It’s all about fan loyalty…

Last week we found ourselves having a lively debate with the Football League, The Women’s FA and a selection of football clubs.

The overall theme of the day was the future of fan engagement and a range of topics were up for discussion – from attracting the next generation of supporters, the value of dynamic ticket pricing and looking at the role that technology and social media plays in creating loyalty with fans.

To gain a better insight into the motivations behind ticket purchase and its influence on the fan experience, we decided to commission some independent research with Sportswise, the research arm of leading sports agency Goodform.  With over 2,500 respondents to its Fan Panel research, we launched the results of the UK ‘State of the Nation Research’ at the event. To read the full press release on some of the key research findings visit our ticketing news site.

The research provided UK football clubs with a clear message, with the research revealing the two most important motivators when fans are buying a ticket are 1) securing the best deal and 2) securing their favourite seat.

More than 96% of respondents stated that cost was the most important factor when purchasing tickets

73% also welcomed details on deals and offers from venues in advance

72% of football fans stated the ability to choose their favourite seat was one of the most important considerations when purchasing their ticket

In addition to their favourite seat, fans always want to secure the best price with 97% saying they’d consider or take up early bird ticket offers to get this.

From my perspective, it reaffirmed our view of the importance of obsessing over every aspect of customer data. My question to football clubs attending on the day was exactly how much they know about who is sitting in each and every seat at their stadium at every match. I believe that the more information every club has about its fans, the more it can deliver a truly personalised fan experience that rewards loyalty with relevant discounts and offers.

The research created a forum from which we debated the issues of the day. It always strikes me how open and honest football clubs are willing to be with each other, wanting to share best practice and learnings.

Katie Holmes, Head of Ticketing at Leeds United Football Club, one of our customers, shared the club’s innovations in driving engagement with fans. She discussed their Grass Roots group ticketing scheme, a new initiative to encourage juniors from across the county to come to Elland Road. Ticket pricing strategy was at the heart of this to make it affordable for all to attend. Being part of the Grass Roots initiative gives juniors the opportunity to take advantage of reduced price tickets, with junior tickets from as little as £5, whilst earning cash back for their club or organisation. However, the spirit of the scheme was to ensure they actively participate in the matchday itself, so junior football teams parade around the pitch at half time, shake the giant shirt on the centre circle, the 1st team squad can be escorted onto the pitch and juniors have the chance to be the official ‘Guard of Honour’ as both teams enter the pitch.

Other clubs shared their experiences with dynamic pricing, and the benefit they saw in that model in the right situation, whilst others revealed insights into what worked – and what didn’t – when trying to meet the needs of families throughout the match day experience.

The event was held at St George’s Park, the FA’s National Football Centre in Burton-On-Trent, so we rounded off the event with a tour of the facilities, which were very impressive.  The service was excellent and we’ll certainly be making a trip back there again to hold other events.

Ironically, our research coincided with clubs responding to the Premier League’s ‘Away Fan Fund’ which put this fully on the media agenda. As a result, I’ll be talking about our research on BBC Radio Manchester’s Football Hour next Monday, 28th October, tune in to hear some more lively debate. Of course, there’s always the risk that I’ll be put on the bench.

Mark Dewell, MD

Advanced Ticketing

Who are the Social Media winners after the Deadline Day Frenzy?

With signings happening left, right and centre, social media conversation for September was through the roof – fans posted, tweeted, retweeted and engaged on possibly the single most busy social media day in the footballing calendar.

Gareth Bale’s £85.3million move to Real Madrid was confirmed on Twitter, and became the most talked about transfer with 8.4million mentions.

Club media teams ordered pizza and worked through the night to bring the latest developments to their eager fans – and as the anticipation built, Jim White got ever closer to an annual cardiac arrest.

In this month’s review of social media across the English leagues, we take a look at how transfer deadline day has impacted the social tables.

Premier League

The number of users talking about Arsenal on Facebook increased a huge 222% owed to the buzz surrounding the record breaking signing of Ozil. On twitter, Mesut Ozil received 4.3million mentions, and a sarcastic #IfOzilSignsForArsenaliWill was trending. Also, Stoke City experienced a similar Facebook talk increase at 210%, due to their signing of Marko Arnautovic.

Crystal Palace’s Facebook likes increased by a whopping 67%, and Hull City also saw exceptional Facebook like growth at 47%. Both of which can be attributed to them posting rich content more frequently.

On Twitter, Manchester United’s rapidly expanding fan base shows no sign of slowing down, with followers having increased a huge 91% – allowing United to overtake rival Manchester City in the Twitter Social Premier League for the first time.

And as brought to our attention by head of Twitter UK, Lewis Wiltshire, “For the first time in memory, @Arsenal are not the most-followed @premierleague club on Twitter. It’s now @chelseafc. “

Despite individual efforts, the Facebook Social Premier League table looks much the same as last month, with the top 10 at a standstill. Hull City is the only club to have moved more than one position up the league, progressing from 16th to 14th place.

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Championship

In the championship Burnley managed to more than double its Facebook fans, growing 156% in a single month! And experienced a monumental 967% increase in people talking about them on Facebook. A competition to win a signed program proved a particular hit with fans, getting nearly 800 Facebook shares. Burnley’s success has followed a great previous month, more than likely reflecting their top of the league position. And if it continues, Burley will soon be racing up the social championship league.

