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The transformation of digital marketing is affecting football clubs

The transformation of digital marketing is affecting football clubs all over the world. Football fans are not satisfied with only watching the matches of their favorite club anymore the football clubs have to provide them with appealing content on all possible digital channels. Football fans these days are engaging with the sport, the clubs, the players and the league like never before and that is caused by the rapid development of social media and the digitalization of information in general. The demand of the fans for digital content from their club around all year is still increasing and the clubs are turning into digital innovation hubs to always come up with new ideas and fulfill these immense expectations. But making the best out of the digital possibilities is a complex challenge and not the core competency of a football club. That is why football clubs are trying to establish a whole media business department within their structures as they have realized that the monetization is not only coming from sponsorships anymore but from creating digital content and collecting data about their fans.

Different football clubs are implementing different strategies

Let us now have a look at different examples of clubs from the British Premier League and their different approaches of implementing digital strategies:

The club of Sunderland was boosting its season ticket sales by portraying every season ticket holder as a club legend. The fans were then able to download the images or share them via social media and some of the images were even shown in the stadium during half-time.

Showing the AFC Sunderland app by using a screenshot from the app store. In terms of digital marketing it is these days mandatory to have an app as a professional football club.
The AFC Sunderland App as a representative example of how applications of football clubs are designed.

Manchester United was one of the first clubs that had a social media hub which is in control of synchronizing all posts on all different platforms. Their social media channels are even available in seven different languages which demonstrates that the digital transformation is giving football clubs the unique opportunity to get in a two-way communication with their fans from all over the world. Have a look on the Instagram account of Manchester United here:

And Manchester United was implementing that even more impressively by launching a campaign where fans from different places of the world could watch a match by being on a screen just in front row of the stadium.

It was Arsenal London which used another digital strategy to promote the launch of their new kit as they beamed the advertisement of the kit on the river Thames and even broadcasted a live video of that event on all their social media channels.

Arsenal presenting the new kit in a very special way.

Other clubs like Southampton FC used augmented reality in connection with the club App to place advertisements around the city or even organize a treasure hunt where fans had the possibility to win tickets, shirts etc.

For engaging with the younger fans Tottenham Hotspur was going a step further by launching an online game where children could create an avatar and then collect points to receive virtual trophies etc. Furthermore, the game was teaching them facts about the history of Tottenham and they were able to become junior members of the club.

A rather simple but very involving approach was taken by Manchester City as the digital marketing team set up a page within the club’s website where the fans could tell their personal story that connects them with the club.

Showing the podcast of Manchester City using a screenshot from their website.
Manchester City is now even offering a podcast using another channel to engage with their fans.

Challenges of the future

Looking at all these examples we can clearly see that football clubs are already investing a lot into digital marketing and content creation to meet the high expectations of their fans. Football clubs are a lot more than they were 20 years ago as now they are multidimensional businesses which have to entertain their fans not only with just letting the team play football. It is the new normal and we will stay in this digital world for the next centuries. Football clubs will face new challenges within the field of digitalization every year and the clubs which are innovative, flexible and have a certain willingness to try things will be the ones profiting the most from the digital transformation.


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