Managing the Social Media Voice of your Football Club

In order for a football club to establish a direct and engaging relationship with its fan base it must develop a strong and consistent voice across its various digital and social media channels.

Having an original and genuine voice can prove to be a challenge as it is not always easy to speak to fans in a conversational tone.  If managed correctly, however, it can uplift the presence of a mediocre club to become an industry leader.

Some important guidelines to remember when establishing your club’s social media voice include:

A.      Determining your football club’s own brand identity

This will be based on the organization´s culture, values, and overall brand experience it would like to promote.

For example, more traditional clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United or Real Madrid will tend to communicate throughout their social media platforms in a more formal manner as they consistently strive to transmit the image of class, excellence and tradition.

On the other hand, less classic and long established clubs such as most Major League Soccer’s franchises will favour a more personable communication approach in an effort to consistently generate buzz and engagement in less mature football markets.

 

B.      Knowing your football club’s audience

Knowing the desired demographic that your brand wants to reach will help your club understand its target audience and the relevant social media channels to use to reach out to followers and potential consumers.

Although it is important to remain consistent throughout your social and digital media presence, it is also imperative to adapt your approach to the relevant audience you are targeting through each platform.

For example, the style of writing in a football club’s official website should be different than the voice and tone used across other social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  Each platform has a different set of followers and must be targeted accordingly.

 

C.      Engaging and interacting with your community 

Whether the objective is to inform, sell, or provide customer support, it is essential to know how to communicate your football club’s objectives with personality and sincerity.

Listening to the needs, thoughts, opinions and insights of your audience will help your brand achieve the corporate objectives and remain authentic via social and digital media platforms.

Because of their massive size and social relevance most top-flight clubs will tend not to answer directly to followers on social media mainly due to a question of volume and risk management.

Nevertheless, when communicating with your online community of fans and supporters worldwide it is essential to remember that in order to generate true engagement social media platforms should be used like a telephone and not like a megaphone.

photo-6The Sports Business Institute Barcelona offers a two-month program entitled ¨Football Communication & Social Media Online Program¨ that provides practical training to those wanting to start or advance their career in the areas of communication, PR, sports journalism, online branding and social media management for the football industry. 

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/111jVD9

To read the full course prospectus click here: http://bit.ly/1sGqhiy

How Digital Signage & AV Boost Sales Across the Football Spectrum…

Firstly, it’s great to contribute to the fcbusiness blog, what a privilege. Secondly, did you enjoy the World Cup and did you notice the magnificent digital signage globe that graced the opening ceremony?

Although a new Sky Bet Football League season has begun, and the Barclays Premier League kick off is on the horizon, here at Armagard the World Cup is still stuck firmly in our heads with two things in particular refusing to disappear from our thoughts:

1)      Surprising score lines! Namely the Netherlands beating Spain & ‘that’ unforgettable Germany-Brazil game. The results certainly raised eyebrows in the office among our international account managers, resulting in a bit of harmless banter.

2)      That awesome digital signage globe. Quite frankly, it was unmissable, taking centre stage at one of football’s biggest events and causing a trending storm on Twitter.

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Digital Signage Globe, World Cup Opening Ceremony, Brazil 2014.

It’s the latter that got us thinking. How far have digital signage & AV solutions come in boosting sales for club and country during major international tournaments & domestic competitions?

The answer! Very far. It will come as no surprise to you that the fastest growing market for digital signage deployment in 2014 is Brazil. Football tournament organisers are recognising the influence of digital signage at major competitions, renting out systems to power house brands, such as Adidas and Nike, who reaped the rewards of fantastic digital advertising campaigns.

Adidas alone saw a 41% increase in the sale of soccer products as a result of widespread digital advertising throughout the World Cup.

Digital Signage – Driving Sales throughout Football’s Hierarchy

Arguably, digital signage has enjoyed the most success in football as part of retail strategies. Club shops, stadium food outlets, concession stands & concourses have become key, digital signage installation hotspots. Why? Because they influence fans at the ‘point of sale’. In particular, digital signage enhances sales of football paraphernalia during major club and country tournaments.

The great thing about digital signage is that it’s not only the upper echelons of football benefitting from its impact. Clubs at grassroots level are also reaping the benefits, widely using it to promote their brand.