Leeds United also did well, growing its Facebook likes by 48%.

And Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers all experienced a Facebook talk increase of over 200%. With the appointment Derby’s new manager, Steve McLaren, undeniably boosting its figures.

However, the Twitter Social Championship remains steady, with Twitter follower increase for all clubs hovering around the average 8% mark.

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League 1

Crawley Town are the League 1 social champions this month with the number of people talking about them on Facebook having increased 913%.

Leyton Orient did well in terms of Facebook talk, with a 368% increase on last month, and also did better than average on Twitter, with a 17% follower increase. All of which could be attributed to its incredible start to the season, having won eight consecutive games.

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League 2

The figures for League 2 have remained stable, with Morecambe the only club making a considerable improvement on its previous social month, with a 35% Twitter follower increase.

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Aaron Syed Jaffery (@aaronjaffery) is Managing Partner of NineteenEightyFour (nineteeneightyfour.co), a digital consultancy for brands in sport and entertainment.

Fan Engagement and Family Friendly Clubs

What does owning customer data have to do with attracting the next generation of supporters to football?

I read an interesting article in the Guardian about the step-change in football clubs becoming more family-friendly, which has been tracked by the paper’s annual survey of clubs’ attitudes to families, which started in 2006 (you can read it here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/19/football-clubs-on-the-ball ).

There were some startling figures from last season:

  • 29% of Premier League supporters went to one or more matches accompanied by children
  • 13% of season-ticket holders are now juniors
  • Cardiff City‘s efforts have seen an increase in family season ticket holders from 459 four years ago to nearly 8,000 last season ( long before promotion to the Premier League was clinched)

I happen to know that many of these statistics were supplied by Andrea Brown, Customer Services Manager at the Football League. I was fortunate enough to see her speak at The Fan Engagement Forum back in May in Manchester, when she highlighted some additional figures which were equally impressive about sport engagement – cumulative match attendance in the Football League last season was over 16m, the highest attending league in UK sport. It’s probably worth pointing out that this is influenced by the fact that the league has 72 clubs and 1813 football league match days last season, but it’s still remarkable. Andrea talked about how clubs need to engage with families effectively to build the next generation of loyal supporters. Although price is a driving factor when families first make a decision to attend a match, coming back to the club is driven by their experience. Football clubs now need to create lifelong memories for their fans.

Clubs have had to become savvier to ensure supporters continue to attend matches. To drive participation, the process of retaining and attracting new loyal fans to the sport has emerged as one of the biggest areas of focus for clubs. Clubs are also now acutely aware of the fact that the support of the next generation of supporters cannot be taken for granted. As pointed out in the Guardian, new methods around flexible pricing, supporter consultation, family zones and match day entertainment have all played a key part here.

In looking at which are the savvier clubs in this whole area, there are two initiatives that really stand out for me – Cardiff City and Reading – the idea of going to Cardiff City as a kid, on your birthday, and the turnstile automatically knows it’s your special day so that you get a unique greeting, gift or treat is pure genius. And I love the idea of Reading’s cookie bags – having junior supporters design the bags is inspired, especially engaging by including young fans from the visiting club. The facts that these young fans experiencing their first away game get a match day programme signed by their team’s players demonstrates a special touch.

Let’s not be too sentimental here however; Cardiff’s increased revenue from additional family season ticket holders demonstrates the commercial viability of these innovations as well as the long-term benefit from engaging with that next generation of supporters. The Guardian’s survey flags clubs doing it well. There are still many clubs looking for help on fan engagement strategies and I remain convinced that delivering a tailored customer journey is fundamental in this process. This is where owning customer data comes in. Clubs need detailed and accurate data on their customer preferences to ensure they can engage in an intimate and relevant manner. It might not surprise you that in sport, the point of purchasing tickets provides one of the greatest opportunities to gain that insight into customer preferences – where they like to sit, regularity of attendance and with whom, and the type of tickets they purchase whether for family and friends etc, and by what medium they want to interact.

Put simply, if clubs want to engage with that next generation of fans, they need to know who to target with family promotions and loyalty rewards for example. We know from research carried out by the FA to identify key fan moments, that ticket buying was one of the key moments. Clubs recognise the opportunity to personalise their ticketing promotions and incentivise attendance with schemes around rewards, discounts, smartcards and loyalty schemes. Ticketing commerce platforms need to offer a high level of flexibility to do this, but it can certainly reap rewards when you want a packed stadium of supporters cheering on their team, regardless of the obvious commercial benefits.

The new version of TALENT Sport is to be launched later this season, where you will be able to see our new developments enabling clubs to profile and engage their fans to deliver a unique fan journey, based on their preferences, to help unlock the commercial value of clubs’ supporter data. For clubs wanting to engage that next generation of loyal supporters, ensuring you have control of this data is vital – it’s simply too valuable to let someone else own this.

In the meantime, congratulations to all those clubs who were recognised by the Guardian article for making great strides in fan engagement.

Mark Dewell, MD

Advanced Ticketing

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