Australian football should embrace digital transformation in order for it to succeed and grow into the future.
A simple definition of digital transformation is when businesses or organisations use digital technology to change the way that something is done.
Digital transformation in sport has a vast array of benefits, providing large opportunities for growth and enhancing fan experiences.
Australian football should be looking to provide constant connection with its fans, instead of just during the 90 minutes of a football game.
FAN EXPERIENCE & ENGAGEMENT
While the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League season did have a record amount of fan engagement with a 30% increase in digital followers and a 15% increase in engagements, there are plenty more opportunities to improve fan experience and engagement via digital transformation.
The FIFA 20 Hyundai A-League Tournament during the suspension of the A-League is a great example. It would be interesting to see a tournament like this played every year in the lead up to the season to attract younger fans and build some hype heading into the new campaign.
Social media allows for clubs to connect with fans easily, where press conferences could be live streamed or players could do Q&A’s on Facebook or Instagram Live.
There’s also opportunities at live events – digital activations at sporting events using data from the match can share information with fans at the game and at home.
The MLS and ESPN recently installed a big screen which nearly runs the length of the pitch at its recent ‘MLS is Back’ Tournament.
Tottenham Hotspurs’ new stadium is another example the digital transformation which Australian football should be looking to for inspiration.
The stadium features large video screens, wireless payment, has stadium wide connectivity with large amounts of Wi-Fi access points and has more bandwidth than any other stadium.
For NPL clubs, regular social media posting would allow the club to reach more Australian soccer fans. Branded content also allows clubs to provide more exposure to the sponsors. Clubs could also make money through these types of deals.
This becomes especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, where some clubs are struggling financially due to seasons being cancelled or less games being played. Branded content could provide clubs with some extra income.
Borussia Dortmund recently signed a partnership with Indian Premier League club Hyderabad FC. Dortmund will be helping to improve Hyderabad’s fan engagement, which will now have to be done in a different way.
“We can’t even think about fans in stadium right now, so it has to be done in a very organic way. We will be doing it through digital means first and soon as we can travel, we’ll have the Fan Liaison Officer to come over to India to give Hyderabad FC an understanding of how the whole phenomenon of the Dortmund fan culture exists. It’ll be a long-stretched process, but I’m positive we’ll get there one day,” Dortmund’s Managing Director for Asia-Pacific Suresh Letchmanan said.
As fans cannot be present at games in the large numbers they’re used to, the fan experience has to be rethought.
Melbourne Victory’s pre-game show ‘Victory TV’ is easily accessible for fans being streamed live on YouTube and Facebook. It provides an easy way for fans to stay engaged with their team during the pandemic.
InCrowd is a fan experience platform and services agency. InCrowd’s Head of partnerships for Australia and New Zealand, Seb Lear, spoke to Ministry of Sport about digital transformation.
“I think this transformation was inevitable and we were already seeing significant progress, but the pandemic has driven many rightsholders to bring their digital plans forward,” Lear said.
“It was Microsoft who said recently that 2 years’ worth of digital transformation had happened in 2 months, and I don’t think sport is any different.”
Mobile-only ticketing is another example of digital transformation that should be considered. This could track when people come into stadiums where they sit allowing for people to be easily identified if there are outbreaks at matches.
OTHER LEAGUES/ORGANISATIONS ARE DOING SO AND FINDING SUCCESS
Other sporting leagues and organisations around the world have embraced digital transformation and are finding success because of it.
“We will be watching this sports content battle closely over the coming year, as well as the success/engagement from the Facebook MLB endeavour, as it could be a sign of things to come with streaming platforms playing a bigger role in global professional sports broadcasting rights in the years ahead and potentially shaking up this market, while adding a major notch on the content belts of Amazon, Facebook and other new tech entrants to this arena,” Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, told CNBC in March 2018.
This has now happened, the sports media landscape has changed and while it is still an option it is no longer absolutely necessary to go through the traditional media organisations.
The sports industry and technology has moved to allow for clubs and organisations to provide direct channels of content straight to consumers.
In the recent FFA online surveys on the XI principles, 72% people believed that the FFA/the leagues should create an on demand/live streaming football platform.
Having all Australian football available in one place would accessing content very easy for consumers.
At a time when A-League clubs are lacking free to air exposure and wanting to reach more fans free live streaming could also be an option.
The A-League in particular should look at having some games being broadcast on a service such as Twitch.
FFA CEO James Johnson recently spoke to NewsCorp about the future of the game.
“I didn’t come back here just to administer the sport. What was interesting to me was really transforming it,” Johnson said.
Transformation is on the horizon and the digital side of it cannot be forgotten.