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Urban Zoo’s Gamechanger enhances the digital experience

A host of British football clubs have adopted Urban Zoo's Gamechanger platform - a revolution in fan engagement and monetisation.

A host of British football clubs have adopted Urban Zoo’s Gamechanger platform which has become a revolution in fan engagement and monetisation. 

In a critical time for the sports industry, technology company Urban Zoo has transformed the performance of digital platforms for UK clubs such as Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Fulham, Stoke City, Everton, Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic and even Scottish powerhouse Celtic. 

Chris Grannell and Rob Moore are the pioneers behind the Warrington-based technology company and has become a revolution for British football. 

“We provide the ability to integrate clubs’ apps, web sites, streaming services and retail platforms via a single sign-on (SSO),” Grannell said.  

“Clubs get a single fan view, helping them better understand their behaviour and allowing them to tailor bespoke offers. Even though the system behind it is a ‘bespoke platform’ we can craft a unique user interface that makes every site individual to its host club.” 

Fulham FC wanted to review its brand and subsequently turned to Gamechanger to help present the club’s unique identity more strongly online after a detailed competitor audit. 

“We now have SSO in place across the club’s main website, ticketing, retail and TV online properties, and will roll that out to a new club app shortly,” Fulham’s head of marketing Jack Burrows said.  

“Few clubs currently have this full breadth of functionality, and since launching the new website in September this year the overall feedback has been extremely positive.” 

The combination of managing content and maximising potential revenue opportunities online has been just as important as stronger fan experience. 

“Our previous system was falling down, and the website behind where we wanted to be positioned as a club,” Burrows said. 

“It was incredibly difficult to modernise user journeys and unlock online potential across content consumption and engagement, as well as commercial and e-commerce opportunities.  

“Gamechanger has allowed our commercial team to monetise new digital assets, and by enhancing site functionality across desktop and mobile, simplifying the front-end navigation and working with a strengthened back end system, Gamechanger is continuing to allow us to innovate more and drive forward digitally.” 

More fans now want to engage with clubs’ digital assets given it’s easier, more intuitive and more enjoyable to do so.  

Premier League club Sheffield United are one of Urban Zoo’s partners.

“Our multi-platform traffic is up by more than 200 per cent,” Aston Villa’s digital product manager, Ben Startin said. 

“We’re a big club and when we made announcements such as player signings we’d get huge spikes in web use but our legacy system would fall over.  

“It was driving fans off-line and got so bad they were developing memes mocking our web performance. That’s completely reversed now and whilst the spikes in usage remain huge, Gamechanger can handle all the traffic thrown at it.” 

“The whole platform is so easy use. We had just one training session for the team and they’ve been able to make the system fly from the off. 

“There’s no way that an enterprise software platform could have delivered all this in just four months.” 

All clubs agree that Urban Zoo’s approach to client management has been extremely beneficial. 

“They’re footy people,” Wigan’s Ashley Houghton said.  

“They don’t hide behind account managers and flannel: you get talk to the techies direct and they’re a constant source of great ideas.  

“When Jonty Castle (now CEO at AFC Fylde) brought them he said they ‘got it’ and he was right. Some of our most enjoyable brainstorming sessions have been with their team.” 

Startin from Aston Villa has also been impressed with Urban Zoo’s passion towards transforming football clubs. 

“You can see Urban Zoo’s football pedigree from the way Gamechanger has been designed, but also in their proactivity,” he said.  

“They work on a fixed licence-fee model, which makes working with them much more budgetable. It’s a very transparent and commercial approach which helps avoid nasty surprises.” 

For Matt Gamble at Everton, they have been able to use Gamechanger to accelerate the performance of the Toffees’ newly-launched app. 

“Our focus is on massively increasing the regularity of fans’ usage,” he said.  

“The platform has allowed us to completely revamp the push notification system, letting fans tailor what notifications they want to receive. 

“We can also now create mobile- specific experiences such as competitions or games exclusively for the app and it offers much better integration with our video provider.  

“We can now deliver live video or audio, providing another reason for fans to keep visiting.” 

Urban Zoo currently has 12 clubs and organisations as clients.

Chris Grannell and fellow director Rob Moore at Urban Zoo have built a platform that has already delivered positive outcomes for many UK-based football clubs. Deeper integration and knowledge of fan’s needs will be delved deeper with a new Sports CRM proposition to integrate seamlessly with Gamechanger. 

“With easy and intuitive interrogation it will provide clubs with all the behavioural analysis, segmentation and loyalty tracking they could ever need,” Grannell said. 

“It will mean another step up in how they communicate with fans. We’re taking direct marketing to another level and it is British football leading the way.” 

