It all happened so fast that we’re still rubbing our eyes in amazement. First, twelve of Europe’s leading soccer clubs decided to establish a new competition – the European Super League – an obvious rival to the UEFA Champions League. The official reason was improving the quality and intensity of existing gameplays and creating a format for the soccer’s upper crust. And the actual one, well – money. It didn’t take long for the whole idea to collapse. The controversies it brought and the major discontent of fans around the world reaped a bitter harvest. Nevertheless, we’ve decided to use this story to bring you closer to all the digital inspirations that can be drawn from the twelve would-be Super League giants. Ready? Let the game begin.
Introducing the unmaterialized European Super League
Initially, there were twelve founding members of the competition, with three additional to join before the inaugural season. The squad included the “Big Six” of England: Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur, three Spanish clubs: FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, as well as three major Italian players: AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus.
As of 21st of April 2021, six British teams resigned and the competition has been officially suspended. What’s its future? Hard to say. But let’s get down to the issues that concern us most.
We’ve done our homework and know that all the clubs mentioned above have been happily digitized. Some of them went the standard way, some surrendered to the frenzy of invention. Both paths are equally interesting and can inspire other sports related industries to take an example and make a significant change.
One of the famous London soccer clubs created a platform to support its existing processes and workflow, allowing its marketing team to seamlessly create and publish engaging content for the fans. It also maximally enhanced the experience of its website, improving its speed and performance by optimizing images and implementing lazy loading. Thus, the launch of a video player on the homepage got a boost in its performance, too, encouraging more than 34% of fans to watch it on a regular basis. The website is mobile-first and provides a convenient and stable usage across different devices. Live content, real-time updates, and connection with social channels allow the club to improve its relationships with fans, especially in the times of pandemic. What’s more, Arsenal is planning on making it even more personalized, relevant, and geo-targeted.
Having a base of 100 million people following the club on social media and a stadium that seats 42 thousand fans can be a bit tricky. That’s why it was a good idea to treat the rest of the Chelsea enthusiasts with a custom mobile app that drives them closer to the team. The 5th Stand application is dedicated for all kinds of users – from the faithful ticket buyers to casual followers of different ages and demographics. But the club didn’t want to provide them with what they already have on other platforms. It took advantage of the gathered mobile data and created a solution based on lookalike personas of the most engaged users. As a result, the app included:
- A pay-per-view model for preseason fixtures
- Exclusive free streaming of Premier League 2 and Women’s Super League matches
- Text and audio commentaries
- Franchised evergreen box sets of historic matches
And the effort really paid off! The 5th Stand became the most downloaded soccer club app in the world within six months of its launch. 92% of users stated that you just need to have it if you’re a real Chealsie fan. It even won the 2020 Marketing Week Masters award for mobile.
The club paid significant attention to creating innovative cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions for its fans, letting them connect from any place in the world and all possible devices. It succeeded in launching high-quality video content, gaining more than 52 million views in the first six months and becoming the most popular English soccer club on YouTube. Publishing engaging vlogs, funny behind-the-scenes, and heart-warming interactions with fans paved its way into an online success and brought the audience closer.
Liverpool’s senior vice president of digital media and marketing, Drew Crisp, is also looking for opportunities offered by virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) fueled with the growth of 5G. In his opinion, they could apply to fans who aren’t able to attend a stadium event and provide a totally different, live experience of the matches by showing them the field actions through the eyes of players. If you keep the emotions high, you maintain your fans’ engagement.
#4 Manchester City
Another British club, Manchester City, didn’t want to leave its fans high and dry, not being able to invite them for a live stadium match when the pandemic broke. Greg Swimer, MC’s chief technology officer, made the decision to stream the events through Cisco Webex. He also came up with an idea of creating a Wonder Wall of video screens at the Etihad Stadium to let the fans cheer their players alongside the pitch during home matches. The screens were installed behind each goal, so that the players could see the audience and its reactions.
Apart from that, as the blockchain-based solutions became increasingly popular in the pandemic world of soccer, Man City went with the flow and launched its $CITY fan tokens as well. People can use them to collect rewards, access available promotions, play dedicated mobile games, and vote on the club’s polls.
#5 Manchester United
Engaging a group of nearly 660 million fans can be a quite demanding task, but Manchester United fears nothing and strives to become a Digital Sports Enterprise. And these are not just empty words – the club launched its major new app which is supposed to be a one-stop shop for everything connected with the team. Along with the mobile solution and a fresh website, the club invested in an advanced underlying platform that allows it to adapt as new technologies emerge.
#6 Tottenham Hotspur
The club is known for its high standard, modern stadium located in North London. Some say that it lacks the atmosphere and character of its good old forerunner, but for us it’s an amazing display of advanced technologies and an exceptional outburst of innovation! It seats over 62 thousand fans, not only changing their experience but also an overall behavior, as the club wants them to cherish the soccer performance even more.
But what’s so special about the Spurs’ stadium exactly?
First of all, it’s integrated with a high capability network being a solid backbone for every implemented innovation. Walking around the field, you can see an astonishing number of 1,800 LG screens which display zone-specific content using the IPTV platform. What’s more, the stadium is not dedicated for soccer only. Tottenham Hotspur hosts two NFL games each year and has to meet the American football league’s requirements as well. It includes special lightning, audio and vision equipment along with the largest big screens in Europe and an advanced Harman speaker system.
