Football clubs across the world have financially suffered over the past two years, through the length of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it was the smaller businesses in these clubs’ catchment areas who were affected even more.
Local businesses are a vital part of the overall football economy across the world, including in Australia, but according to studies local businesses saw their revenues slashed by 20-30% on average.
With stadium gates around the world already reopening or in the process of it, these clubs have the opportunity to not only rebuild their own revenue, but play an important role in boosting their local economies as a whole.
Blackpool-based Eleven Sports Media is rapidly expanding their existing mission to assist in that process.
Over the past 13 years the company has bridged the gap between clubs’ time-starved commercial teams and their local business communities.
Eleven specialise in owning, managing and operating Community Partner programmes for clubs who decide to use their services. Resources are freed up, with the club provided a solution which grows multiple long-lasting partnerships with local businesses.
Over the past year, demand for the company’s deeply held community values, top-class activation expertise and high-tech stadium inventory has surged.
The company’s Stadium, StatTV and StatZone fan-engagement platforms continue to evolve rapidly, with many clubs across the world noticing these improvements.
More than 40 clubs across all the of the UK (many of them being in the Premier League) have partnered with Eleven Sports Media, with the company also recently striking a deal with MLS side New York City FC (NYCFC).
Their growth is a testament to the work they do in helping clubs build strong connections with their local business communities.
“We have been fortunate to work across all tiers of the game and in all regions of the country for many years,” Matt Cairns, founder and CEO of Eleven, told FC Business.
“We know exactly how important the ties between clubs and the businesses around them truly are.
“It’s those businesses that will always be there to support their clubs through the ups and downs, and we understand what those local businesses need for real growth. That’s why we have evolved our model so far beyond simple stadium advertising. From boosting digital audiences through to achieving CSR objectives or creating high-impact experiences, we cover all the bases to make sure those businesses enjoy real returns from of their partnerships with clubs.”
Eleven’s new agreement with the New York club will see them develop new partnerships for local businesses, giving them an unprecedented platform for growth possibilities in the future.
The company’s branding will also be displayed on NYCFC’s academy kits, an investment that Cairns says speaks to Eleven’s commitment both to the MLS club and to the new partners it will engage on their behalf.
“We are the shirt sponsors of over a dozen Academy teams, and it’s great to add NYCFC to that list. Investing in our partner clubs is hugely important to us – it matters to those clubs, and to the local businesses around them. There’s no better way to demonstrate our own values, as well as the rewards that come from meaningfully engaging with clubs in this way,” Cairns stated.
Matt Goodman, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at NYCFC, believes the club’s partnership with Eleven is an evolution of a community focused ethos that the MLS team has maintained since it was founded.
“We’re a community asset,” he told FC Business.
“Our role is to connect with the community to empower better lives through soccer. We would have said that before the global pandemic, but even more so after it.
“Our responsibility is to help pick the citizens of the city, those businesses, back up.”
Goodman was an influential member in a team that delivered a unique collaboration with Mastercard last year, which extended the club’s commercial and digital marketing expertise to struggling local businesses.
The club has also worked to free up retail room for local challenger drinks brands – another one of the ways it has provided opportunities for small businesses within New York to gain exposure in the marketplace.
“The most exciting part about partnering with Eleven is that shared emphasis on small business and on community,” Goodman said.
“To help those who need help the most. Eleven’s history with global football, coupled with an emphasis on community, is the most unique part of how Eleven operates.
“What the partnership will do is it will give us a much larger platform to be able to speak to more fans and give more small businesses, a bigger platform for success. And that to us is the most important part.”
It’s a similar story in the UK, where Eleven is the shirt sponsor for both Celtic FC Women and the club’s B-team, providing the Scottish giants with an array of technology and partnership solutions.
The club was founded in its community to initially address the issue of poverty, and despite its strong worldwide following, its devotion to its local roots remains strong. Eleven has added many local businesses to Celtic’s network of local partnerships.
“The club was born in the community,” Commercial Director of Celtic FC, Adrian Filby, told FC Business.
“Local businesses are an important part of the community; they employ local people – they are supporters. Our partnerships with Eleven gives them the opportunity to be part of a premium global brand.
“Therefore, we are – in a big way- supporting them and helping them come back through a difficult period.”
“It’s about bringing everybody back to what the club stood for. Without local businesses, without local people employed, there isn’t a local football club.
“We’re all one, so it’s a critical part of the ecosystem for us.”
In finding these innovative ways to connect with local businesses and expand their relationships, with the help of companies like Eleven, clubs are viably supporting their own future – but also that of their local economies.