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The FECKK conference in Kilkenny brought together a varied audience of professionals and executives from the sports world. The main topic was fan engagement and tackled it from a lot of interesting viewpoints, including digital media, e-sports and in stadium interaction.
WHEN SCOUTING MEETS DIGITAL MARKETING/MARIO LEO – RESULT SPORTS
This session was the opener of the event. The message from Mario was clear from the start, social media must be commercialised.
Almost all football clubs own an official website. The website acts as a point of sale because this is where tickets and merchandise is sold. In contrast, social media does not act as a point of sale because there is no option for the clubs to create direct transaction by engaging fans.
For clubs, instead of investing a lot of effort into developing an app, the focus should be on creating a functional mobile compatible website version to broaden the reach and use of this point of sale.
When promoting content on social media it is crucial for clubs to understand that they need to direct the traffic from social media to the website.
Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona were among the early adopters of digital back in 2008 and other clubs began to follow.
Content in the digital world is storytelling. The chosen platform for the story is what makes the difference since there are so many different platforms. The content and the data needs to be optimised to fit each platform.
Pure information is not enough for the digital audience and infotainment was created. The understanding that content needs to be personalised if an organisation wants to create emotions with their customers. Finally, the analytics era arrived and the acknowledgement that raw data on its own is worth nothing.
One of the challenges for sporting organisation to utilise digital correctly lies within the organisational structure and the hierarchy. If a club has 5,000 tickets remaining to sell on a Monday to a match on the weekend how does the entire organisation align to make it happen? The data and work around digital connects all the departments in the organisation.
Important: maintaining digital only leads to going backwards. Sports organisations need to be proactive and grow with the digital world.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are the commonly used platforms. There are geographic platforms like in China with Weibo and Wechat.
Big clubs such as Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool have the ability to control all those media streams but the majority of clubs are not that resourceful.
The lifecycle of digital activation is:
Growing> Reaching more People> Engaging with the audience> Monetise. The last part is where a lot of clubs miss out.
What clubs need to do?
• Clustering the fans to achieve monetisation.
• Get fans to engage with various platforms
• distinguish digital fan behaviour. Followers and active fans. Followers only view the content. active fans engage with it.
• Track and monitor the digital fan as soon as engagement was made
• Match capacities to capabilities
• Understand that digital is a cross-organisation component
The way fans interact can tell the sports organisation which content to put out. 30% of followers engage with content. Only 5% associate their personal identity with the club by using profile pictures I-frames for example.
The head of digital is probably the one in control. If the media and communication department within the club wants to push a certain content on a back of a defeat they will be slaughtered on social media.
The sporting impact always has an impact on the content that is put out:
• In 2011, Leicester City did not have a Facebook page. In 2016, they had 1M, in 2017, 6M.
• Chapecoense’s tragedy created for the club a 56% of audience abroad digitally. People feel obliged to respond to a tragic event.
• Instagram is more dominant for Man Utd than Facebook
• Facebook is the leading platform for Italian clubs
• The Bundesliga did not have a Facebook page until December 2016
Clubs are domestically very strong but the leagues and federations need to act as global ambassadors.
Case Study, Indonesia:
• An average 21-35, male, football fan follows around 7 clubs
• Cristiano Ronaldo has more followers than Real Madrid
• Clubs need to find ways for fans to prefer their club
• clubs even with their own stars in the same market
Digital and Scouting
How does it eventually fall into scouting? Assuming a club has a list of targets. The players can be fantastic on the pitch but what if one of the targets stand out on social media and can also add a commercial value to the club? This is where scouting and digital correlates.
To conclude, in and era of fan engagement the focus should not be only on engaging, it should be on what do clubs need to do with the data after the engagement was made.
BIG AUDIENCES AND BIG EXPECTATIONS- BARRY CUNNINGHAM (IRFU), STUART VOSE (HEAD OF DIGITAL AT SUNDERLAND), AND ALAN MILTON (GAA)
This panel covered the issues regarding satisfaction of fans and their constant thirst for more and more content.
All of the panellists agreed that fluctuations in performance of teams make living up to the fans expectation even more difficult. When a team faces a downfall or an unsuccessful period it actually triggers support from the fans rather than criticism across different platforms.
Not only the sports organisations have a voice. Players and managers do too. It is important that the same, or at least a similar tone of voice in the messages coming out from both camps is used.
One of the challenges that faces the ones involved in sports, and this relates more to individual comments on social media from players, is the balance between a genuine message and an edited or directed by a certain stakeholder. Keen followers of a certain player will notice a change in the tone of voice coming out from a player.
Sunderland for example created a 24/7 documentary with Jermaine Defoe which follows him through the build-up and the preparations for a match.
The mix of panellist from organisations different in size demonstrates the capacity and capabilities of what a digital team can do in terms of content creation. With technology developing more and more options to create content opens. One thing is for sure, no sports organisation can allow a dry spell without pushing content on its accounts, especially when there is high and constant demand for content.
