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Fan Engagement: More Than A 90 Minute Game

Fri 30th Jun 2017 | Fan Engagement

“Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field.” John ‘Jock’ Stein

However, what Jock probably didn’t anticipate is how fans’ overall engagement with their club is no longer decided by what they see on the field – it’s what they also see off it, and quite often online.

Unparalleled commercial opportunities have recently come to fruition for a number of British football clubs and if these chances aren’t seized upon soon, they’re going to get left behind.

Since 2011, FL Interactive (FLi), the wholly owned media subsidiary of The Football League, have managed and developed the internet and mobile rights of 86 participating clubs across the Premier League, Football League and Non-League game respectively. To many clubs, the FLi agreement was somewhat classed as a godsend, whereas others felt the digital experience they could offer to their fans was very much limited, and quite often lacking.

There is no doubt that choice is often dictated by availability. So fast forwarding to the summer of 2017, a number of the 86 clubs have spread their wings and moved on from the FLi agreement, giving their website portfolio the chance to develop into a more engaging platform, bringing the fans even closer to their beloved clubs.

With smartphone usage prevalent, fan demand for instantaneous news and access to club content has risen dramatically. With regards to football clubs, all roads, or in this case links, lead to the club’s official website. Yet despite the increase in website traffic and with an average mobile visitor rate of around 60-65%, clubs are still struggling to convert these visits into commercial success through ticket and merchandise sales, dedicated app downloads or other ancillary revenue methods. 

Of course the problem with fan engagement doesn’t lie solely within the confines of a laptop or smartphone screen - many fans also expect more from their matchday experience. 

But it’s important to remember that when it comes to football fans, one size doesn’t fit all. Fan characteristics aren’t determined solely by which of the two sides they are supporting on the day, but often by which part of the ground they choose to take their seat come 3pm. However, walk through any ground in the country on a Saturday afternoon and there is one characteristic that unites a majority of fans – the smartphone in their hand. 

It is time that clubs start to take note of this and look at smartphones as a way of communicating with their fans once they set foot in and around the ground. A revolution in the Internet of Things is about to take off and emerging ‘Beacon technology’ can help deliver your message to fans via their smartphones. 

Just imagine this scenario which is played out literally thousands of times during a football season…

3pm Saturday and season ticket holder John and his partner Amy have taken their seats in the lower stand and are looking forward to 90 minutes of thrills and spills. Let us wind the clock back an hour and the couple have just entered the stadium. As they pass Strikers food outlet John receives a message on his smartphone - Special Offer! Buy a Double Cheeseburger and get a 50% off a Hotdog if purchased before kick-off. It’s half-time and the couple have enjoyed a cracking 45 minutes of football. As they chat, Amy receives a popup message from the club on her smartphone with statistics on the first half, analysis from the press box and even a video playback of the first half highlights. 

It is 4.45pm and the game is over. John and Amy head for the exit having enjoyed a great win for their team. As they pass the ticket office on their way out John receives a message on his phone – 'Thanks for supporting the team and we hope you enjoyed today’s win. To celebrate we are offering 25% discount on Season Tickets for next season if purchased today!' 

This technology will enhance the fan experience and in turn, maximise additional revenue generated on matchdays through catering, merchandise and various other means. 

So I leave you with these questions; are clubs taking the appropriate measures to entice fans from their websites and social media accounts, in to the ground? Are they ensuring that the fans are engaging not just with their smartphone before kick-off, but with their cherished clubs once they are in the vicinity of their self-proclaimed ‘2nd home’? One thing’s for sure, with a number of clubs going their separate way from the FLi agreement, prospects have never been better for clubs that want to be innovative in their marketing strategies.

Contact R3engage on: 01777 717462, or info@r3engage.com 

Words: Jack Lindley, Business Development Manager, R3engage

Image: PA Images

Posted by: Kev Howland 

If you have any football business related news stories you’d like to share then please contact us – agourley@fcbusiness.co.uk

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