Aston Villa launch a Messenger chatbot in build-up to club football’s return

If the international football break has left a void your life – given that this is a rare period with only friendlies and no competitive games to keep fans interested – it’s back with a bang on Easter weekend.

The Championship, especially, will see a bumper range of fixtures as teams will play twice over the bank holiday period.

Aston Villa have taken the opportunity to release a new Facebook Messenger feature ahead of the return of club football, with their chatbot “Billy Bot” – named after William McGregor, a key figure in the club’s early history.

The chatbot serves a purpose, offering fans the latest club news as well as ticketing information, access to the club’s live match centre and even details of upcoming fixtures. But it also provides a bit of fun: when the user selects the ‘make me laugh’ function, a joke at the expense of local rivals Birmingham City is revealed.

Chatbots are a growing feature among football clubs and other sporting organisations, and whilst not all attempts are successful, innovations and new features are necessary to bring the technology along. Villa’s try includes a machine learning element where, when the bot encounters a question it cannot answer, it logs the problem to allow engineers to update.

It’ll be interesting to see how it develops and whether it catches on amongst fans.

Will Radford, Head of Digital, Aston Villa Football Club said: “We have been working very hard to create a social voice that our supporters can relate to. As football embraces digital, we are developing a deep understanding of what it is that fans want and need from our social channels for them to be successful and impactful.

“Our understanding of the necessity to be led by the fan is what has inspired us to approach the development of our chatbot through a uniquely organic process. Everything we do at Villa keeps the fan at the heart of the experience and the development of Billy Bot is no different.”

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Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 831 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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