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Everton’s Angry Birds Partnership – will we see more of this in an independent A-League?

After Barclays’ title sponsorship ended with the Premier League in 2016, a new opportunity presented itself for teams to sell lucrative advertising space on the sleeve of the club’s playing shirt.

In a competitive market at the time, Premier League club Everton signed a multi-year deal in 2017 with Finnish video game developer Rovio Entertainment, the creator of popular puzzle game Angry Birds.

Angry Birds was released in 2009 and since then has amassed over 3.7 billion game downloads.

By the beginning of the 2017/18 season only eleven of the Premier League clubs had secured a shirt sleeve sponsor.

“At the end of the Barclays deal with the Premier League it was a competitive market,” head of partnership management at Everton, Mark Rollings.

“Every club was going to market at the same time, but it was really important to find the right brand fit for us, one that we could work with and create a great partnership.”

Everton was one of the teams that started the season without a sponsor, however the Angry Birds logo finally debuted on the sleeve of their jersey in a mid-September clash against Manchester United.

Everton is a club that was established in 1878 and has a rich history, however there is an understanding to move with the times and enter innovative partnerships with companies such as Rovio.

“Throughout the process of securing our first sleeve partner we spoke with many brands. When we met with Rovio at their HQ in Espoo it quickly became apparent how exciting and mutually beneficial this opportunity was going to be,” Rollings stated.

“They’re great to work with. Whenever you partner with a brand from a business sector which is new to you, we take learnings from each other. The creative, flexible and can-do approach is definitely something we felt from day one of the partnership.”

Both sides initially faced a big challenge in launching the partnership.

“The leading character of the Angry Birds series is a red bird and it is ironic that this is both a colour and symbol commonly associated with the club’s city rivals.” Rolling explained.

“True to Rovio’s dynamic, bold nature, rather than skirt around it we decided to hit it head on so, in line with the trend around over exaggerated player signing content at the time, we announced the character Red as a Blue.

“Angry Birds created a great video of Red signing a contract with Everton and that gained positive traction for the launch. It was a fantastic way for a partner to tackle a potential issue and also immediately pledge their support to the club.”

Everton and Rovio continued to discuss more unique possibilities between the two organisations.

Eventually, these creative discussions would lead to Everton players Theo Walcott, Cenk Tosun and Gylfi Sigurdsson being re-imagined as playable Angry Bird’s characters.

This occurred at the start of the 2018/19 Premier League season, with the digitisation of these players into the Angry Birds Evolution game.

“It was a world first, there’d never been football talent in a non-football focused mobile game. And that gained a lot of attention with over one hundred pieces of coverage in newspapers and on back pages. It also achieved over five million views across related social media content.”

The integration of the playable Everton characters led to a 60% increase in downloads for the Angry Birds franchise over a two-week period.

It was also important for Everton that the partnership was well received by its fanbase.

Rollings claimed: “What you see with Angry Birds is if you create good activations that fans can see, enjoy and engage with, then you start to earn your place among the fanbase. Angry Birds’ approach was to bring the partnership to life through stories, content and activations that fans would enjoy. People will engage with quality partnership activation that adds value to their experience and the stats prove that.

“Our data and insights team run a regular partner tracking survey and that showed that in the first year of the partnership the opinion of Angry Birds improved by 22% among our fanbase. Angry Birds has been really received and people have understood the mutual value that it has driven for both brands.

“We also commissioned independent research which not only tracked Everton fans, but also Premier League fans, and in that survey awareness of Angry Birds as a partner of a Premier League club was between 60 and 70%, which for the length of deal they’ve had so far is pretty remarkable. So we’re seeing it’s not just Everton fans that are engaging with the partnership, Premier League fans are too.”

On a local front, will we see more of similar partnerships in the A-League now that rules look to be relaxing on a sponsorship front?

Time will tell.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

DFL and AWS introduce two new Match Facts to Bundesliga coverage

Bundesliga analysis

The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced the addition of two new Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that will premiere as graphics during broadcasts and in the official Bundesliga app during the 2021-2022 season.

The two new Match Facts – Shot Efficiency and Passing Profile – will bring the total number of advanced statistics to eight, with each of them aiming to give fans deeper insights into the action on the pitch.

The first of the new advanced stats – Shot Efficiency – compares the number of goals that a player or team has scored with how many goals the player or team should have scored based on the quality of their chances.