In fact, digital signage has become a common feature at grassroots events, such as the Grassroots Football Show, staged at the NEC in Birmingham.

Even football coaching schools are cashing in, renting space & digital signage stands at schools and sports centres for advertising purposes.

Where’s the Evidence of Digital Signage Impact in Football?

An article, recently published by Armagard, refers to information provided by Essential Retail regarding the impact of digital signage at two of Europe’s leading clubs, Arsenal FC & FC Barcelona.

FC Barcelona recently invested in a 16-metre-wide LED screen, which now provides the focal point of their club shop. The store was also fitted with digital signage kiosks, giving fans an interactive buying experience. Since the refit of the store, Barcelona has reported a 22% increase in the sales of personalised shirts.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s director of retail, Simon Lilley said: “Digital signage has been hugely beneficial in promoting our stadium tours. The stadium tours now start and end in the club shop – with the retail team confident that around 50% of those who take the tour throughout the year will purchase an item in-store.”

What can Digital Signage and AV Solutions do for you?     

The evidence speaks for itself. They can drive sales, improve customer service and speed up transactions, delivering an excellent return on investment. Digital signage and AV solutions are long-term, there’s no shelf-life for advertising, content can be quickly changed keeping your message current.

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Armagard LCD enclosures update customers at Euro 2012.

They reduce the pressure & congestion on tills. One of the biggest benefits noted by stadium staff at major tournaments or domestic games is that digital signage, used as a transactional unit, gives customers a quick service option.

This has proven to be particularly beneficial during halftime, when stadiums have just 15 minutes to serve potentially thousands of customers.

Digital signage broadens the number of people that can be reached to the extent where teams, both club and country, can open up new revenue streams that were not possible before or never existed.

Ask Armagard

So, you’re probably thinking you want a piece of this digital signage action, but who do I consult?

Well, Armagard is no stranger to providing digital signage and AV solutions for major football tournaments. 485 of our LCD units, a mixture of 42” & 52” sizes, were installed across stadiums for Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine.

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Armagard at Euro 2012, Poland & Ukraine.

Our units can also be found at football stadiums throughout Europe, including the Rubin Kazan Stadium in Russia and the National Arena in Bucharest, Romania.

You can wall, stand, ceiling or floor mount units from our range of next generation digital signage solutions. Better still, you can customise them to suit your needs and to match the aesthetics of the environment.

Get Involved

There’s no escaping it, digital signage & AV is driving business across the beautiful game. The commercialisation of football continues to grow at a rapid pace, effecting all levels of the football spectrum.

You’ve seen it here, statements from retail directors of Europe’s leading clubs, digital signage lighting up the world stage and making an impact at grassroots level. It’s time you got involved, digital signage should be part of your football club or country’s marketing plan. For digital signage that delivers, tour the Armagard website or call 0121 608 7208 to request a brochure…

Thanks for reading and happy new season. Let the drama begin!

Follow Armagard on social media >>> Facebook.com/Armagard      @Armagard

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)

The Future of Sport Conference

The University of Northampton played host to the 3rd Annual Future of Sport conference on Wednesday 12th June, attracting an array of delegates from the top of the sponsorship, digital and media industries.

The conference was kicked off by hosts the University of Northampton affirming their commitment to sport, confirming short sponsorship deals with local Aviva Premiership rugby team Northampton Saints, League 2 football team Northampton Town and Northants Cricket, before compare for the day, broadcaster Nigel Adderley introduced the days first speaker, the distinguished academic and sports marketing professional Dr Bill Sutton from the University of South Florida.

 

The future is already here – we just don’t know it yet

Suttons keynote focused on new developments in the American market, and what sports marketing might look like in 2025.

In a whistlestop tour of what the future will bring, Dr Sutton covered a range of topics from the worlds largest 2nd screen – the 60 yard 1080p HDTV at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, through to Tampa Bay Lightning’s jersey 2.0 – team jerseys that enabled you to unlock discounts at local retailers.

Almost all of the innovations indicated in Sutton’s presentation were in direct response to challenges the industry faces today. Shortening attention spans, falling stadium attendances, increased fragmentation of sports broadcasting and the need for viewers to feel a part of the game mean inventive updates to parts of the industry that are considered tried and tested today.