Another big leap forward will come by seeking an improvement on personalisation for fans. 

“We’re now working on a big change in ensuring that each fan engagement feels instantly bespoke, at point of sign-in,” Moore said.  

“Fans want to be presented with what they are interested in. They want to be recognised as the type of fan they are, with a user experience personalised to their preferences.

“It’ll have a huge impact on generating additional spend and user satisfaction.”

You can find out more about Urban Zoo and Gamechanger here. 

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

How KEEPUP will revolutionise football in Australia

Late last week, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) launched their new $30 million digital platform KEEPUP.

The main aim of the new digital hub is to convert a larger proportion of the 8 million football fans in this country into supporters of Australia’s premier domestic competitions.

“The platform was delivered to broaden and enhance the fan experience, connecting A-Leagues fans and international competition fans in one place,” a statement from the APL read.

“In its current form, the platform will focus on creating and curating content to bring fans close to the game however they choose, with significant expansion planned into the future.

“KEEPUP will feature compelling content from the best of the A-Leagues, European and world football, the Socceroos and Matildas, NPL, and FFA Cup.

“A-League clubs’ content hubs will also be integrated onto the platform to ensure fans are offered the most comprehensive football resource available in Australia.”

KEEPUP, across their website and app, have already begun producing a wide array of content from breaking news stories, expert columns from football journalists, articles on football culture, video productions and in-depth analysis features, not just on the A-League, but world football.

The KEEPUP team is led by Optus’ former director of sport Richard Bayliss, who is in charge of the editorial, social media and production practices across the platform.

KEEPUP will have a strong impetus on keeping editorial independence and not cheerlead for the APL and its clubs at every opportunity.

“Day one of the launch we had two A-League CEOs complaining about criticism on our platform, this is all about being authentic and you can’t have a propaganda site,” APL Managing Director, Danny Townsend, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Football fans are extremely discerning and the minute they see something that is not authentic…they’ll call that out.”

Alongside the diverse content on the platform, KEEPUP will look to innovate in ways which will engage new audiences and provide those they already have connected with, with unique experiences.

“This is just the beginning,” Chief Commercial Officer at the APL, Ant Hearne, said.

“We have a bold plan to evolve KEEPUP into an unparalleled global digital hub, expanding functionality beyond a content base to include gamification, e-Commerce, ticketing, second screen live stadium experiences and loyalty programs.”

Other codes in Australia such as Cricket, AFL and NRL have all invested heavily in their own digital content over time, however the $30 million digital investment from the APL is playing to the strategic advantages that football has over other sports.

“I look at what the other sports are doing and they’re very much wed, fortunately, to TV deals that mean they don’t need to do what we’re doing,” Townsend told the SMH.

“We’re in a situation where we’ve got an enormous base, we’ve got the youngest fan base of any sport in the country who are all digital natives. We’re going to get into the direct-to-consumer business and that will preserve the long-term revenues and build the football economy.”

If you register an account on KEEPUP (which is free to do so), you will receive a four-week trial to Paramount+ – the service which is showcasing the majority of Australian football games for the next five years.

This offer is a slice of things to come between the APL and their new broadcast partner ViacomCBS, with future plans for content from the digital platform to be integrated further into the Channel 10 Network and Paramount+.

“What Channel 10 and ViacomCBS bought into was our strategy,” Townsend told the SMH.

“The ViacomCBS deal was a really critical one for us on many levels financially, but equally the reach it delivers us. But importantly, the owners have continued to invest and put their money where their mouth is.

“The sports media and commercial landscape is changing and the days of sports just serving up content on television, taking a big cheque and playing sport are over. It’s changing in a way that requires sports to take the initiative and connect with their fans.

“We’ve got to become an entertainment business because at the end of the day, if we’re going to grow revenues of the sport, we need to engage our fans more effectively.”

The APL’s KEEPUP platform has only been around for just over a week, but its long-term agenda has the potential to change the perception of the game in this country.

Digging Deeper: Inside Melbourne Victory’s StatsBomb partnership

Melbourne Victory dropped a bomb on the A-League competition when it announced its new partnership with StatsBomb,

Melbourne Victory dropped a bomb on the A-Leagues when it announced its new partnership with StatsBomb – a name that will be unfamiliar to most Australian football fans.

However, whilst the name might be new, the pursuit is not.

As the role of data analytics continues to rise in football, many clubs and organisations are still coming to grips with how to best process and present that data and how to use it to make tangible differences on gameday.

In StatsBomb, Melbourne Victory will certainly hope they have gained an advantage on the competition.

StatsBomb firmly believes it is up for the challenge – and why wouldn’t they?

Already trusted by the likes of Liverpool FC – a club now renowned for its use of data and analytics in improving on-field performance – StatsBomb is enjoying an increasingly growing reputation within the game.

