the start of their strategic endeavours to be known for more than just Formula1.

Iterate, iterate and iterate.

british cyclingThe keynotes were kicked off by Terry Greenwood of British Cycling. Terry’s presentation was the perfect start to the session, with his compelling story of how the National Governing Body of Britain’s most successful Olympic sport had participation on-par with elite performance in its objectives.

Very honestly, he spoke of how elite sport performance was a pre-requisite of their success off-the-track. However, the ability for British Cycling to capitalise on the speed of Sir Chris Hoy, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny et al should not be overlooked. Indeed, it appeared that the British Cycling ethos of small incremental improvements in elite performance is a mantra followed throughout the organisation.

On the track, it was tales of hot-pants to keep those impressive thighs warm pre-race and make up those precious tenths of seconds that kept the nation enraptured. Off the track, the weekly 11am meeting in the canteen of the Manchester Velodrome might be slightly less glamorous than Messrs Hoy and Pendleton, but the small changes that these meetings bring about to the purchase funnel will be remembered by all that attended.

Personalised Dynamic Content prove its worth to the MLS

Following an insightful presentation by IBM’s JT Torro on IBM’s Social Media Analytics platform and a small break, Charlie Shin, from the MLS took the podium for an eagerly awaited insight into the MLS’s CRM strategy.

Shin opened with an introduction video to the MLS, and then plotted their strategic approach to fan-engagement, centering on 3 tenets: Acquisition; Engagement; and Monetisation. At each point along the customer journey the MLS has tactical plan to engage and move the fan from one stage to the next, so they always know the next communications action.

mlsShin went at great lengths to stress the difference that the MLS governance-structure has to other sports, with a huge centralised function available to all franchisees, thanks to an innovative ownership model. This model ensures both clubs and league pull-together in a single direction for the betterment and improvement of the sport. It’s not all roses, and Shin claims there have been many hurdles to get to where they are now, but there is an understanding that to give the MLS the best chance of surviving in a competitive and unforgiving American market, centralisation is key.

From Star Wars acquisition campaigns with 3rd parties to dynamic, personalised communications, Shin took the audience through the full-cycle of the MLS’s centralised CRM campaign, stopping short of revenue-generation as this is the responsibility of the franchisees. However, the MLS do take care of the data-warehousing and data-acquisition, making all data available on a local level to enable franchisee’s to leverage their fan-base.

Shin summed up with a final thought, bourne out of personal experience. CRM is a journey – it won’t create overnight results, but in the long-term it will benefit the business.

Brand Vision and CRM Focus. A winning combination.

Following from this was Michael Nicholson from IBM, who did a great job of showing why being a geek is cool nowadays by profiling the data insights that IBM produced in partnership with the RFU to breakdown the barriers to understanding Rugby.

RFUFollowing lunch we continued on the Rugby theme, with Chris Rose, Head of Brand at Leicester Tigers RFC showing the audience a glimpse of the ethos that has made the Tigers one of the Top 100 Social Media brands in the UK.

The topic in question may have been data and CRM, but the Tigers ethos went much further than this, embracing a fully-fledged brand strategy and using clever data opportunities throughout to increase the fans feeling of worth.

It’s was a fantastic case study on what can be achieved with a sensible approach to the time-honoured marketing strategic framework of Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning.

We know where we want to be… but we’re not there yet.

Adrian Burke from Silverstone was up next, who offered a polar opposite view to the success of the Tigers. Silverstone is going through an overhaul of late, with a desire to move away from sole reliance on Formula1 and offer a greater range of products and services based around the iconic track.

Silverstone logoSilverstone has evolved over the years, attempted to add to its product offering and added technological infrastructure to support this. The problem is, all of it has been piece-meal, and none of the legacy systems interact with each other.

Silverstone has started to make progress in diversifying, with new workshops for Ducatti and Porsche, offering driving experienced, corporate hospitality, weddings, concerts and a range of other venue-based products. However, they are struggling to impose their new strategic vision on legacy technology and at the moment are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

Silverstone are at the start of their CRM journey, scoping out the platform they need to make all of their business flow through a single platform – ensuring a clear and consistent customer journey no matter who is coming to them for what product. It is likely a lot of other well-known brands find themselves in a similar position today too.

Galatasaray strive for Greatness

galatasarayFollowing a break for interactive workshops, the day was capped with another international perspective, this time from Ozgur Gundogen from GalatasaraySK.

The first thing that strikes you about Gundogen’s presentation is the pure scale of the fan-engagement numbers at GalatasaraySK. Their new Turk Telecom Arena has a capacity of 52,652 and has enabled the club to grow revenues from $18m to $62m in a single season. The club has 8.2million Facebook fans, and a website membership of over 500,000.

Galatasary consider their fans as a community – almost like a family. And they aim to embed themselves in their everyday life accordingly. Galatasaray have in place programmes to keep fans engaged during breakfast, work, lunch and in the evenings through integrated communications, their own TV channel and affinity partners.

However, leveraging their massive data is still a problem that they are grappling with. A new ticketing system from Iris Talent has only recently been installed, and their desire is for all fans to buy online and then pick-up tickets from their local club-shop. They have a desire to get under the skin of their community and offer them a fantastic experience – if they are willing to part with their data.

Alas, the real story of Galatasaray is a club with very real ambitions but very real challenges. Their lack of an integrated CRM platform and being short on manpower is holding them back. Not a position they wish to be in, as they understand that on-pitch success cannot be turned into commercial sustainability without having the right strategy, partners and team in place to deliver their goals. But, in meeting Ozgur, not many came away with the feeling that this would be the status-quo for too much longer.