According to Sutton, the game, whatever it may be, needs to become more than the sum of its parts. Sports franchises need to evolve to entertainment franchises. And they need to adapt to the changing behaviour of the fans, or risk becoming irrelevant. Fans today are used to playing, not watching. The gaming generations from the mid-thirties through to young teens are used to being in the game, and the proliferation of highlight packages and digital distribution makes it easier to consume the game without having to watch the full match. Add this to the portability of devices and increasing bandwidth of mobile broadband, and these compressed sports viewing becomes easier to fit into busy lifestyles.

This leads into the idea that consumers today want to consume what they want, when they want. In America, he secondary ticket market through providers such has Stub Hub has become the primary market. Fans no longer want to buy season tickets and commit to every game, when they can pick and choose the ones they want from the secondary market.

Dr Sutton was followed by Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor at Plymouth University, and is an expert in the use of social media and Web 2.0 tools.

Wheeler’s presentation focused on the changing social behaviours that social media and the digital age are bringing about. In a culture where battery life has become a premium, and managing your online profile is as important as managing your personal profile, Wheeler took the audience through digital psychological nuances such as digital tribes and digital totums, and the idea or Darwikism (or survival of the fittest content).

Ultimately, Wheeler’s presentation highlighted how online users are creating new social structures by the utilization and engagement with technology, and how this should be taken into consideration when preparing content for your audience.

 

Focus on Emerging Markets

Adrian Stores, Managing Director of FC Sports Marketing took the time out of his busy schedule to discuss the tricky subject of how to market to emerging markets. Using his own personal experience of launching initiatives into Turkey, Stores highlighted some if the fundamental differences in the way business is conducted across the shores.

Stores firstly highlighted the importance of Turkey within emerging markets. Until now the focus has been on the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), but with Russia and China’s success being questioned, attention is turning to the TIMBI nations – Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico, Korea and India. All five countries have relatively large populations, positive population growth rates, and are democracies.

Turkey, as it has been throughout history, is a melting pot. Where east meets west and the historic trade capital of the world, the first thing to note is that personal relations are very important to the Turks. Deals are not done with the speed as the west, and quite often past performance counts for nothing. Instead, great emphasis is placed on respect for each other and being magnificent hosts.
Any connection of sport as a religion is seriously frowned upon, and yet surprisingly for a predominantly Muslim country, there is a big demand for UK betting market in Turkey.

Professionals welcome advice from other markets where sponsorship is more developed, and it is an advantage that big brand marketing directors tend to have a UK or US education behind them. Despite this, commercial deals are heavily skewed towards an ‘up-front’ payment culture, with short shrift being given to more complex commercial deals.

Ultimately, the approach needs to fit the culture of the country. Approaching any of the emerging markets with a Western approach to business is likely to offend, miss the point and fail. Turkey is a highly patriotic country, proud of their place in history and their traditions. There is a real appetite for sports and information within the country, and real opportunities for businesses who can overcome the cultural hurdles and successfully create contacts in an exciting and vibrant marketplace.

The morning’s seminars were polished off by a trip into academia, with Professor Gayle McPherson from the University of West Scotland, looking at a framework for measuring the success of Cultural events around major events, and Claire Warwick, professor at UCL discussing how Twitter is evolving how we communicate, and questioning why organizations allow junior staff to take control of one of an organisations most powerful communications tools.

Meeting of great minds

 In the afternoon sessions, the audience were treated to some excellent panel discussion debates on the subjects of sponsorship, the media, sports marketing  and fan engagement.

Panels featuring the likes of Steve Martin from M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment, Tony Evans and Gabriel Marcotti from the Times, Andy Halliday, Team Manager of the GB Mens Olympic Hockey team and Ryan McKnight, CEO of Stockport County FC debated the key issues with industry and media peers, and engaged in a lively conversation with enraptured members of the audience.

Needless to say the breadth and depth of the discussions was extensive, and too much to be covered in this column, but all attendees could come away enlightened in some small way.

 

A great success

There is no doubt that the conference was a great success, and worth the visit for the practitioners and students that attended alike. The time taken out of their busy diaries of some of the sport and media industries most respected peers shows the importance placed on constructive debate and the passing of education from one group to another, and next years conference is already highly anticipated.

