‘Fan Data Key To Revenue Growth’: Going Behind Football’s Digital Transformation

An end-to-end digital transformation sports agency, N3XT Sports is helping the industry identify opportunities for sustainable, competitive growth. Here, fcbusiness speaks with CEO Mounir Zok to find out how fan data is supporting football on its own digital transformation journey.



What is the digitalisation of the sports industry and why is it important?

Digital-native fans expect rich and immersive sporting experiences. As direct-to-consumer (DTC) media continues to disrupt the media landscape, it has never been more important for sports organisations and their rights partners to understand who their consumers are and where they are consuming content.


While the digital transformation may appear daunting for some, or perhaps expensive or too time-consuming, digitalisation offers significant financial returns for those who invest in digital technologies – helping to establish deeper connections with the fan and significant data learnings that help you personalise the consumer experience and meet their individual demands.


Broadly speaking, this holds enormous benefits for our clients and their ability to develop new digital content, products, and services that not only aim to grow their own subscriber base, but offer existing and prospective partners greater insight into how to engage and convert the fan database at a granular level.



How is N3XT Sports facilitating football’s digital transformation?

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to modernisation. Sport’s digital transformation should focus on the organisation’s unique requirements.


We support football entities by identifying areas where data-driven processes can help optimise their operational flow and then connecting them with the right digital solutions to meet their internal structures.


We do this by undertaking a thorough evaluation of the business, including an analysis of the tools and processes already in place. Once a strategy has been agreed upon with top management, we then help them navigate the rapidly changing technology market and oversee the integration of turn-key digital solutions inside their organisation.


While no sports organisation is alike, this includes the creation of a bespoke digital transformation plan that aligns to your organisation’s growth targets and can span anywhere between one to five years.


How by adopting a data-led approach can football make informed business decisions?

Whether they are on the fan journey, data-gathering capabilities not only allow your organisation to understand your fans, but also to develop a robust customer relationship management (CRM) toolkit that optimises your fan relationship and underpins a digital-first ecosystem that promotes operational efficiency and helps reduce operational costs.


Traditionally, every newsletter sign-up, mobile app download, and ticket purchase is captured in a different data silo, which makes it impossible internally for the football club, league or federation to build a 360º view of the fan. This is the main challenge that rights holders face today and requires a wholly different approach to data gathering.


This might include the implementation of mobile- and desktop-friendly customer-data dashboards that identify how and when fans are engaging with your organisation. At N3XT Sports, we also provide clients with alert systems that deliver automatic notifications based on fan-data points, prompting when and how you should be engaging with fans based on their digital behaviours.


While football’s digital transformation is still in its infancy, how do you convince small- and medium-sized organisations to embrace change?

Digital transformation, data literacy, and data-based decision making is not only for the wealthy organisations. Anyone can do it; it’s just a matter of being conscious of the challenge and also the cost of doing nothing at all.


When developing a digital transformation strategy, you must first establish and understand your corporate objectives. Only then can you establish where the company can improve operationally from a digital perspective.


This is broken down into three components covering technologies and tools; operational processes; and business capabilities. These are often referred to as the ‘golden triangle’ and are a starting point for building a digital transformation strategy.


What impact has Covid had on football’s digital transformation?

Two years ago, when football was forced behind closed doors in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, it was a red-letter day for the sport. As matchday and sponsorship revenues tumbled, the industry had a choice – whether to sit still or make a change.


Looking at where we are today, Covid-19 certainly made people sit up and realise that owning a strong digital infrastructure and DTC offering capable of capturing fan data was essential for their short-term recovery, long-term growth, and future success. ◆


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