Social Media Buzz at the Start of the Season

Our beloved game is finally back and social media platforms have been buzzing with opening day excitement.

Here’s what caught our social media attention at NineteenEightyFour a couple of weeks into the new season.

Social media interaction throughout the professional game increased in line with the start of the new season.

Facebook saw a 15% increase in club mentions and a 90,000 upsurge in number of club ‘check-ins’. And the frenzy was felt across the pond. Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing reported that the English Premier League had the second most mentions on Twitter for its first weekend, topped only by the NFL.

Premier League

The Social Premier League remains unchanged with the exception of Cardiff City’s commendable six place hike up the Facebook league.

Cardiff City has really upped its social media ante, boosting Facebook likes by 193% after gaining 64,000 likes in a single day on launch of a pre-season video diary. And if that wasn’t enough it went way ahead of rival clubs in terms of Twitter growth – increasing followers by 39% for the period. All of which contributed to NineteenEightyFour awarding Cardiff City ‘July Social Media Champions’ in the August edition of FC Business magazine.

Also worthy of a mention is Manchester United’s 93% Twitter follower increase reflecting its recent move to Twitter, but only bumping it one place up the Social Media League.

And Fulham FC removed the address from their Facebook page, which means users can no longer ‘Check in’ to Craven Cottage… which seems a shame to us!

 1_PL_Facebook 2_PL_Twitter

Championship

In the championship Yeovil Town’s Facebook likes increased 44% having launched a ‘Fan-Tastic’ Facebook app. And if you haven’t heard already, Yeovil Town’s signing announcement stunt in the style of the royal baby turned out to be a viral hit! Of course, they are still new to the Championship and so their ‘Likes’ are still relatively low, but they are certainly making up for a lack of quantity with great quality.

Leicester City’s Facebook Likes were up a staggering 177% causing them to move 8 places up the Facebook Championship League. Whilst Doncaster Rover’s Twitter followers surged 155%, resulting in a mighty ten place leap up the league to steal the number four place.

A surprise was to be found in the drop in the number of check-ins at Sheffield Wednesday. And we think this may be a result of holding five of their six pre-season friendlies at away grounds.

3_CH_Facebook 4_CH_Twitter

League 1

League 1 Walsall FC proved fan-interaction matters after its Twitter followers shot up 192% once it started tweeting and retweeting fans.

Also, Preston North End has been slowly growing their newly launched Facebook page at a higher than average 25% growth rate.

However, neither were quite enough to make any difference to their League 1 Social Media table positions.

5_L1_Facebook 6_L1_Twitter

League 2

As we move down the leagues the social media buzz dies down a little. However, Burton Albion’s ‘fan-forum’ approach to their Facebook presence provides a novel idea, and we’ll be watching the effectiveness of this with interest.

7_L2_Facebook 8_L2_Twitter

* Figures correct 23/08/13

Emily Barker (@1984_emily) is Social Media Executive at NineteenEightyFour (nineteeneightyfour.co), a digital business. NineteenEightyFour consult, develop and deliver digital solutions for brands in sport and entertainment.

Pizza, Beer, Sport and Nudity in Leeds

#leedssportlunch

The vibrant digital community in Leeds met on Wednesday 21st August at the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds to celebrate the success of local digital businesses in the sports industry. 

Goal.com and Puma’s digital agency, First10 joined hosts Opta Sports to regale their Leeds-based stories to the gathered crowd. Leeds is one of a number of growing digital hubs outside of London, alongside Manchester and Newcastle. And great sport digital businesses seem to be flocking to Leeds at the moment.

As a sweetener, free alcoholic beverages and pizza were thrown into the equation. But unexpected visual-stimulation in the form of a gallery full of naked men and women, as well as the unusual sight of easy-over fried eggs adorning the pizza were the conversation pieces before the main event kicked off.

Indeed, it would have been easy for a less hardened crowd to be distracted by the presence of such a large collection of huge, fully nude photographs. Fortunately, for a digital literate crowd lurid nudity can be an anticipated quirk of some mis-typed search terms (all in the name of research, of course). And so gladly the stiff British upper-lip prevailed and the presentations were given the crowds full attention.