And it’s all for the fans
They can make use of 65 food and drink outlets with the longest bar in Europe, and all the retail locations are cashless to speed up the service. Intelligent signage directs the fans to less crowded bars or toilets, and while waiting in the line, they can connect to 1,641 Wi-Fi access points and use the official app with navigation services. The goal is to make all the facilities so accessible and convenient that people would be more eager to come earlier and stay longer, and thus spend more money on the stadium.
Smart stadium collects data, too
Complex data center protected by a heavy glass can be easily seen from the stadium stands. It analyzes information collected from around the place to make sure that the amount of staff, food and drinks available during a match is sufficient. It’s also used to gather data about fans’ behaviour to provide them with even better service in the future.
#7 Inter Milan
Some time ago, Inter has launched the Salesforce platform to increase the value of its brand. And it did quite well. Club’s contact center registered 37% more calls from fans, their loyalty and engagement increased by 81%, and it all resulted in a 21,5% ticket sales raise. The platform automated the process of sending relevant emails and push notifications to fans that are interested in a certain topic. A thorough personalization with the access to a detailed history of their interactions with the club allowed Inter to improve customer support and service.
The B2B sales process is managed with the use of Sales Cloud, too. It provides the club with information about each sponsor, generates sales forecasts, allows editing draft contracts, and more.
The club has been happy to announce its totally new digital ecosystem composed of a fresh website and a mobile app. They’ve been made for the sake of fans, providing them with a seamless soccer experience: an online store, Juventus TV, a new membership programme, and a ticketing system. All of them mobile-first, boldly designed, UX pampered, and with dynamic content in mind.
And the best part – the app is also smartwatch friendly! You can check all the news, calendar, match center, league tables, and other essential information simply looking at your wrist. The content is personalized based on your browsing behaviour, too, so you only get the stuff you’re really interested in.
#9 AC Milan
Renowned Italian club launched its new, modernized official website which plays a crucial role in its digital ecosystem. It allows purchasing tickets or merchandise and works as a convenient information tool. It’s both appealingly designed and highly user friendly, yet Milan sees it more as an evolution rather than revolution.
Additionally, the club offers a customized app, it’s hyperactive on social media (more than 15 millions followers on TikTok!), and launches a series of podcasts. It also joined forces with Roc Nation and established the “From Milan to Love” virtual event which was a magnificent blend of soccer and music, generating more than 2,5 million views in 50 countries worldwide!
#10 Atletico Madrid
Atletico came up with something totally new and created a WhatsApp-powered virtual assistant to provide its customers with a 24h service which resulted in redirecting as much as 36% of traffic from conversations to the sales platform. As many people in Madrid were already using this communication tool to chat with one another, it seemed like an adequate and easy solution. The club made it possible for its fans to communicate both in Spanish and English, using the assistant to inform them about players, matches, seasons, tickets, and memberships. It responds to all of the queries using emoticons, sending videos, photos, and doing it all also after regular business hours.
#11 FC Barcelona
What Barca values most is its relationship with fans. And each year only 4 out of 350 million of them are able to visit the famous Camp Nou to see a match live. How to take all of these emotions overseas and reach groups of different ages? The Catalans decided to make a significant use of data to get closer to their enthusiasts and provide them with a more personalized experience.
Their Digital Vision included an advanced e-commerce platform, membership solutions, ticketing systems, social media boost, tailor-made content, 5G optimization, Barca TV+, new e-sports division, and more. Emotional enough? Probably.
But Barca went a step further and, along with the prestigious Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), it’s currently building a digital twin of its Camp Nou stadium. Such innovation will let the club analyze and predict the flow of a large audience inside and outside the stadium, using a set of information generated by fans during a match and entered into the digital twin. A vast collection of data will allow to create diverse fan profiles and predict the behaviour of thousands of people depending on their characteristics, weather, and forecasted result of the match. It’s all to improve the experience of a game and increase the people’s safety.
#12 Real Madrid
During lockdown, Real Madrid participated in a large virtual charity tournament organized by La Liga – the highest division in Spanish soccer. Each club had to nominate one player and the event was broadcasted live on Twitch as well as La Liga’s official website. As a result, it gained 180,000 euro donated to the medical personnel fighting with the pandemic. But before it happened, Real showed the power of social media and proved to be an excellent digital distributor. It made the challenge go viral over the weekend by retweeting all the players’ messages with small videos or animated GIFs. It also broadcasted the event live on every social media platform there is. After the tournament was finished, the club updated the videos with highlights and even full games on YouTube. That’s a digital spirit!
On the ground of La Liga’s charity success, Real launched its own esports event called the Real Madrid Playground in which its players compete against their teammates or other famous athletes, e.g. Carlos Sainz from Formula 1.
The club also encouraged their fans to become journalists for one day and ask sport-related questions. They were then answered by the team, recorded on a video, and shared on YouTube. It all obviously resulted in a huge peak in Real’s social media, and that was actually the point.
Inspired? Overwhelmed? Both? ?
We’ll help you get it all structurized and come up with an idea adjusted to your own needs and business requirements. We can be boringly conventional yet solid or go with the flow of innovation – the choice is yours. Just contact us for more details.