A sports organisation should never be afraid to try something new but has to be cautious that using a certain feature in the past, i.e. Facebook Live, will create the expectation among the fanbase to see more of this kind of content. It is up to the digital team of the sports organisation to determine what works and what can be left behind.
• Expectation from fans is very much affected by the sporting performance of the team
• Sports organizations need to learn how to respond to positive and negative incidents
• Maintaining a consistent TOV across all of the stakeholders involved
• Posting on social media should be done when cool and composed
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN- FROM CORPORATE TO CONSULTANCY/ JOAQUIM CARDON(EX DIGITAL OF FC BARCELONA, BEN WELLS (EX-CHELSEA), JERAMIE MCPEEK (EX-PHOENIX SUNS)
This panel featured executives who were previously acting on behalf of the club and eventually broke away to an external consultancy role.
The panel opened with a question by the host, Geoff Wilson, “Are clubs doing digital well?” The answers were varied and presented a different view by the panellists which led to an interesting discussion.
For Joaquim in general clubs are doing quite well on digital in terms of content. Where they are struggling is with CRM.
Ben provided a different approach and argued that clubs are million miles away of understanding digital. For instance, clubs will go on Facebook to be engaging, where the main benefactor from this activity is Facebook who says thank you for the data. There is no overarching business plan and marketing strategy for clubs in digital.
Jeramie distinguished first what is digital. In terms of generating revenue from marketing activities on social media, sport teams are not there yet. However, regarding branding and engagement, there are teams who do it well.
What clubs need to do to become better with digital?
Ben stated that clubs act as sales organisation and think that having the data and CRM systems is sufficient. Clubs will present certain digital KPI’s which is okay, but what is the plan for the gathered data?
Bottom-line, clubs need to think as 24/7 lifestyle brand. This mindset will get other business partners to want to collaborate with the clubs.
A Premier League club will have 18 home games during a season. The vision needs to be for the long term and the focus of fan engagement should be in the times where fans are physically remote from the venue.
Jeramie emphasised the importance of larger and more accurate fan profiles which will eventually help sports organisation understand their audience better and how to interact with it.
Joaquim mentioned that even though clubs use different strategies to approach and utilise digital, in the end the results are quite similar. Real Madrid in comparison to Barcelona include more sponsors in their content, whereas Barcelona may create more content.
What does the future hold?
The term engagement has become so used that what it is actually about becomes vague. Monetising digital interaction is good but shouldn’t be the sole focus, it should act as a part of broader 24/7 engagement plan correlated with the organisation’s goals and targets.
E-SPORTS PANEL- IS THE HYPE REAL? AND WHERE ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FANS AND SPONSORS? / OLIVER BODEN (IMG), JONNY MADILL (SHERIDANS), GEOFF WILSON (CESL)
E-Sports is out there and it is the next big thing if not already is. Although a majority of people heard about it many still find it hard to understand what it is.
In E-Sports there are numerous stakeholders: game publishers, event organisers, players, teams, broadcasters and streamers, and sponsors (endemic and non-endemic).
Millennials are the dominant audience around E-Sports and this is one of the pull factors for football clubs. Clubs are facing an ageing fan base and the millennial demographic is exactly the one clubs try to capture in the digital era.
In traditional sports, when asking fans what is happening in their sport whether it’s football, basketball or rugby, usually they will know what is going on. In E-Sports, since it is a fragmented market, even the most enthusiast followers of E-Sports are not sure what is happening in terms of calendar and structure.
Challenges and Entry Strategies by Clubs
The lack in structure and calendar causes clubs to ponder about E-Sports. While clubs are still hesitant, brands are the ones are jumping the waggon.
Endemic brands such Intel and Playstation are involved but it is the involvement from non-endemic brands as the likes of VISA and Coca-Cola that makes the E-Sports market even more appealing.
Another challenge that brands face is associating themselves with first shooter games.
Schalke 04, PSG, and Manchester City are football clubs who entered E-Sports in different market entry strategies. Schalke took over an established League of Legends team, PSG set up an E-Sports division on its own and feature in League of Legends and FIFA17. As for Man City, they signed a single FIFA17 player.
One of the reasons clubs are still hesitant is because they are not sure which entry strategy is the most beneficial, both commercially and in fan base growth.
Regulation and Governance
E-Sports is a very fragmented market since there’s no global governance and regulation. That said, it seems that E-Sports has no ceiling and will grow together with new games and new technologies in the future.
A topic that usually comes up is player welfare and player pathway. Is there a place for segmenting age groups in E-Sports to create a career path? As for player welfare, all the stakeholder work together to make sure the players treat their career professionally with a balanced lifestyle which includes training and guidance.
So, what does the future hold for E-Sports? It estimated that this market will generate $1.5 Billion in revenue in 2020. In order to make the next step forward is player marketing. The market is waiting for a star players and IMG’s work around UFC storytelling can be translated into the activity of the company in E-Sports.
In the coming years, we can expect to see a more organised and structured E-Sports market with more brands and sports organisations getting involved.
