Rangers’ Digital Transformation & Brand Evolution
Steven Gerrard has helped transform Rangers Football Club on the pitch which saw them clinch their first Scottish Premiership title in 10 years, but in September 2020, the club embarked on an ambitious brand evolution and digital transformation strategy which included an enhanced suite of unified digital products and the launch of a new industry leading club website and app to help bolster its off-field ambitions.
fcbusiness spoke to the club’s commercial & marketing director James Bisgrove to find out more about the work they’ve done.
What is digital transformation?
What we were seeking to do across all of our digital assets across the club was to modernise them and to do so in a way that would elevate the fan experience no matter which of the digital platforms they interfaced with.
The club’s core website has been refreshed and revamped. Alongside that we’ve got the club app which is about to re-launch, as well as our OTT offering which is called Rangers TV. We’ve also got our online ticket buying platform and our new retail partnership with our kit partner Castor.
Our digital transformation is about modernising those assets and integrating them in a way that makes the user experience seamless, but also for us in a way that allows us to put data at the heart of everything we do so we can better understand the profile of our audience and engage and communicate to them in a far more powerful manner.
Why is that important?
We are very unique in that we have a great history. In 2022, we’ll be the first Scottish club to reach 150 years old. Rangers has always been known for being pioneering and leading the way so we wanted to ensure that in the digital era we were maintaining that position and through our digital transformation strategy we’re getting to a place where we will be doing that once again.
One of the reasons why we’ve made that investment was to future-proof the club in terms of our ability to engage and interact with our supporters moving forward and that needs to be consistent across all the different assets and touch points that we have. We think there is a revenue upside but also there is a significant upside in terms of the fan experience and fan engagement.
Is that something that was lacking previously?
Candidly, yes. We had a club website that was probably not fit for purpose. We inherited a website that, in terms of its functionality, couldn’t handle traffic for things like announcements; it wasn’t where we needed it to be. We were a step behind where we wanted to be but we have a really strong platform and set of digital partners now that will help us to lead the way, be cutting edge and digitally savvy within the sports world.
Covid-19 has turned the football world upside down. Has this justified the investment made in digital transformation?
Absolutely, no one saw Covid-19 coming and the digital transformation strategy had been put in place well before this. But it’s certainly been helpful in mitigating some of the down sides of the pandemic, particularly when looking at finding new ways to engage with our supports across our digital platforms.
We are very aware of our content strategy and have been working very hard to be creative in that space with our content team. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the engagement numbers we’ve achieved. Our content team work very hard, they never want to stand still and are always looking to push the boundaries. We’ve got a shared vision around content and that is really important otherwise you can have the best digital platforms and infrastructure but if it’s not engaging then it’s not going to come to life in the way that it should.
How does this support your traditional marketing communications activities?
The biggest shift was probably that digital sat as a tool that we had across all of our marketing communications and was just one aspect of it. Now it’s digital first. Everything we do now is with digital and mobile in mind. That is one of the reasons why we also took the decision to launch a new brand on the same day as we launched the new website.
We inherited an incredibly rich brand in terms of its heritage and the journey it had been on but it had started to become a little bit tired in certain places and it was being used in a very inconsistent format, even within the club. We’ve refreshed our READY crest. We’ve evolved it and launched a new font and put in place a whole set of new brand assets and brand guidelines that will underpin all of our marketing communications.
We’ve already seen the benefits of that in terms of how visually striking and impactful those different assets are and we really think it’s now fit for purpose for a digital era.
How did you work with fans to develop these ideas?
For the digital transformation and the brand evolution we held of series of fan consultation meetings with our supporter liaison officer who brought in a wide cross-section of fans that we could take on the journey with us.
We got their feedback and stress-tested a lot of different ideas like any FMCG would do in terms of marketing research. You are foolish if you want to land something to a consumer-base without testing it with them. We are unique as our fans have such a level of buy-in and such a level of passion for what we do that they’re actually an excellent sounding board and helped us evolve in the right way.
Is there an international strategy behind this too?
Our international strategy is focused on two markets; the first is North America where we already have a very strong fanbase. We have a strategic partnership with Orange County Soccer Club who play in the USL. That partnership is multi-faceted and includes player transfers – two or three of our youngest talented academy players are playing over there at the moment and vice-versa. We’re also working on ideas around that for content, co-branded merchandise and creating a documentary that tells the story of the players that are on loan that will be aired on ESPN in the US.
The second market of real interest is India and we’ve formed a strategic partnership with Bengarulu FC, who are the most successful club in India from a football point of view. They’re extremely well run, they’ve got a fantastic fanbase and we think by partnering with them and forming an alliance we can grow our audience in India. Our women’s team have the first Indian female football player called Bala Devi and that is attracting a lot of interest and is fantastic from a women’s football point of view.
In India there are a lot of exciting conversations about broadcasting opportunities and we’re quite advanced in a number of those that are extremely innovative and will probably surprise quite a few people if we can get them in a place we want to. All of that will be with the ambition to grow our fanbase, grow affinity to the club and ultimately take our commercial revenue in a direction we perhaps wouldn’t be able to if we just stood still in the west of Scotland.
You’ve also launched My Gers’ membership. How was that constructed and how does it work?
Our My Gers Membership was launched in April and is a loyalty programme for our supporters domestically, internationally and of all age groups. It provides a platform and framework to reward supporters – going back to that level of engagement. We’re up to 27,000 members now which is mixture of season ticket holders and non-season ticket holders both domestically and internationally and is currently the largest club membership programme in Scotland.
The membership gives us a mechanism and a reference point to reward loyalty, particularly in situations where demand outweighs supply. In our world that was tickets. Prior to our membership scheme we would have allocated tickets to a cup final, for instance, using a ballot system which often created a lot of fan frustration. When we started the fan consultation we realised that we needed to put in place a system that is fair, transparent and allows us to reward the most loyal supporters in the instances where there is massive demand against very short supply.
The journey we went on was a really intensive process involving fans and supporter groups. We also spent a lot of time looking at what other leading European clubs do within the membership space and tried to understand what would work for Rangers and what wouldn’t. We really tried to work cross-functionally across the club whether that be with our ticket office, our marketing team or our digital team, just to bring everyone on board to put this in place.
However, it’s one of those initiatives that we will evolve and test and learn from. It will be something we constantly take feedback on. It’s definitely not perfect but we think it’s a positive step in the right direction from a supporter’s perspective.
This article first appeared in fcbusiness Issue 127. Read the full issue here