Imagine a world where the match ‘never ends’, with continual opportunities to engage fans, deliver experiences and improve current and generate new commercial revenues.
Imagine being able to control and manage your club’s own destiny, where an integrated approach to data analysis will personalise the fan experience.
This is the core of digital transformation, putting your fans at the very heart of everything you do and offering a fully immersive experience that engages them in every step of the journey, from exclusive team access on matchday right the way through to ticketing, merchandise, betting and hospitality.
Digital transformation is driving the future of sports marketing
The digital landscape of sport is changing.
At the top end of football, most clubs are fully aware that their digital real-estate is as important an asset as their players and stadia.
It’s a key part of enabling them to build their club as a brand and reach an audience that’s not bound by their geographic location.
Even in the lower echelons of the football pyramid, or in sports which don’t attract Premier League-sized crowds, the number of paying supporters coming through the turnstiles each week doesn’t tell the full story.
It’s likely that thousands more are lurking in armchairs and on laptops on matchday, keeping tabs on the action, or constantly poring over newswires and social media for the latest player news, gossip and rumours.
This ‘hidden army’ of support is the holy grail for professional sports clubs… a rich but untapped seam of digitally-savvy content consumers.
The challenge is how to reach them.
The modes and methods of watching broadcasted sport are also changing.
It’s no longer just about television.
Fans now stream football and other sports via desktop, laptop, mobile and tablet.
They access highlights via social media and often multi-screen to take in every aspect of the game and every bit of opinion online, on-demand and in real-time.
And many are prepared to pay for ‘premium’ access to their club, its players and exclusive insight from their favourite opinion-formers.
The net effect is a major disruption of the marketplace, which was previously dominated by major broadcasters reliant on an outmoded subscription model that no longer generates the returns of its halcyon days.
The savviest of clubs, across all sports, are waking up to this fact.
They are realising that as the growing number of ‘digital natives’ within their fanbase continues to expand, exponentially, they need to offer a way to interact with them on a
24/7 basis, providing personalised, exclusive content and offers that are focused on their wants and needs.
Intelligent sports businesses are also innovating in the way they use their data.
They know exactly things like what each of their fans likes to eat, where they sit, what video clips they enjoy watching and which players’ shirts they like to wear.
Acting upon this insight helps them to connect with their fanbase, create additional revenue streams, drive growth and increase engagement.
It enables advertisers and sponsors to identify and deliver specific messages and campaigns in a highly-targeted way and measure the impact of those campaigns with respect to their own business and marketing objectives.
In short, it’s a win-win for fans, clubs and sponsors alike.
More and more clubs, across more and more sports, are waking up to the fact that their digital destiny – and the commercial gains that come with it – is in their own hands.
They are developing their own platforms to reach out to and engage with their fans, cutting out the middlemen of the traditional media and instead, going direct.
Case study 1: DCFC
Derby County Football Club was among the first in the English Football League to embrace this change, when it was given the opportunity of opting out of the EFL Digital agreement, which it did in 2016.
The club opted, instead, to create its own digital platform, www.dcfc.co.uk, which would give it greater control over its own online channels, deliver a greater commercial return as a result and enabling it to deliver a more immersive, engaging and interactive experience to its fans.
We worked with Derby County to create a market-leading online football platform that redefines football websites by placing fans at its very core, while generating significant new commercial opportunities for the club.
The platform offers greater scope to deliver more engaging content directly to the people that matter most to the club – its fans.
The club was keen to put its fans at the very heart of this project, to create a digital platform that is engaging, immersive and totally transforms the way supporters interact with it.
The response was to create a platform that can be viewed at home or on the go, providing a fluid service that is just as responsive on mobile or tablet as it is on desktop.
It delivers an enhanced online matchday experience, with the introduction of a new Match Centre which will allow fans to follow the action in every game from the club’s pre-season friendlies to the end of season deciders and beyond.
Unified from top to bottom, supporters can find whatever they desire all in one place, and with a single user account and login, making it easier to buy tickets, merchandise and hospitality packages.
And the club’s in-house video news channel, RamsTV, is fully-integrated into the new platform, and will feature player and manager interviews, extended highlights and the full 90 minutes of every fixture, and pre- and post-match news, features and studio chat.
Since launching, the club’s website has experienced a 165% increase in visits, a 98% increase in users and a 306% increase in page views.
Case study 2: Middlesex County Cricket Club
On the back of the success of the Derby County website, Middlesex County Cricket Club appointed us to deliver its digital transformation ahead of the 2018/19 domestic season.
Founded in 1864, Middlesex County Cricket Club is one of the most successful and well-respected first-class counties in the English domestic game.
The club has played at Lord’s since 1877 and has a proud history of developing many of the game’s greatest known cricketers, including Denis Compton, Mike Gatting, John Emburey and Andrew Strauss.
With the sport of cricket now appealing to a much broader audience, a wider age group, and a much more diverse demographic, the club was keen to provide a web platform that appeals to the modern-day cricket fan, offering an engaging site that catered for cricket fans of each of the game’s formats.
Purpose Media was appointed to gain a better understanding of the club’s fanbase and the type of audience it was looking to attract.
We undertook extensive research with the club, its supporters and other stakeholders to establish what their priorities were and what they wanted from the new platform.
We took the findings and applied the results to its existing framework, which has been developed and delivered to several professional sports clubs across the UK, Europe and Canada, to create a bespoke web solution tailored to the specific requirements of Middlesex Cricket and its fanbase.
The new site features a match centre and live match scorecard, with ball-by-ball updates, stats, graphs, wagon wheels, and action replays of all the action as the games unfold, along with a new live streaming service with audio commentary.
Steven Fletcher, PR, Media & Marketing Manager at Middlesex Cricket, said: “Cricket as a sport is fast-evolving and ever-changing, so ensuring that the club’s website continues to offer today’s cricket fan everything they require is an ongoing challenge.
“The research conducted by Purpose Media prior to them even commencing the build of our new platform delivered some really clear outcomes, such as an increased demand for latest news, a desire for more digital content, and a platform that provided a non-complicated user journey.
“We feel that Purpose Media’s solution has delivered on all of those key requirements.
“We’ve been enormously impressed with Purpose Media’s understanding of the landscape we operate in, of the requirements of our followers, and of their flexibility in working with us to develop the site moving forwards. We are delighted with the new look platform they’ve created for us, which we’ve received great feedback on since its launch at the start of the season.
“The introduction of our match centre, ‘as live’ action replays of the match as our games unfold, and live match streaming allows our followers to maintain a closer bond with the club, irrespective of where they are in the world.”
In today’s fast-evolving digital sports landscape, the match never ends.
Nor do the continual opportunities to engage fans, deliver experiences and generate new – and improve current – commercial revenues.
Clubs can now control and manage their own destiny, where an integrated approach to data analysis will personalise the fan experience.
This is what digital transformation means to sport, and business as a whole
Its future belongs to the brave, bold and innovative.