Unleash Your Potential: Digital Adaptation For The Stadium Experience
TGI Sport is a very successful sports technology company, at the intersection between infrastructure and media rights business. They specialise in connecting brands and stadiums to sports fans through their extensive digitally-led solutions.
fcbusiness spoke to TGI’s chief commercial officer Patrick Vendrely and their director of digital strategy Gordon Campbell to find out how the company can help football clubs adapt to the digital era.
Who are TGI Sport and what is your involvement in the world of football?
Patrick Vendrely (PV): I started the company 24 years ago and primarily we dealt with perimeter signage for sports stadiums fulfilling the commercial programmes at both club and international level. We are still offering complete client solutions with our product-leading category status. That could be a tangible product – like an electronic stadium perimeter boards – or our consultative services. This means that we provide commercial solutions to the world of football – not just in Europe, but in the Americas, Asia and we have worked in Africa too with FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa.
How important do you feel stadium technology is going to be for the fan experience in the post-Covid world of live football?
Gordon Campbell (GC): It will be absolutely crucial but I believe it was already essential long before Covid. Over the past four or five years, the whole consumerisation of technology has been the driving force behind a major change in sport. Fans have now got almost ubiquitous access to HD video, surround sound, multiple screens and formats at home. As a result, sports clubs are not just competing against other clubs, other sports or other forms of entertainment. They are competing against what the fan can do in their own homes. The clubs need to copy and better that. We have to remember that fans go to the live event to be part of the tribal experience. They want to engage in the passion with other fans. We need to replicate what they can do in all the immersion of technology they have at home and then provide that within a stadium. That’s not just to enhance the matchday experience and create the glue to keep people coming back to the stadium. But also to maximise the potential for revenue – not just from the fans, but also from the brands that participate. This changing landscape in technology has increased the competition for the clubs massively and they need to recognise that change. Refusing to embrace the opportunities is a big risk. The Coronavirus pandemic has just focused everyone’s minds on what the digital possibilities are. Not just for the stadium. The stadium is just the start as the point of engagement. Beyond that, your digital connection grows and grows. Going back five years, it was enough to just put an LED screen inside a stadium to enrich the experience. But nowadays, fans are carrying super-computers in their pockets in the form of mobile phones. These flood people with opportunities – from messaging, videos, live interaction from brands and live interaction from their favourite teams. Consequently, they are a vital aspect for the survival and long-term sustainable business models for these football clubs. Because ultimately, the brands that fund a lot of this have access to the same digital platforms. And if a rights holder can’t meet a brand’s KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), the brand will take their money to a rights holder that can. Therefore clubs that don’t embrace and engage in the use of technology will get left behind.
How can stadium technology help with revenue generation for football clubs?
PV: Within the stadium, fans are consuming games differently with their mobile phones. In response, we have developed our Parallel-Ads (PADS) Technology with the LED screens or inserted virtually that allow customized messaging that allow brands to communicate to the consumer by region and by geography.
GC: Yes, our virtual technologies permit us to create numerous different adverts depending on what region a match is being broadcast to. Whether it is multiple streams on the pitch perimeter LED, virtual seat coverings or virtual 3D centre circles, with these we can show a different advertiser or brand on each broadcast feed. For instance, one for Latin America, one for Europe, one for the UK etc to divide up the rights. This brings greater revenue opportunities. We have seen cup games played in England in the past with Russian or Chinese adverts on display because they wanted to reach that specific market. But with our virtual technology, you no longer have to do that because you can still sell the domestic feed separately. Or you can even sell the in-stadia feed differently to the broadcast feed. In addition, the technology will allow us instant messaging within the stadium on the boards. It’s about creating a single platform within the stadium so that we can aggregate the experience to boost the value to the brands. Whether it is an LED screen or board, a TV in the stadium lounge, a TV in the concourse or an app on a phone. This brings a joined-up direct connection to the fan rather than a scattering of advertising here and there. A lot of the brands are now demanding this direct consumer approach. We allow many more opportunities for the brands to engage and therefore invest more in their partnerships.
How do you convince football finance directors that the investment would be worthwhile? You have an “Unleash Your Potential” strategy don’t you?
PV: It is all about cost. Stadiums want to drive the cost down. But we have successfully shown that, for example, a $1 million investment will yield $3m. The ROI speaks for itself within the commercial programme.
GC: Yes it is cost implication versus revenue potential. We help the rights holders not to just evaluate what they have, but there is that gap analysis to point out what they don’t have and what the potential value could be with their investment. Yes, there are a lot of agencies and consultancies that can predict value. But what they don’t do – and what TGI does – is that we hold the client’s hand along the whole journey.
Football clubs have resource issues so they are not always able to back themselves when investing in new technology. We can help them evaluate the potential of it and strategize how to sell it most effectively. And we can also assist them with the content and bring the brands to the table. We are not just saying “this is how to do it” and then walking away. Half of my week sees me speaking to rights holders and for the rest of the time I am speaking to brands. It is no longer the time when you had to pick a side where you had to be on the rights holders’ side or the brands’ side. We are now in the middle and facilitating the two. We are helping the brands articulate what they need from their partnership with the football clubs, and we are enabling the football clubs to implement the technology that delivers those KPIs for the brands. The technology isn’t the overall fix.
The technology is just the pipe and it is what runs through the pipe and how you manage it that creates that value. U
About TGI Sport
TGI Sport is a multiple-discipline sports infrastructure, technology and media rights business, trusted by the world’s premium sporting organisations and brands since 1997.