AARON SYED JAFFERY

MANAGING PARTNER | NINETEENEIGHTYFOUR

Digital Programmes – The rise and rise of Matchday Digital

A few months ago fcbusiness ran a story reporting on the conception of a new iPad application (app) specifically designed to enable clubs, completely risk and cost free, to promote and sell their matchday programmes to an eagerly waiting worldwide digital audience. We have managed to catch up with Matchday Digital’s Mark Catlin to see how the launch of this innovative new service for clubs has been progressing.

“This month alone, Nottingham Forest, Burnley, Peterborough, Colchester, Brentford, Notts County, Yeovil Town, Huddersfield and Crystal Palace, to name just a few, have joined our rapidly expanding group of clubs that are utilising this incredible platform” commented Mark.

“I knew instantly that this was going to be a popular product with clubs for a number of reasons, including the fact that there are no outgoing fees whatsoever to be part of Matchday Digital. Clubs simply provide us with a PDF of their programme and they’re ready to go. I also knew the app was going to be a hit with supporters, but the response has been incredible, just amazing. Our first goal has been to attract as many supporters as possible to download the Matchday Digital App onto their iPad. We have been extremely lucky in that the first wave of clubs we have been working with have been extremely pro-active in the promotion of the service to their respective supporter bases.

Along with our own marketing effort, this has really helped promote the product, and I would like to thank them for that support. What has surprised us is that because the app is totally free, literally thousands of fans generally have been downloading Matchday Digital in anticipation of their particular club coming on board with us, even if that currently is not the case. We have, and will continue to develop, a huge ‘ready-made’ market for clubs to sell to.”

Rod Joseph, an expert in app development and part of the team that originally designed the app, has overseen countless launches on the iPad but has been impressed by the take up from information hungry supporters. “We always knew that we had a great product, but until it’s actually launched you never really know how the public are going to react. As with most launches we have to go through an exhaustive period of consultation and interaction directly with the ‘Apple’ team, and within hours of the app going live, without any advertising or promotion whatsoever, supporters in their hundreds were downloading the Matchday Digital App onto their iPads. It was amazing, and it’s not something that we have ever experienced before.”

As a senior member ofCrystalPalace’s commercial team, Kevin Miller has been equally impressed with the app’s launch. “The feedback from our supporters has been extremely positive. It’s a great cutting edge product that we are now able to offer our fans that, for example, cannot attend a fixture. We also have many supporters from all over theUKand beyond that cannot regularly attend atSelhurstPark, but still want to have access to the match day programme. The Matchday Digital App gives us the platform, at no cost to us, to make this possible.”

Matchday Digital are also turning their attention to existing publishers of club programmes, especially those that control the ‘rights’ to them. Nick Prescott from ‘Code’ is one such publisher that has realised the opportunities Matchday Digital has to offer printers and publishers with existing club contracts. “Our club contracts give us exclusive programme publishing rights but we didn’t see that as a barrier to embracing what Matchday Digital could offer us. Both ourselves and the clubs that we represent still retain full control over what’s published, using the same pages and content as the printed versions, with the added benefit of a free opportunity to sell extra programmes through a customised digital newstand. Matchday Digital gives us access to a massive audience, far beyond what we reach with printed programmes. It’s another revenue stream for Code that requires no capital investment and no additional work.”

Mark Catlin agrees with Nick’s comments. “I can totally understand why publishers and clubs are using the Matchday Digital service. If I had a product then I would also want to try and get this in front of as many potential customers as possible. For example, if I was the publisher, or held the rights to a book, then I would want to showcase it wherever possible. Without a shadow of a doubt I would want it for sale on Amazon, in Tesco, WHSmiths, Waterstones, in fact anywhere that can generate extra sales for me. It’s the equivalent of clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool orManchesterCityjust selling club shirts and merchandise exclusively via their club shop. It would be crazy, and of course they don’t do this. What they do is sell their merchandise via as many outlets as possible. In simple terms that’s effectively what Matchday Digital is offering to clubs, the chance to sell extra programmes for no risk whatsoever to either the club or the publisher.”

