How clubs are responding to the ‘Omnichannel’ Fan

The topic of the ‘omnichannel’ fan – hungry for 24/7 content, on TV, on the web and increasingly, via mobile – continues to capture our attention. We took the opportunity, earlier this week, to have an animated debate with a range of football clubs about the subject.

In the inspiring setting of The Gherkin, we discussed the importance of the online relationship that clubs have with their fans; what makes a great online experience and how this helps to build loyalty, enhance a club’s brand and drive commercial opportunities. Everyone agreed with the view recounted from last month’s Leaders in Sport event – ignore digital channels at your peril and make sure you’re monetising them. But there was also a recognition that clubs were at different stages on the road towards enhancing the online journey for their fans.

We were fortunate to have Scott McLeod from Everton Football Club share his experiences and insights into the significant strides they’ve taken in making it simple for supporters to engage and purchase with the club online. This, he reported, is helping to change purchasing habits of existing fans whilst also enabling them to engage with new ones.  Online engagement is at the heart of Everton’s ongoing digital strategy, which has been spearheaded by the success of the official club app. This is exciting because the app provides fans with the opportunity to purchase tickets more quickly and easily than ever before, with our TALENT Sport commerce platform integrated within the native app. All this work by Everton has resulted in the club winning an award at the Football Business Awards (read more here) as well as being voted number one by the fans in the Premier League’s annual fan survey for ease of purchasing tickets online (read more here).

Kurt Pittman from Brentford Football Club also shared his experiences about encouraging fans to move online and the importance of using data to provide a personalised experience for supporters. In fact, the focus on delivering a customised, tailored journey was a major theme throughout the event. Everyone agreed that using data about the fan in the right way helps to deepen the intimacy of the relationship. Clubs can use previous purchasing behaviours and profile information to better understand fans’ preferences – this insight can then be used to create a better, more relevant experience but also to unlock the value of the individual supporter from a commercial perspective.

Prior to holding the event, we had debated the role that the retail industry plays in informing the sports organisations how to deliver a great online experience. Tina Spooner from IMRG – the online e-retail industry body – attended the event to provide this insight, looking at trends around shoppers in the retail space. She shared how game-changers for online shoppers have been mobile, personalisation and maximising international opportunities. It was interesting to hear how consumers have shifted from shopping online to find better value, to a situation where convenience has become the key motivation. It’s clear that retailers are working hard to keep up with customer demands as they embrace mobile and how they endeavour to make it as easy for shoppers as possible to have choice and convenience. Tina shared that recent research carried out by them shows how retailers are struggling to find the right balance between engaging with consumers in a personalised way but without over-stepping the line and making it feel too ‘spooky’.

This latter point sparked off great debate; the clubs around the table all agreed that, for sports fans, it just can’t get too personal. In fact, the feeling was that this becomes a badge of honour based on their support of the club; it demonstrates that the club knows exactly how deep their loyalty lies. The role of fan data and being able to use this data in the right way to profile fans and, subsequently, engage more effectively with them, was clear. Clubs shared several examples of this, such as targeted communications with tailored videos full of relevant sporting memories to the individual supporter which helped to increase season ticket sales. Tina acknowledged that most retail brands would die to have the level of engagement and loyalty that football fans offers.

There was also a reality check where clubs intimated that, on the whole, they simply do not have the same budget as retailers and, therefore, can’t always deliver exactly the same experience online. Choice and convenience are still at the forefront of their minds when delivering a great experience, and making sure that the basic benefits are in place is fundamental. For example, fans do expect to be able to purchase a ticket easily, quickly and seamlessly, from any device – and within as few clicks as possible.

Given the retail shopper and the football fan is – in many cases – the same person, there were conversations as to why the consumer is happy to purchase online yet the football fan is often steeped in tribal traditions. There was an acknowledgement that in some cases, driving fans online required a forced change in behaviour to encourage fans to purchase online.  However, there was agreement that you still need to make the experience as rewarding as possible; prioritising relevant content for particular audiences, so the customer journey is personalised and the ‘virtual store’ is polished and clean, as well as some of the basics outlined above.

For us, we’re more certain than ever that exploiting the value of fan data in the right way helps to enhance loyalty by delivering a satisfying customer experience. Enriched data means more personalisation and opportunity for increased yield, as well as delivering enhanced commercial value to sponsors. But it was also evident that the core technology commerce platform still needs to deliver the goods when a fan is purchasing online – a few of the words used to describe this was quick, simple, and efficient – fans don’t want big bottlenecks which disappoint and means clubs have to work very hard to draw fans back online.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking closer at how sports clubs are finding innovative ways to create compelling online experiences and, more importantly, using online data to develop the services of the future.