 

Getting to know @optajoe

Simon Banoub, Director of Marketing for Opta Sports, kicked off proceedings, with an insight into what Opta have learned from running their highly successful fan stat Twitter account @optajoe.

Opta is a purely B2B statistics business, and so using a B2C communication mechanism to help growth appears to be unintuitive on the surface. However, it has proved to be a master-stroke and undoubtedly played a part in the gaining of new high profile contracts for the likes of Sky, and also in the valuation of the business in its acquisition by the Perform Group in July.

Simon gave his opinion on what makes a great Twitter feed, based on the success of OptaJoe. This included sound advice such as: ensure your communications have authenticity and consistency; identify and recruit users who can help you amplify your message; focus on the most relevant platforms for you; and understand how you add value to the conversation – why would people want to listen to you? Above all, be human. Twitter is a very much a broadcast medium that feels individual to each user, so act human in their presence.

 

The biggest football website in the world…

Next up, Sam Brown from Goal.com took us through a very Leeds based success story. Perform property Goal.com is the worlds largest football website, and one of the largest news based websites in the world. They are present in 36 different languages and cover over 200 countries.

Sam took us through the rebirth of Goal.com, who have been re-imagined by Perform since purchasing the platform in 2011. Previously know for poor quality content, it is now a trusted source of information with knowledgeable reporters on the ground in every major footballing nation.

From a rebrand, through website redesign, content strategy and PR, Goal.com has gone through a complete transformation. It’s currently in the middle of what it believes to be the biggest search repatriation in the world, making sure that local users receive local content. Most recently Goal.com has raised its profile through feature content pieces, including an interview with Lionel Messi for its Goal50 award. The interview made international headlines as Lionel Messi opened up about his feelings about the departing Barcelona manager, Tito Vilanova.

 

Managing Joey Barton

Finally, Danyl Bosomworth of First10 gave the attendees an insight into the world of maverick footballer Joey Barton’s online success.

First10 started working with Joey through their contacts at Puma, and have become his digital strategists and unofficial marketing sounding board along the way. Joey engaged then as he ‘wanted to make money out of online’ without knowing how he would do it. Since then, First10 have put in place the strategic frameworks for Joey to exploit with his sheer force of personality.

From identifying the positioning for ‘brand’ Joey, through to creating a style for that identity, content creation and social guidelines, the team at First10 attempt to put a structure around Joey Barton. They recognized early on Joey’s subversive nature, and structured an ‘Outlaw’ positioning that they new Joey could exploit fully.

They readily acknowledge that the success is purely through the way Joey manages himself and Barton’s Machiavellian personality. However, the platform that First10 have built around Barton undoubtedly gives his presence a clear focus, and from holding editorial conference calls to managing the fall-out of Barton’s mischievousness, First10 have given Barton the tools to turn himself into a part of popular footballing culture.

But First10 have channeled that and created a platform for Joey to stand on and reach fans, as well as measuring that impact of his communications (or grenades as Joey calls them).

A fascinating look at some of the success sport digital success stories drew to a close with Opta handling out GIANT wall charts and a little more digital chat before heading back to the daily grind. With innovative talent hubs for digital like Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle springing up, brands are finding they can get better ideas and great a value for money as outside of London.

 

Aaron Syed Jaffery (@aaronjaffery) is Managing Partner of digital, mobile and social sponsorship activation consultancy NineteenEightyFour (nineteeneightyfour.co)

New Football Season Challenges Around Ticketing

The new football season has kicked off with a number of associated sport business stories about the problems caused when (some) clubs start selling tickets for their first matches.

Concerns about the robustness of their ticketing systems are right up there now for those clubs. The topic of fan engagement is always at the top of our customers’ minds and they continue to tell us that if supporters can’t buy the tickets they want, when they want them, to the right game and in the right seats, the whole fan experience starts to fall apart.

The premise of any ticketing solution has got to be its ability to provide a great fan experience when buying a ticketing – especially meeting peak demand for ticket sales. The core data engine needs to be able to crunch all those transactions, whatever the requirements, offering reliability and robustness so that fans get a fast, reliable and easy experience when purchasing.  Fundamentally, a ticketing system has got to perform when it counts most.