For further information and/or for a no obligation talk about getting your club into Matchday Digital, please contact us via:

Visiting: http://www.matchdaydigital.co.uk

Downloading the brochure: http://www.matchdaydigital.co.uk/matchday.pdf

Telephoning: 0207 899 1111

Emailing: enquiries@matchdaydigital.co.uk

Matchday Programmes Get App Makeover

It does not seem too long ago that a supporters source of information about the club was confined to calling each other by phone, meetings down the pub, or (especially in the case of clubs outside of the top tier) hoping to catch some news in the back pages of either the local or national newspapers.

The advent of the internet changed much of this, and ‘vetted’ information was all of a sudden available to individual supporters via a club’s official website. Then came ‘unofficial websites’, message boards, and lately in yet another twist, the spectacular growth of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Clubs, have in the past, and I am sure will have to again in the future, constantly had to adapt to changing circumstances outside of their direct control. The recent departure of our manager at Bury FC, Richie Barker, has forced us as a club to review and change the way that we report stories in the future. Our policy of only commenting on the official website with ‘done deals’ has now changed in that in certain, exceptional circumstances, we will (if all parties involved agree), try to keep supporters updated on key developments, even if the ink’s not dry on a contract. News of Richie’s departure had spread like ‘wildfire’, long before the signature on his new Crawley contract had officially been signed, leaving us (officially) looking like we had lost control of the situation. We had not of course, the board knew what was going on, but so did everyone else, and the only medium not running a story on it was our very own website, which we obviously need to keep as the principle source of club information to maintain a supporter’s interest in it.

As the internet has taken over from traditional print media (in many forms, not just in football) as the primary source of club information, a definite casualty of the new online media streams now available to supporters has been the decline of the traditional match day programme. Despite our matchday programme at Bury FC having more and more pages (and in my opinion looking better and better each season), and our attendances actually going up, we have seen a steady decline of actual sales, so when the club was approached by a company offering us a ‘no risk’ chance to actually once again grow our programme sales I was immediately interested, and along with Gordon Sorfleet (our press/media manager), met with Rod Joseph from a company called ‘Matchday Digital’ just a few short months ago.

‘Matchday Digital’ (www.matchdaydigital.co.uk) demonstrated to us, via the Apple store, an iPad application (‘app’ to those, who like me, are not that computer ‘savvy’), whereby fans could access a vast array of digital club programmes online, Apple takes care of all the payments, and then supporters can view high quality digital versions via their iPad, even turning pages like a normal ‘in print’ publication. All we had to do as a club was send the ‘pdf’ to ‘Matchday Digital’ as we sent it to the printers, no extra work for us whatsoever.

Both myself and Gordon could immediately see the advantages on offer. The ability to sell programmes from previous years, away fans that cannot attend games being able to buy them, home fans that cannot make a game still being able to purchase the programme, the advantages were limitless. Once we were ‘sold’ on the idea behind the app, our next question was “how much”? Yet again we were shocked when the reply came back, “nothing, no upfront costs, no fixed fees. If Bury Football Club sells just one programme, then plain and simple you have earned money straight away”.

I was hooked and immediately offered to invest in the new product, and not just financially, my biggest input was to be getting the message out to the key decision makers at clubs. “How are you going to do that?” I was asked. My advice was simple, “We need to take out an advert in fcbusiness Magazine(!), and club by club keep hammering away until the decision maker at that club has actually looked, seen and felt the product.” To further enhance our offering we are now also looking at taking out sponsorship deals to help support the clubs gain this extra revenue, I know it sounds crazy, but this is how confident we are in the product achieving long-term growth at clubs.

Sometimes I have to re-cap the offering just to remind myself how good this offer is to clubs;

1)       Sponsorship

2)       Ongoing revenue growth, far higher profit margin than ‘in print’

3)       Future proofing of your club’s match day programme

4)       No development costs

5)       No set-up costs

6)       No ongoing costs

7)       CANNOT be shared amongst fans

8)       No risk whatsoever, sell just one copy and the club is in profit

9)       Clubs already committed range from Conference North and South to Premiership

Sounds interesting and want a no obligation visit from us to explain to you just how fantastic this product can be for YOUR club?

Please contact us via one of the mediums below and we will be more than happy to come along and show you how ‘Matchday Digital’ can rapidly grow your programme sales.