We’d like to hear from you; what are your biggest challenges when engaging fans online?

Mark Dewell

Managing Director - Advanced Ticketing


For all news and stories see our Advanced Ticketing news site or follow us on Twitter: @Adv_TALENTSport and @MarkDewellADV

Financial Fair Play in football has given marketing and data management a major boost

sa_blog_header_0 The FIFA World Cup is now a distant memory and we’re back to the domestic merry-go-round as we head towards the new season. Which players are your team signing? How much are they spending? How much are they allowed to spend?

FIFA’s legacy to the club game, Financial Fair Play (FFP) is shaping a new approach. FFP is a rule which prohibits clubs spending more than they earn. For some it’s an unnecessarily restrictive practice that only football could bestow upon itself, while for others it’s a justified, protective napkin placed in the lap of clubs who can’t feed themselves properly. Fans (naturally) don’t like it, teams are (predictably) wrestling with it, but for the marketers, I think it presents a tremendous opportunity.

The focus, of course, is on transfer budgets, player salaries and overall accountability, but has anyone stopped to consider how FFP will impact upon a club’s day-to-day diet of customer relationships and one-to-one marketing?

The demand that spending should be balanced by operational income means the link to data management is, for me, fairly obvious.

FFP drives the whole issue of income beyond the owner’s pocket and into regular revenue streams. If approached correctly, FFP is not restrictive, it’s a massive marketing opportunity.

The need to generate income is reflected in everything a data management company like Sports Alliance, does for its clients. Product and business development is a process which effectively ‘talks’ to the true supporters who follow the club and spend money. The club wants more of that type of fan of course, but the fan is also a vehicle to support wider income generation. At the top level, massive TV exposure brings in shirt sponsors and kit manufacturers who love the guaranteed visibility. Clubs sell the branded shirts to the fans and visibility feeds popularity – popularity feeds visibility.

TV revenue is wonderful in its own right but the bonus-ball is that live games project your ‘brand’ across the globe to all those who can’t come to the ground. Based on ‘eyeballs’, it’s a tremendous deal all round and yes, it certainly helps the shirt-selling business.

But what if the TV companies become less interested? For starters, if you don’t continue putting ‘bums on seats’ and the stadium looks empty, the product becomes diluted. The conundrum is that TV provides an opportunity to watch outside the stadium in homes across the world, but the stadium still has to be full to make it appealing. While it is, you have a marketing opportunity with the billions who are watching across the oceans so it’s in your interest to ensure the mystique of a competition that’s played thousands of miles away doesn’t dissipate. It’s the fans that give it gravitas, so the fans must be embraced. Good CRM conducted by clubs can safeguard that process and actually support growth over the long term.

Behind the FFP headlines, it’s clear that clubs are now looking to tap into good data management and customer relations and thus, increase their longer-term earnings. It works for clubs at any level too because the local market is still vital and one you ignore at your peril – even if if you’re world famous. This is exactly where data control comes into play – whatever level you play at – and where the next step, Propensity Management then comes into its own.

On a supporter database, the propensity for a fan who watches on TV in Asia to actually buy a season ticket for their favoured club, is clearly going to be less than a supporter of any club who lives locally. But the fan in Asia can still buy merchandise. Good CRM will afford greater earning power over the longer term and Propensity Management identifies the likelihood of a fan anywhere in the world to engage in a certain way. Understanding what they’re likely to want – or not want – then develops a communications’ relationship that is enjoyed by both sides of the deal.

FFP dictates that in the coming years, the level of equity investment an owner can make to offset operational losses will diminish, so something has to give. Operational income is being given far greater emphasis by FFP than before, because non-compliance can result in competitive sanctions or even tournament bans.

Of course, there is always the short-term option of making the most of your current contract-driven popularity and adding another nought to the next sponsorship deal. All you do then is shove the players on yet another plane for one more exhibition game. But what about all those eyeballs finally viewing the players at close quarters? If you can tap into their potential, you can use a solid CRM approach to develop a long-term income stream that eases the path towards FFP compliance.

In which case, why wouldn’t you?

The Role of CRM in Sponsorship

For years, the key goals of CRM in sport and leisure have been focused on the usual suspects… sales increases, loyalty, cost reduction and profit improvement.

The income target is usually expected developed from an anticipated increase in B2B and B2C spend from improved data driven targeted sales and marketing.  These objectives are crucial and the benefits in these areas will form the major part of the development of the initial CRM programme business case.

However, one often overlooked benefit is sponsorship and partnership income increases.  This factor has the potential to become an even greater source of return than those previously mentioned.

