With fans unable to cheer on their teams in large numbers during the pandemic, football leagues and clubs have needed to find other ways to connect with them.
Sport is integral to many people’s lives and the experience of attending matches is incredibly popular. The 2019/20 A-League season had a total attendance of more than a million people. Until full crowds can return clubs need to find digital and virtual ways to engage with supporters.
Social media campaigns have been one opportunity for football organisations to connect with fans. Earlier this year FIFA created the #WorldCupAtHome campaign in response to the pandemic.
“When the scale of what was happening became clear, we had to quickly ask ourselves ‘what does the world need from FIFA right now?’,” FIFA’s Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Thomas said about the #WorldCupAtHome campaign.
“We have an incredibly rich archive, full of treasured football moments, and this campaign gave us a platform to experiment and innovate, as well as to support critical health messages and entertain our fans in this time of uncertainty.”
The campaign featured digital content over a range of social media platforms. Part of the campaign allowed fans to vote for which world cup matches they wanted to be streamed on FIFA’s YouTube channel.
FIFA’s campaign was incredibly successful reaching 300 million fans in 126 countries. FIFA also won the Content Creation Award from the Leaders Sports Awards for the #WorldCupAtHome campaign.
Manchester United now offers digital editions of its matchday programme United Review. The club has introduced the programme at an introductory price of $1.67 (AUD) however this will increase to $4.62 (AUD).
The current edition includes articles about the club and their opponents as well as interactive content such as videos. An interview with Manchester United’s forward Anthony Martial is paired with a video collection of all his 51 goals in the Premier League.
“With fans still not allowed in stadiums in England, the cover for this special edition – and all of our Champions League programmes this season – is dedicated to the part supporters have played in European nights over the years,” Manchester United said on its website.
English League One side AFC Wimbledon have also started using the digital magazine platform MatchDay Digital.
“Digital is a much more cost-effective and time-effective way of operating and clubs need to challenge more fans to move to digital we move into the future, because it’s better for us as businesses, and it’s better for fans as consumers,” AFC Wimbledon CEO Joe Palmer told fc business.
Official club/league websites and apps provide yet another option for organisations to provide content directly to their fans that can be accessed easily.
West Bromwich Albion have decided to move away from the Football League interactive platform and have instead decided to launch their own digital platforms to control their app and website.
West Bromwich Albion’s Head of Marketing, Laura Gabbidon spoke to fc business about the digital experience for supporters.
“Fans expect a good experience with the club whether it’s digital or physical. Fans want to be proud of the club they love, and we hope the launch of the new website and app has made them proud,” she said.
“We were well underway with this project before the pandemic hit. It’s made digital even more of a priority, if that was possible, as the primary way we can engage with fans now.”
English Premier League’s Manchester City has its own streaming service.
Although it was launched before the pandemic City+ allows specialty and exclusive content to be delivered straight to the club’s fans.
The subscription service includes live Manchester City matches and full-match replays (available for 24 hours after the game).
Feature length documentaries created by CityTV are also included on the platform. One documentary on the CITY+ ‘Made in Gran Canaria’ about former City captain David Silva.
Manchester City offers a 30 day free trial and then a $3.67 (AUD) fee per month which can be cancelled at any time.
The subscription is also easy to access and is available across online, app and tv platforms.
“Following the launch of our OTT platform last year, we wanted to continue enhancing the viewing experience for fans and offer greater flexibility to consume our content. We’re now rolling our exclusive content out across our digital estate,” Nuria Tarre, Chief Marketing Officer at City Football Group, said about City+.
“CityTV was given unprecedented access to David’s inner circle who provided a rare insight into the rise of one of the Premier League’s greatest players. Producing original and never seen before content for our fans is at the heart of our strategy and ‘Made in Gran Canaria’ will bring fans even closer to the stories of one of City’s most decorated players.”
There are many options for football clubs to connect with their fans during the pandemic.