Visiting ; http://www.matchdaydigital.co.uk

Downloading the ‘pdf’; http://www.matchdaydigital.co.uk/matchday.pdf

Telephoning; 0207 899 1111

Emailing Rod Joseph or Kim Lomas;

rjoseph@matchdaydigital.co.uk or klomas@matchdaydigital.co.uk

Mark Catlin is Commercial/PR/Media Director at Bury Football Club and can be contacted personally at; mark.catlin@BuryFC.co.uk

The revolution has begun. But what does it look like?

The Football League has begun its roll out of the new-style club websites which it hopes will lay the ghosts of the previous uniform design and add more spark to the digital presence of over 80 British soccer clubs.

As reported previously on this blog and in FC Business magazine itself, Football League Interactive has undertaken an 18 month project to not only reshape the look and feel of individual websites, but also to offer more variety and more content. The plan was to start the roll-out on some selected sites before turning all of the FLi portfolio to the new look by the end of this coming season.

So this week, they have made under-the-radar launches on at least four club sites that I can see – Leyton Orient, Bury, Barnsley and Notts County.

One thing has clearly been achieved – the designs available for the clubs to choose are radically different. As you will see in a minute from the screengrabs of the live sites, the promise of a text-based look-and-feel, a picture based one and a stats based one has been achieved. However, one of the problems is that one of the design choices is so strong and so good, most clubs will end up choosing this one by default.

The first new site to look at is Leyton Orient’s. Click on the image below to see it in full screen.

They seem to have chosen the layout which shows off how much story content there is. The navigation is simple and works very much like the current BBC homepage, where you click an arrow on the right or left to move the content offering. There is a search bar at the top (more of why that is important in the next examples), but there doesn’t seem to be much hierarchy and the colours are not bold enough for me.

The next example is Bury. Again, click on the image to see it in full screen.

This is a much bolder design and I quite like it. The masthead stands out on the background picture of Gigg Lane and the four blocks below it offer the club the chance to highlight the things that are the most important to the club. They stand out, and have simple calls to action.

But it gets better. Take a look at Barnsley’s new site…

Big, bold imagery right at the top. Football is often about what you see and this design really grabs you by the use of big pictures. The navigation is still clear at the top, although I’ve got to say the ‘Barnsley Football Club’ title in the masthead is very wimpy. It looks like it’s been added as an afterthought and is lacking boldness.

The other problem with this design is that the search bar (which is a key tool) has been shoved to a little black tag on the right of the picture which could easily be overlooked. The search box for me always has to be at the top of the page.

But you cannot underestimate the power of visual appeal to attract people into a subject, and this design really grabs that opportunity by the horns.

And this visual theme is continued on the bottom half of all the websites, where clubs can make stats and video come alive in an accessible way. Take a look at the middle of the new Notts County home page…

A row of blocks highlighting key stats, a mini video player, a gallery of pictures and a great way of displaying players’ individual profiles occupies the centre part of the front page. This visually appealing way of showing graphics continues throughout the site, with a good stats section and an easy way to navigate on the player profile page itself.

And all the ‘furniture’ on the sites seem to work. Ticketing is well signposted and it is easier to find contacts for people involved in the club.

Now nothing is perfect in this world, and that would be the case with this relaunch. There are a number of things that look odd or just jar and do need to be resolved.

An example is below. As you can see, most of the local businesses which support Notts County have dark logos and they are difficult to see on a site of a similar shade.

Staying on the subject of local businesses. One of the big promises of the redevelopment was that more could be done by clubs to to promote their local sponsors on their site.

There is precious little I can see in the designs so far that achieves this – and local sponsors are left to share limelight at the bottom of the site with national brands.

More advertising opportunities have been opened up in the drop down menus you get in the top navigation – but it looks a bit odd there. And also, if the club does not have much to put in that navigation, the banks of white space left in the navigation look awful.

Speaking of blank spaces, there are quite a few places where sponsor tags are supposed to be, but they clearly haven’t been sold. So it looks a little embarrassing to have ‘Powered By’ and then a blank space.

Another annoying thing is the video player on all the sites starts to play straightaway. This is well-known to be a bad user experience.

There are always going to be be hiccups and I am sure these will be ironed out (or there will be good reasons for keeping them), but the revolution which has been secretly launched this week is far better than what was previously there.