For many years, any sponsorship deal with a rights holder was regarded pretty much as a charitable donation. The name on the shirt became the end in itself and there was little of what is now known as ‘activation’ or measurement.

As sport, especially football, has evolved commercially in the past 15 years, so has the size of the sponsorship deals that have been achieved. With this has brought greater demands from partners in terms of the measurement of the return on investment from rights holder. The result has been a major increase in recruitment of sponsorship activation personnel and a greater increase in these activities.

This expected return on investment has now extended into the club’s CRM & Data strategy. Potential sponsors are keen to know that not only will they achieve the traditional objectives of media awareness but that the potential audience of customers is well managed, understood and has the ability to be engaged with. Simply put, the more quality data a rights holder has then greater the value which could be derived from the deal.  Rumours abound in the industry that 2 major Premiership clubs were both vying for the same sponsor and the ‘winning’ club were chosen simply because their CRM database was larger than the other.

Another story emerged this year that CRM & Data played a major part in the £150m deal that Arsenal secured with Emirates.

So, with possible large sums of money involved in increased deals and the ever growing expectations of partners and sponsors, how can a sports rights holder or club ensure that their CRM & Data strategy supports the delivery of greater value from their future deals?  Here are 6 ways to get you started:

1. Grow the data

Use measurement to help increase the focus within the business to drive the quantity of customers within the database. Include data measures as a KPI within the business along with targets for all key staff which include incentives. Our experience is that this will immediately drive a change in behaviour and an increase in data quantity. If you don’t measure it, staff will not believe you think it’s important!

2. Basic profiling ability

Focus on building contact and transactional data initially which can be used to profile based on behavioural and geo-demographic information. Sponsors want to know that you are able to contact your dataset easily and also understand the basic information about them.

3. Enhanced profiling

Once the basics are in place then a profiling tool can be applied to add extra information to aid greater insight.  MOSAIC is the most popular lifestyle classification tool and is an ideal method to build further insight into customer and fan groups. It is used regularly in advertising and politics as the MOSAIC groups have clear characteristics about their likely lifestyle choices meaning its much easier to target them with those products and services they are interested in and their communication preferences. This can be used to build profiles and flag those against the customer record within the CRM database for future reference and results reporting.

4Sight recently worked with Leicester City to provide an analysis of their fan base in terms of their MOSAIC profile.  Through segmentation analysis a selection of typical profiles were built showing the various segments and their likely car type preferences.  This was then used as a powerful insight to share with potential automotive partners to demonstrate the strength of their fan base as a marketing asset to the sponsor.

4. Communications preferences

The traditional method of allowing possible sponsors to contact a clubs database is to ensure that as many fans as possible have signed up to the ‘allow 3rd party’ section in their communication preferences.  However this method can also be a reason for fans not providing their details as they fear being bombarded by perceived spam emails from companies they are not interested in.

This model must change.

With a large database of engaged fans where the data is well managed and insightful, a new model is emerging from which CRM practitioners should be aware.  If fans believe that they will be provided with relevant information about products and services that they are interested in then they are more likely sign up.  To do this, use a preference manager tool to find out more about the key products and services they are keen to know more about, especially where there is a chance of extra value in a possible deal.  These categories would typically include car dealerships, mobile phone providers and financial services.  By opting in to specific sectors, extra value can be generated by linking these people to local partners who see a much bigger attraction in communicating with a smaller group of fans that have given their permission to be contacted.

5. Contact management strategies

To support the overall objectives and the achievement of a new value partnership between sponsors and fans it is essential that their interests and preferences are captured.  Sam Nixon has produced a piece (What’s your Preference) to give examples of how this can be achieved but essentially this boils down to making sure your systems can deliver a real closed loop marketing process.  I.e. when you send an email to the supporter base asking about their interests, favourite player etc… it is much easier to manage the results if this information flows straight back to the customer record.  The preference manager survey is an often over looked approach and is much simpler and more accurate than building propensity models trying to predict what fans may want rather than actually asking them directly.

6. Measurement of buyers…not just media evaluation

A further option for partners working with consumer brands where data is collected at the time of booking (e.g. travel companies, mobile phone providers and financial services) a new measurement process can be implemented to understand success.

Traditionally medial evaluation has been the way that sponsorship success is measured but this is flawed as it only reports on the comparable value of the equivalent advertising rates rather than real sales.

A data driven option which can prove much more accurate is to assess how many fans appear on the sponsors database at the start of the partnership and re-assess on a regular basis. The aim will be to increase the penetration of fans from the rights holder’s data within the sponsor’s customer base. This equates to real sales and is a much more appropriate measure which we expect to be used much more in the future.

For more information on using data to grow sponsorship sales contact Garry Adamson –

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