The Club Website: Changing With The Times
This is an article I wrote recently for FC Business magazine, you can find it on page 30 of the latest edition.
It’s telling, if unsurprising, that when ask people to name their favourite websites, none mention the team they support or an official sports body. More likely are media entities such as BBC Sport, ESPNFC and Players Tribune. This says a lot about how sport has been missing an opportunity when it comes to websites : even when it comes to established names like Man City, who do a great job, Arsenal and my own team Man United – whose I have to say I’m not a big fan of.
This summer will see a change in the way many teams will be viewing and managing their websites. With the EFL Digital (previously known as Football League Interactive) deal coming to a close, a number of teams including Newcastle United and Leicester City will be running their own operations thanks to digital agencies 7 League and Pulse Live respectively from June.
So what are we likely to see from these new sites and what trends are we seeing more generally in the industry?
“Young fans don’t really use websites on a regular basis and gain the majority of information about their club via social media” according to Robbie Blackburn, Client Partner at Aqueduct , digital agency for the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland. “Traditional written content isn’t what they were looking for at all. Video content (interviews, highlights) and games are the order of the day.”
Copa90 have shown what can be achieved by telling compelling stories around the game across multiple platforms without the need for game footage. Providing greater behind the scenes access, reworking archive material and involving influencers have become key engagement tools for clubs now.
The Indian Premier League, the world’s’ most successful cricket competition , have shown how to engage fans and drive traffic in large numbers. Posting clips to their website almost immediately as they happen, delivering fans key moments during matches. By using video alongside live match stats and social media posts/fan polls then the IPL website suddenly becomes a highly engaging platform for fans.
The Premier League sadly doesn’t have these rights, with goal highlights currently sat behind a paywall on The Times. But surely these would be more valuable for the Premier League to use, or distribute to the clubs, giving fans a reason to visit their sites and become more involved, rather than being mainly served with pre-match interviews and official news.
Away from video, Pulse Live’s Creative Director, David Strachan, thinks that website localisation is becoming more important.
“If you get 50-60,000 in the stadium but you’ve an audience of hundreds of millions of fans globally, how do you start speaking to them in a way they want to be spoken to?”
“It’s about delivering different content in different locations to engage audiences in slightly different ways.”
Traditionally sites alter by language with fans making that choice. But this approach assumes that different audiences can be engaged in the same way with the same content. Adjusting it to fit culturally as well as by language will lead to far better connections with fans, grow popularity and potentially open up new revenue streams in the future.
For example, a match centre could be produced specifically for an Arabic audience, with sponsorship being sold locally by the rights holder. With great, localised content this makes it compelling to global ‘products’ such as The Premier League.
The final trend that stands out is that of personalisation. This ensures that you’re providing content that is most relevant to that person and can be achieved in one of two ways;
- Implicit: the information is based on what you watched/read before, or what your friends have viewed. An approach best seen on Netflix, Amazon and Facebook.
- Explicit: where you choose what you want to see, as you can do on BBC Sport and new sports site So you retain control of what you see and can change it at any time.
There is so much for us to potentially view out there that having some help in narrowing it down can be seen as a great benefit. Helping us sift through the nonsense to get to the good stuff. We’ve seen a huge rise in ‘implicit’ websites, thanks mainly to Amazon and their development of recommendations based on what you’ve viewed or bought.
But does this leave us with an unhealthy, blinkered view of the world ? It’s probably best summarised by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams in a recent New York Times article;
“The trouble with the internet… is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behaviour like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.”
Personalisation is an area that needs to be thought about thoroughly before jumping into and an area that will become much more discussed in the coming months and years.
It’s a time of change in how sports properties view websites and the technology is here to provide value, not just internally but for fans as well.
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