We’ve already had some high profile and high demand projects for the new season. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) recently sold its allocation of 20,000 tickets for the forthcoming match between Scotland and England at Wembley, taking place one week today on the 14th August. As the oldest international fixture, the SFA promptly sold its allocation.

At Liverpool’s recent summer sale, our TALENT platform handled the 90,000 online ticketing transactions within days. One of the ticketing team gave us this feedback:.

“Ensuring our fans get a great experience when buying tickets makes TALENT a critical service for us.  The Advanced Ticketing team’s strong service ethic has regularly proven that any problems get sorted quickly and we avoid downtime for our fans. When you consider our unique summer sales when we can sell more than 90,000 tickets during a short period, this has to operate well and the team always works closely with us to make sure this is a success,” said a spokesperson from the Ticketing Strategy Team, Liverpool Football Club.

Of course, it doesn’t pay for any ticketing company to be complacent. The mission-critical nature of ticketing platforms rely on robust technology which, given the nature of technology, means there’s always a danger that something can go wrong. It’s vital that clubs not only invest in the right systems but also in the right ticketing partner that can demonstrate proven customer confidence around its support service. So when things go wrong, as they do, they get sorted, quickly.

No one gets it right all the time, but our investment in support services has certainly paid off in terms of resolving any issues. We’re very proud of our recent NPS customer score of 68 and the feedback we’ve received from customers (read more here).

So as the season continues, I believe the peace of mind that TALENT offers when it comes to ticketing demands will continue to count.

Mark Dewell, MD

Advanced Ticketing - http://www.iristicketing.co.uk/

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Place Your Bets on Football’s New Paymasters

For some, it will be a bitter pill to swallow or like a really dirty trench coat to wear during a downpour.

But the truth is British football would be on its knees without money from the betting industry and the sums they spend on the sport are only going to get bigger.

It seems the whole sport in the UK is becoming ever-reliant on investment from bookies, whether it be the newly-sponsored SkyBet Football League or Paddy Power’s “maverick” attempt at buying Farnborough Football team, forcing all the players to change their names to Messi, Pele etc.

It is, perhaps, that grubby sort of publicity that makes people worry about the gaming industry as a whole having such a sway on football.

And, at a time when the sport is trying to become more family- friendly, is it really wise to have a sector that is squarely targeted at over 18s as its main paymaster?

But there are some compelling arguments why betting companies should be allowed to invest more in a sport it makes a lot of money out of.

Before I list them -let me give you a case study.

Ask anyone involved in the development of horse racing in the past 20 years and they will tell you that their sport has become a far better experience because of betting money.

Courses have been spruced up, more money has gone into animal welfare and it has become a far more family-friendly sport to watch. Less old men in trench coats, more young families in wax jackets.

That’s where football continually wants to be. Well, definitely minus the wax jackets, but it wants to be a sport where facilities improve and all types of society turn up to a game, from hardcore fans to new families.

But, the compelling arguments for betting and football to be more aligned are not just restricted to more cash in the pot.

With more and more money being wagered on football every season, it is imperative the two industries see themselves not as a necessary evil, but allies in ensuring the money that is bet on the sport is bet fairly and that gambling corruption is halted as much as possible.

That can only happen if those in the sport who are snobbish about betting   Put those feelings to one side and support the growth in money from betting companies.

Finally, let me leave you with one thought about how betting money arrives in the sport.

One of the reasons horse racing has improved its offering in the past two decades is because the money they have received from the industry has come from a Betting Levy imposed on bookies by the taxman.

Now, several offshore bookies are refusing to pay this tax.

But it does raise the question whether the financial relationship between bookmakers and football should be more formalised?

A tax? Maybe not. But how many betting bucks are making it down to the grassroots game (save for the Farnborough stunt pulled by Paddy Power?) Do small football teams have to have a deed poll lawyer on speed dial to benefit from this new investment?

by Marc Webber

Twitter @marcwebber