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Digital In Football: Who Owns Digital In Your Club?

Fri 6th Nov 2015 | IT & Technology

Throughout the UK footballing pyramid, across the very diversified European leagues and stretching even as far afield as the USA, Asia and Oceania, there will be many talented ‘soccer’ executives wrestling with the very real and immediate challenge of how to deliver success in digital?

It’s long been accepted that digital communications, engagement and marketing are completely measurable activities and, through a series of quantitative and qualitative analytics and insights that are freely available throughout the cyber marketplace, clubs have been able to demonstrate what works and what doesn't across very diverse fan bases.

As we all know, success will, generally speaking, consist of an immediate return on investment, a singular profitable sales and marketing campaign or significant growth in fan base numbers through data collection or social metrics.

But let’s take a step back and ask how did we get there in the first place?  Who took the responsibility to implement the strategies? Who made the decisions? Who diverted the budgets? Who rolled their sleeves up and got on with the day-to-day delivery?  And ultimately who is responsible; who owns digital?

Who owns digital?

There is probably no straightforward answer as, ideally, it should sit across a complex corporate structure with senior executives, middle managers and digital foot soldiers on the ground all contributing at various touch points to produce quality and award-winning results.

But we are talking about an industry where the overwhelming number one priority is winning football matches (something I completely subscribe to, by the way!). An industry where the pies taste crap if you lose to a last minute injury time goal. An industry where resources are tighter than the proverbial duck’s bottom.

Therefore, with the exception of some of the more affluent and successful Premier League clubs, the responsibility falls to a handful of people who are already managing anything from a busy press office to the club’s Twitter account, or commercially managing the club’s retail operation or selling tickets, hospitality and sponsorships.

But despite a varied and, more often than not, chaotic six or seven day working week, clubs still have digital presences that need maintaining and fan bases that constantly need engaging, informing and entertaining.

Therefore, what is the best way to approach digital, given the increase in focus and the possibly modest means at your disposal?

Together, we are stronger

First and foremost, the old adage of 'together, we are stronger' needs to be adopted and then formalised. An internal working group is a proactive way of achieving this with key stakeholders (content, media, marketing and commercial), chaired by the person who has the responsibility for signing cheques and agreeing budgets.

This way, they get an inherent understanding of what is trying to be achieved; whilst your digital dream team has an equal voice around the table, the ability to put forward their own ideas and the opportunity to represent their individual discipline within the wider project.

Present in these meetings, without a doubt, should be your digital agency of choice. They can be invaluable in driving the agenda forward, looking at the top line objectives of the project and pulling everyone back when you inevitably digress to matters less important. They also can provide the expertise that you currently don't have within your teams, manage processes and offer an informed, alternative view.

So, to try and bring it full circle and answer the question of who actually owns digital – we all do. Collective digital ownership needs to be at the epicentre of a club’s culture, to be integrated into everyday tasks, routines and general psyche. If you can manage do that, then I’m confident you’ll achieve success.

Mark Rowan is a Sports Consultant for the award-winning digital agency Rippleffect and previously headed up media, communications and digital at Everton Football Club.

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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