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Adapt quickly or you are out of the game: European soccer clubs and innovation for survival

With games set to be played behind closed doors, how can clubs not only deliver a real-time remote fan experience, but also regenerate the lost matchday revenues? This is the question that many in the sports industry are contemplating right now.

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Time travel and a peek behind the curtains: how did it begin and where Seyu is heading to

The long term implications of the coronavirus pandemic could see the world’s biggest sports clubs left without onsite support and matchday revenues for at least six months, which would inevitably lead to severe economic consequences. The prevailing wind seems to be that leagues will restart but the matches will go without the heart and soul of the stadium, the fans, for a long time.

The Bundesliga restarts on 16th May but it could take more than six months for the spectators to return. A leaked Italian government document suggests that fans will not be allowed to support in their stadiums until January 2021. The Premier League’s earliest return date is in the middle of June. La Liga and other competitions are projecting similar timeframes. So, it seems that clubs are in for a long-term headache and a problem that cannot be solved with their heads in the sand.

Matchday revenues: building on digital experiences will significantly soften the pain

The biggest problem currently is that many of the traditional revenue streams are off the table. Matchday revenue makes up 17 per cent of the Bundesliga’s income, 17.2 per cent for La Liga, 11.8 per cent in Serie A, and more than 13 per cent for the Premier League. According to previous reports, the pre-pandemic matchday income forecast for Premier League clubs was in excess of UK£700 million (US$859 million) this season. Now, 25 per cent of that sum stands to be lost. ‘Ghost games’ will become a standard and realistically matches will be played without fans for at least the first half of the 2020/21 season. Based on rudimentary maths, clubs in the English top flight are facing a UK£350 million (US$429 million) downturn in revenue.

Research conducted by Seton Hall University made some alarming discoveries that could fundamentally harm the sports industry. According to the report, three out of four Americans would not attend live sports events without a Covid-19 vaccine and only 76 per cent of them would watch live National Football League (NFL) broadcasts with the same interest as before.

It is therefore a vital need for clubs to think of solutions that can alleviate this pain, before the restart. Clubs will have to offer added value for fans in their homes, in order to avoid a long term financial crisis and permanent competitive disadvantage in the market.

Creative ideas popping up across the European market but how permanent are they?

Borussia Mönchengladbach were one of the first to come up with a solution that simulates fan presence by having season ticket holders represented with cardboard figures in their seats for matches. Gladbach fans can purchase the ‘right to participate’ for €19 (US$20.50), which also sees them receive their own cardboard cutout at the end of the season. The huge demand from the fans shows that even this simple solution can earn the backing of supporters, with more than 12,000 already sold.

Although this idea is brilliant and got plenty of attention, it is limited in terms of monetisation with 59,000 spots available for the four remaining Gladbach homes games this season.

To expand scope, a more holistic approach is needed. Clever digital concepts could create more ways to directly or indirectly make up for the lost matchday revenues. These could be part of loyalty marketing campaigns, premium feature sales or even opening up new advertising platforms by directly reaching consumers in their homes.

Introducing the e-season ticket

Transferring products from the physical to the digital world is cheaper, more scalable and offers a wide range of measurement tools. It is also clear that a whole new set of sales strategy tools are needed for the 2020/2021 campaign.

How do you sell season tickets if fans are not allowed into games? How can you generate the expected revenue from merchandising if the stadium shops are closed? Ecommerce will be essential to keep the revenue streams alive, and involving creative digital campaigns will become crucial to maintaining revenues.

Seyu’s remote fan entertainment ‘Together for victory’ platform is one that has already connected 22,000 fans with right holders to help reshape their ecommerce strategies and monetise their global target market.

With the introduction of e-season tickets, clubs can make up for some of that huge revenue loss mentioned earlier. For example, a bundle of digital solutions could be exclusively made available for e-season ticket holders as part of a VIP remote fan experience. Subscribers could receive the starting line-up earlier, participate in exclusive quiz games with special prizes and display their passion in the stadiums before and during matches in real-time. Giant screens are also purposeless for the next months, at least in their everyday function. Why not utilise them to include fans in matchday entertainment?

The digital possibilities are endless, dependent only on the creativity of the marketing and sales team in how they want to engage the fans at home. Other add-on services such as personalised content, or any kind of behind-the-scenes information would also increase the value of e-season tickets, which are not limited to fans within travelling distance of their favourite team.

Clubs with a global view could easily build those solutions into their ecommerce strategies and keep huge amounts in their pockets.

Grab the moment, and engage millions of remote fans

Seyu is not just a fun tool to entertain remote fans, but also works as a marketing channel that supports a wide list of sales activities. The team has a proven track record of 150+ successful matchday campaigns in soccer, handball, water polo and athletics, including seven world events.

Seyu gives an opportunity for all sport loving fans around the world to instantly become part of their beloved teams’ matches with their supporter photos and motivating messages through a secure, moderated channel as part of loyalty marketing campaigns. No matter where they are in the world at the time of the matches, they can take selfies, add motivating messages and post them on to the screens in the stadiums with our help in real-time.

The post Covid-19 world of sport is, and will be for a long period of time, about the survival of the fittest. Strategies and tools that worked for the past two decades will not be enough now. Reach out and use the tools that sports innovation offers for your benefits.

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