Owning and using an iPad is almost like driving and parking a BMW in your driveway. Being able to talk intelligently about Facebook and Twitter now means you are invited to cocktail parties.
Print media is dying, direct mail goes into the circular file (also known as the rubbish bin) and the “Yellow Pages” is so uncool that no self respecting marketer wants to be seen with it near his desk or in his possession. So how do you move from uncool to cool?….. but before we do that we need to understand what “football” is!
Football is Confusing
Football is the most misunderstood and misused word in the world.
In Europe, the game of football involves kicking a round ball with the purpose of placing it into the back of a net to score a “Goal”.
If you live in the USA, it means men wear tights and shoulder pads and throw the ball around and run across the line to score a “touchdown”, this football is called “Gridiron.
While in the land “down under” (Australia), it sometimes means playing with an oblong ball with no padding or protection and scoring means placing the ball down after crossing the goal line and that is called a “Try”. That football game is named “Rugby”.
The Football Club Goes Digital
The “Eels” National “Rugby” League Football Club wanted to implement a digital strategy to define the club as a leader in digital media. Previously the club had an online presence in the form of two websites, primarily for news and e-commerce but had not taken advantage of any other digital media channels.
The intent was to take advantage of key opportunities during the season for deeper levels of fan engagement by driving revenues such as tickets and merchandise. Additionally the strategy was to ensure the club’s brand would not lie dormant outside of the NRL (National Rugby League) season but rather continuously engage fans in order to generate additional revenues and gather analytical insights to the fan base. Digital media was also viewed as an opportunity to engage the next generation of club supporters.
How It Was Done
Gomeeki (a mobile technology and marketing company) and its specialist social media division, Momentom Sports was engaged to collaborate with the Eels digital team in defining an integrated strategy to harvest and curate a digital community, create new revenues and position the club as a digital leader.
To achieve these objectives, the ‘go-to-market’ strategy was broken down into three core elements.
- The development of an iPhone application that delivers supporters access to the brand wherever they may be in addition to bringing them closer to the action with real-time functionality.
- Harness social media opportunities such as Facebook in order to build the club’s online presence.
- Develop a social loyalty & rewards platform that curates customer data and analytical insights from the digital community, by delivering relevant and valuable offerings.
Step 1: iPhone Application
The initial deployment of the digital strategy incorporated the release of an iPhone application. This became the most downloaded application by any NRL club in the 2011 season. The application was hugely popular amongst the Eels supporters and incorporated innovative features.
These features included
- GPS tracking
- Pre and post game videos with interviews of the players and coach
- It also incorporated live scores and messaging throughout the game with inner sanctum information from the team sports scientist direct from the sideline. This included players stats such as heart rates when kicking penalty goals, line break speeds, distance covered and the g-force impact of tackles
It is important to note, that Australia is unique compared to most markets, as when the iPhone device was first launched Apple did not employ an exclusive model with a single carrier consequently all of the Tier one mobile network operators offered iPhones. This resulted in a huge percentage of consumers owning the device and therefore going to market with an iPhone only application was deemed to deliver the best return on investment for the Eels in achieving their objectives.
Step 2: Social Media
The Eels Facebook page was at the time sitting 14th out of 16 NRL clubs in terms of number of followers, having fewer than 6,000. Momentom worked with the Eels digital team to develop a content plan and advertising strategy to grow this community.
The results were significant, as within months the page moved from 2nd last to having the 3rd most of any club on the ‘NRL teams Facebook ladder’ with a massive 140,000 followers. Today, the Fan page delivers ongoing engagement, discussion and has become a legitimate news channel for supporters along with delivering the single largest source of referral traffic to the Eels web properties.
Step 3: Flash Sales
The success of the iPhone application and Facebook page growth, enabled the next stage of the strategy to be deployed. This pilot program incorporated a Flash Sales platform tying together the social media presence, the iPhone application and a new web property with an email subscription database so that loyal supporters could be rewarded with unique, time sensitive offerings. EelsDeals also enabled the club to create a new and unique opportunities for local business partners and sponsors beyond the traditional sponsorship packages sold in the stadium.
By leveraging Gomeeki’s cloud based platform, the Eels were able to deliver fans a feature rich and unique experience, while achieving significant cost efficiencies due to ‘on-demand’ resources of cloud computing.
Prior to hosting platforms ‘in the cloud’, businesses would be required to pay significant upfront and ongoing costs in deploying dedicated infrastructure, capable of managing data intensive offerings such as GPS tracking in addition to meeting demands of massive traffic spikes at specific events such as on gameday. This cloud based platform leveraged it’s in-built auto-scaling technology and grow ‘on-the-fly’ from a normal four computer servers during low periods of low demand to over 40 hosting servers during game day peak times handling millions of requests and then effortlessly scale back down inline with traffic and data demands.
Rolling out a mobile “app” and using Facebook doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed but the campaign produced some significant results
- Most downloaded NRL Clubs iPhone application, season 2011
- Featured Apple iTunes app store application with a 5 star rating
- The club’s Facebook fan page grew from 6,000 to reach 120,000 followers within months.
- Facebook is now the leading source of referral traffic for the club’s web properties and drives a significant percentage of revenues through time sensitive flash sales and other exclusive offers promoted through the channel.
- An NRL first, deployment of the branded ‘Flash Sales’ platform ‘EelsDeals’. Challenged with almost zero marketing budget, EelsDeals in leveraging existing marketing channels, created new revenues for the club whilst establishing financial modeling metrics for the broader social loyalty and rewards program (soon to be launched).
So what can we takeaway from this case study?
- Providing unique free content can create other revenues opportunities for creative marketers. While this approach requires a longer-term investment, a large database can provide greater returns than a small database.
- More than just acquiring a database, purposeful curation of data and analytical insights is key to delivering timely, relevant and targeted messaging.
- A loyal supporter is not necessarily a profitable customer. The key challenge is converting loyalty into revenue. Deployment of the flash sales prototype enabled experimentation in finding the balance of hooks (value) and triggers (relevant purchasing opportunities) to encourage ongoing participation, while driving revenues for the club.
In the fast emerging world of digital,mobile and social media marketing, experimentation is always an ongoing task in order to optimize results.
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