Also counting AS Roma and the Belgian Football Association amongst their clients, StatsBomb international marketing coordinator Nick Dorrington sees an exciting opportunity for the company to enter a new market in Australia with Victory.

“We have customers in over 25 countries around the world but are still expanding our reach in terms of geography and language. It is exciting to get a foothold in a new territory, particularly in a region like Australasia and Asia where we see good opportunities for growth,” Dorrington told Soccerscene.

“As an organisation, Melbourne Victory are determined to turn things around after finishing bottom of the league last season. They are keen to implement change and want to integrate data into all of their processes.

“They are looking for an objective way to track and measure things like performance and style of play, but they also see an opportunity to leverage the additional detail of StatsBomb data to gain an edge on other teams in player recruitment.

“StatsBomb data includes significant additional contextual information that allows for more effective analysis and scouting. Things like goalkeeper and defender positioning on shots, the height of the ball at the moment at which a shot is taken, pressure data at a team and player level and other variables like pass footedness, pass height and various others.

“That allows teams to get a much clearer idea of player behaviour in certain situations. For instance, if you were scouting an upcoming opponent you could look at what kind of passes their central defenders make when put under pressure and find a way of leveraging that information to your advantage.

“The integration of data will be a long-term process for Melbourne Victory, but one that the club should hopefully begin to see the fruit of relatively soon.”

StatsBomb’s emergence in this market come from rather humble beginnings.

CEO Ted Knutson started the business as a blog about football analytics, before being hired to work within football himself.

Once he returned to the open market, he built a team that delivered consultancy services for clubs, where he discovered a constant issue with the limitations of the available event data from football games.

Whilst the use and analysis of data is nothing new in football, Dorrington explained the StatsBomb model differentiated itself because of its proprietary data set, which provides greater context for the numbers and more actionable insights.

“One of the things that our founders consistently came across when they were using the data of other providers was that it lacked important contextual information that experienced football people were easily able to pick holes in,” Dorrington said.

“They would go to a coach with the results of an expected goals (xG) model and the coach would say: “But you don’t know where the goalkeeper is. This is worthless.” Obvious problems like that make it hard to get buy-in on the football side.

“StatsBomb data was created with that in mind. We collect over 3,400 events per match, more than double the amount of some of our competitors, and as I mentioned before our data set includes key additional contextual information that just isn’t found in the data of other companies in this space.

“Our goal has always been and continues to be to create the most football-applicable data set and associated statistical models. Just this year we have already launched StatsBomb 360, a revolutionary new product that provides a snapshot of player locations on each event we capture, and On-Ball Value (OBV), a model that seeks to measure the impact of each on-ball action in terms of its effect on the probability of a team scoring or conceding.”

One particularly interesting aspect of the StatsBomb model is the measurement of pressure – a metric developed to try and help clubs better understand and quantify the events in a game that create pressure on an opponent.

“We record a pressure when a player moves to within a given range of the ball carrier in an attempt to close down the ball. There can be multiple players applying pressure in the same action,” Dorrington said.

“The lack of pressure data was one of the key flaws in the existing datasets before the launch of StatsBomb data. It gives so much more information to work from when assessing defensive contribution.

“To give a widely understood example, if we wanted to analyse Roberto Firmino’s defensive contribution at Liverpool with the previously available event data, we’d only have around three tackles and interceptions to look at for every 90 minutes he’s on the pitch, around 90-100 per season.

“With pressure data, we have an additional 23 or so defensive actions per match, around 750 per season. That is a huge increase and one that allows us to get a much clearer picture of when and where he is involved defensively.”

According to Dorrington, StatsBomb was continuously assessing its model to try and find new-and-improved insights it can provide clubs.

“While there are many clubs who have successfully integrated data into their decision-making processes and who are deriving real benefit from that, there are still many where there is a disconnect between the data people and those who are making decisions and where there isn’t enough of an understanding of how data can be used effectively,” he said.

“Beyond that, there are many emerging markets in which data is barely being used to any meaningful degree. We are committed to providing models and analysis tools that are just as applicable at the top end of the game as in those lower-budget scenarios.

“The teams with the biggest budgets and most qualified personnel will continue to raise the ceiling of possibility but we hope to help democratise data so that teams with less resources still have an opportunity to compete.”

Victory may well be the first cab off the rank in Australia, but they may not be the last.

“It is interesting that since announcing our partnership with Melbourne Victory, we’ve already had a couple of enquiries from other A-League teams,” Dorrington added.

“We often find that’s how it works. You get an early mover in a given league or territory and then others follow.”

You can find out more on StatsBomb and their features here.

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