BUILDING FAN LOYALTY IN SHORT TERM ATTENTION SPANS
This panel featured views from three different sports. There was Mark Brooks from the ice hockey team the Belfast Giants, Orlagh ni Chorcorian from Leinster Rugby and Owen McNamee from Swim Ireland.
The main factor for achieving loyalty in the short-term attention span era is to try and catch every segment of the fan base. In team sports, Leinster Rugby for example, is reliant on their season ticket holders who act as the main source of revenue. How do you retain them and create lifetime fans?
Swim Ireland has a different orientation. Since it is a governing body backed by the Irish government, the activities of the organisation are not commercially driven. For Swim Ireland to create loyalty the way to interact with fans is to shift away from professional swimming and help develop grassroots swimming.
For the Belfast Giants the challenge is different. Ice Hockey is not as strong in Northern Ireland and has to compete with more established and popular sports such as Rugby and GAA games. Besides the challenge stand an opportunity. The Belfast Giants are the 3rd most followed ice hockey in team in Europe, hence the team can build on that and increase awareness.
Orlagh then stated the fact that it costs more to acquire new fans than to retain existing ones. By utilising the club’s partnership with TicketMaster, the were able to engage with fans based on CRM data and identify specific beneficial touch points to which fans respond.
The three panellists concluded by agreeing mutually on the following. Stick to what works. Whether it is digitally by e-mails or social media or more traditional ways. However, don’t be afraid to test new ways, but overall, it all comes down to resources and what they enable the organisation to do.
THE CONNECTED FAN-HOW CHATBOTS CAN BOOST FAN ENGAGEMENT AND PROVIDE MARKETING INTELLIGENCE FOR CLUBS
They may not be at full capacity yet but chatbots are one of the tools to keep an eye on for the future. Chatbots is a technology which is designed to make the conversation with an online automatic customer service system feel more personal and accurate.
What is interesting about chatbots is that they are self-learning. The more question they get asked the more answers they will be able to come up with. The Connected Fan are based in Budapest, Hungary, and have teamed up with local club Ferencváros.
The implementation process of the technology with the club took 6 weeks. The company together with the club gathered the 50 most commonly asked questions by fans. Besides giving information for fans the chatbot can be used to push promotions.
It will be interesting to follow the development of this technology within football and in the commercial world in general.
STADIUM ENGAGEMENT- THE WIFI PROVIDER, THE DATA ANALYST AND THE CONTENT MAKER WITH AIB, VODAFONE, SPORTEGO(JAMES DICKENS) AND VILICOM(STEPHEN SHANNON)
Stadium engagement is proving to be difficult. Some old stadiums need to retrofitted to support the latest technology, connectivity hardware, and infrastructure, whereas new stadiums must include design in features and infrastructure for potential expansion to keep up with velocity in technological development.
One of the first questions that are being asked is what is the ROI of making a stadium connected, but also when will the stakeholders involved in the stadium will see the ROI? There are so many stakeholders involved and not all of them see the benefit of connecting a stadium. Internal politics between the managing company, the renting club, local council and the list goes on all have a say.
Stadiums today need to offer a consist user experience which is crucial for the network operators as it is easy to switch from one operator to another. From the network provider point of view, firstly, the network has to be set correctly, once achieved, the network operator can focus on the emotional side and get involved in campaigns.
The Toughest campaign was made to increase awareness to the GAA together with AIB. As in every fan engagement process, the two organisations worked together to know their fans and understand the key touch points to interact with them.
VIRTUAL INSANITY- THE IMPACT VR WILL HAVE ON THE FAN EXPERIENCE/ ALEX SOUTH FROM LADUMA
The session began with brief review of the development in photography and video from its early days.
It is reasonable to assume VR is only used for entertainment purposes. In sports however, the technology is used to improve training as was shown with an example from an NFL team. VR is also used for player recruitment as the technology enables the ability to simulate different point of view of players.
When the NFL played a series of games in London in October 2016, during the summer, Regent Street was converted into an NFL celebration where Laduma showcased the technology and allowed fans to experience what it is like attending a match at the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Football clubs have also tapped into the technology and LA Galaxy from the MLS worked with Laduma to create a VR app that will give far away fans the opportunity to experience the Los Angeles lifestyle through the eyes of star players like Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane, and more.
What is important to understand about VR is while it is easy to set up a camera anywhere in the ground, the key factor is to move the camera around to get a total view.
A few things to consider for VR moving forward:
• Watching a game in 2d is still better than through the headset.
• VR cancels short attention spans as a person cannot reach to his phone while using the headset (although there are companies who are working on creating a transparent VR headset.
• VR will become immersed with clubs and sponsors as another arena to showcase themselves.
• No one yet developed a unique app and the focus is on the hardware
This article was written by David Haimovich, Marketing Assistant at the Sports Business Institute Barcelona. He attended the FECKK Fan Engagement Conference live from Kilkenny, Ireland. If you have any comments or questions about this post feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at: @HaimovichDavid.