The second – Passing Profile – provides deeper insights into the pass quality of a player or an entire team. Both of the stats are generated by gathering and analysing the match feeds from live games in real time as they are streamed into AWS.

Both new stats made their debut during Matchday 4 on the clash between German Champion FC Bayern München and the second-placed team of the previous season RB Leipzig.

The two new Match Facts will better showcase the action on the field – giving fans, coaches, players, and commentators visual support for analysing the decision-making of players and teams.

Andreas Heyden, Executive Vice President of Digital Innovations for DFL Group, was excited to further innovate the matchday experience for viewers based both domestically and internationally.

“Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS allows us to give fans more insight into the game of football, broadcasters more interesting stories to tell and coaches and teams, more data to excel at their game,” he said.

“Last year, the reception for Bundesliga Match Facts around the world was very positive, and we expect through ML and AI to continue to innovate on these analytics to make them even better.

“These two new stats give fans a view into player efficiency that hasn’t been achieved before, and we are just at the beginning of our relationship with AWS. I’m excited to see how technology will continue to evolve the fan experience and the game.”

Jamie Harnwell driving the game forward in Western Australia

Jamie Harnwell is Perth Glory’s record appearance holder, with 256 of them across three decades. Now Chief Football Officer for Football West, he spoke to Soccerscene about the changes from the NSL to the A-League, the challenges of running a football federation, and his favourite footballing moments throughout his career.

So firstly, what’s the biggest challenges facing Football West at the moment?

Harnwell: I think it’s interesting. Football West is in a really good position, being very fortunate with COVID over here and able to get out and play. The challenges are more for our clubs I suppose, and then Football West supporting them. Facilities are always a challenge for every sport, but certainly for football. We need to make sure there are enough grounds and space for people to play, but also aspects like lighting, adequate change rooms, and those sorts of things are suitable for clubs. We have a number of them almost putting up the closed sign because they have too many players and not enough space for them to play.

The other challenge for Football West and the clubs is the increase in governance requirements. We are basically a volunteer sport in many ways. And the increasing legalities and issues across that for volunteers to deal with can be difficult. So it’s time that we at Football West need to be able to support our clubs, make sure they’re adhering to good practice, and doing the right things so that they can continue to grow.

How has professional football in Australia improved since you first debuted with Perth Glory in the late 90s?

Harnwell: I think it’s actually professional football now. You know when I first started playing, I think there was ourselves and maybe Carlton who were actual full-time professional clubs. The rest were part-time as people were still working during the day, going to training at night, and trying to juggle the two. So certainly the transition into the A-League and full-time professionalism for all clubs has been huge, and just the continued increased coverage and media around the game has made us much more accessible. It’s easier to see and has a much better chance of building that supporter base across the game here in Australia.

What areas do you think the game can continue to improve on going forward into the future?

Harnwell: There’s always talent development and making sure that we stay on pace with best practices and what’s happening in other parts of the world. We are a smaller nation in the grand scheme of things in football, so we need to be smart about how we approach those sorts of things and make sure we get bang for our buck for everything that we do. The other thing is we need to try and increase the commercialism of the game and make sure that we continue to get funds into the game that can assist in the youth development that can help in costs for clubs and all those types of things. So that’s the way I know Football Australia is working hard on it. They’re starting to bring more and more partners into the game. But if you look at the mega machines like AFL, then we probably still have some way to go in that.

How can football win across young athletes into joining the sport over others?

Harnwell:
I think we’re really lucky as a game. I can’t speak for other states, I suppose – but the numbers here at Football West in Western Australia just continue to grow year in year out. We are a very attractive game for parents to pick for young boys and girls. It’s a very easy game to choose and very easy to play and train. So we’re certainly well-positioned in that respect – making sure that our clubs provide positive environments that they enjoy what they do. There isn’t the overarching focus on just winning games, but more a longer-term development based approach that will make sure talented young players will stay in football rather than going across to other codes.

On a personal level, what is your most memorable footballing memory?

Harnwell: There’s probably a few, I suppose for myself as a player – it would have been the first NSL Championship that we won. We’d had a couple of cracks at it before and sort of fell away in the Grand Final. So that first win in 2003 was huge, and really got the monkey off our back, and managing to score in that game with the massive crowd was fantastic. But I’m also a Manchester United fan, so the treble was pretty good as well. So I don’t know which one ranks better for me!

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