Data leads the agenda

You get the feeling that the same questions were on everyone’s lips at the start of the day. We’ve got all this data, we know we should be doing something with it, but we’re not quite sure what… yet. And the great thing about the keynotes was that not only did they contain actionable insights for those returning to their desks on Tuesday morning, but also encouragement for those who hadn’t started getting their teeth into the subject yet.

Everyone is at different stages of their data journey, and there is no one-size fits all approach. Every NGB, club and brand has their own nuances in data, their own objectives, and their own vision. But there’s never a bad time to start that journey; and even with the most complex and evolved campaign in the world, CRM is a journey with no end – just constant cycles of improvements and enhancements.

Aaron Syed Jaffery



With German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund receiving plaudits on the field for their achievement in reaching this month’s UEFA Champions League Final, Green 4 Solutions’ Marketing Manager, Tom Bettles, writes about their off-field success, and offers a thoughtful view on how English football can put the supporter at the forefront of the game…

It’s been fascinating to see the fundamental differences between English sport and that of other countries brought firmly to our attention this week. Of course, the root of these discussions were sparked by two German clubs rising to the top of Europe with real style.

A packed stadium at Borussia Dortmund.

A packed stadium at Borussia Dortmund.

A one off? Or are there underlying reasons for such success? Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich’s president, talking about ticket prices in Germany put it in a nut shell when he said: “We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income, but what’s £2m to us? In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for a fan. We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”

In essence, he’s talking about a long term relationship where the fans are the focus, not a quick buck in the short term. And can you really argue with that? We’re seeing huge success with clubs taking this sort of approach, in particular in North America, but there are some great examples of UK clubs doing this too. It’s no coincidence that they have packed out stadiums full of highly engaged fans. The success is based around a fan-centred approach, which is now being taken to the next level by rewarding fans for their loyalty and encouraging them to increase their additional spend as a result. It’s a win-win situation and has already shown positive results in its infancy.

Philadelphia Union, a Major League Soccer club, have increased match day spend by $3 per head, per game, from the first season of offering points for supporter interactions. Seattle Sounders began life in the MLS only 5 years ago and they now have over 32000 passionate season ticket holders – that’s more than many Premier League Clubs.

Clubs in the US, Canada and now in the UK rely on technology to support such a loyalty programme, but don’t get me wrong, technology is not the driver, it’s there to activate the fan-focused strategies that these clubs have put in place. It is a long term vision, a club-wide ethos. Loyalty points give the fans a reward and incentivise them to engage more, and spend more. The club then benefits commercially in the short term, but more importantly, in the long term.

Is it all about the money?

Is it all about the money?

So is ticket pricing the real issue? Or is it the way we interact and give our fans a sense of involvement that is the skill we have not quite perfected? It certainly would be interesting to see a UK club slash the prices in a bid to do things more like ‘the Germans’, however, something even more beneficial is to offer rewards to fans for their commitment and speak to them about how they can earn even bigger and better rewards.

Ticket prices have a part to play, sure, but all signs for the road to success are pointing towards implementation of a strategy that focuses on the fans. Not just through what they say, but by looking at the data and building a picture based on how they behave.

For more information on Green 4 Solutions, please visit

Tom Bettles, Marketing Manager - Green 4 Solutions


Manchester United Lead Social Media League Table

As we head into May, we take a quick look at where clubs stand in the Social Media League from the Premier League right through to League Two.

In the Premier League, Manchester United continue to dominate the social media league table despite there resistance to joining Twitter with over 33 million Facebook fans, over 14 million more than the cumulative reach of second place team, Chelsea.

The top four clubs’ (Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool)  global reach is reflected in their total reach, but most surprisingly Manchester City, widely regarded as pioneers in social media and digital activity, have some way to go to catch up trailing Liverpool’s total reach by over 7.5 million.

Premier League Social Media Table

Premier League Social Media Table

Norwich City posted the largest monthly growth in Facebook followers with an 8.1% increase whilst Wigan posted the largest growth in Twitter followers at 12.3% on the previous month.

All Premier League clubs enjoyed growth in both Twitter and Facebook followers with the average growth on Facebook standing at 4.15% and Twitter an impressive 8.03%.

The total reach for all 20 Premier League clubs stands at nearly 95 million, 85.7 million of which are on Facebook reflecting the popularity of the platform and the global reach of the league.

In the Championship we see far more modest figures on Twitter and Facebook with clubs averaging around 29,000 followers and likes on each platform.

Championship Social Media League Table

Championship Social Media League Table

Bolton lead the way with a cumulative reach of 107,798, closely followed by Nottingham Forest with 107,171. They are joined by Wolverhampton Wanderers on 101,340, and are the only three clubs with a reach of over 100,000 in this league.

In League One, Portsmouth lead the table with a total reach of 53,060, some way ahead of second place Coventry City on 38,631. Three clubs, Tranmere, Shrewsbury and Crewe have less than 1000 Facebook followers whilst  it was difficult to find if Yeovil had an official account at all. Despite this, the average number of Facebook likes clubs in League One can expect to have stood at 8,138 with Twitter followers averaging 11,902.

League One Social Media Table

League One Social Media Table

League Two clubs posted healthy figures with the average total reach standing at 14,183. Capital One Cup finalists, Bradford City lead the way with 23,711 Facebook likes and 15,122 Twitter followers. Only one club (Burton Albion) had less than 1000 likes on Facebook, but it also proved difficult to find Dagenham & Redbridge and Torquay United’s official pages.

League Two Social Media Table

League Two Social Media Table

(Figures gathered 30th April)

Aaron Gourley

0191 441 4010