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How football clubs can use mobile & social media to their advantage

I have to admit, the FA Cup Semi-final Portsmouth versus Spurs was the best live football experience I’ve ever had. Obviously I hope that the FA Cup Final will be an even better experience. Play up Pompey.

Sadly, I know of one thing that won’t change, and that’s the poor mobile phone reception within Wembley. And I find it annoying. But most of all, it’s another example of football not embracing the newest forms of marketing yet.

Having the pleasure and privilege to work closely with Portsmouth FC and at the same time to attend some industry gatherings and talk with representatives of other clubs, it struck me how few clubs really act as a brand and how easily they could increase their impact by embracing some of the newer marketing methods and by moving them to the heart of their organisation.

Mobile & Social Media

At live events like Wembley, mobile and social media have a symbiotic relationship – without mobile reception, no engagement. This is a wasted opportunity. If there was a connection, people not at the event could engage with activities before kick off or half time. People at the event would act as ambassadors and as a back channel. The commercial opportunities and the level of engagement for the clubs with fans are incredible. Or let’s go even a step further and treat bloggers like journalists – let them spread the word, use the power of the social web, get real connection to the fan base. It happened at business events such as SXSW, so why not at sporting events.

Opening up these channels would give live events a completely new dimension. It would bring even more energy and most importantly whet the appetite of all the people that are not in the stadium and consequently drive attendance for live matches in general.

It follows the argument Symerziak and Kuper make in their book “Why England loses” – the more games are shown on TV, the more live attendance increases. That’s why I would also actively embrace YouTube. It’s another marketing channel, another level of engagement for every club, league and association. It’s not only a way of growing the number of active participants in your brand’s network but makes complete commercial sense as it drives additional attendance and therefore revenues.

Location based social apps

But it’s not only at live events that the social media and mobile combo would work wonders. Just imagine a football club actively involved with foursquare – that just makes so much sense. Foursquare describe themselves as “a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things”, in other words it’s like a location based – and therefore more dynamic – mix of TripAdvisor, Facebook and a loyalty card.

Integrated into a club’s eco system it would be of real value to the supporters at home and away games, the visiting fans, the commercial partners and the club itself. The opportunities are exciting and endless, for example, how about using foursquare as a CRM tool that enables active, real world engagement with the fan base?

Video Games

EA Sports FIFA 10 is a treasure chest full of gold for a marketing person. Go, have a look at FIFA Earth – on this site you can see which clubs are the most played in the world (Portsmouth by the way is currently 64th). That’s utterly amazing, isn’t it? And the gamers’ activities are linked to the matches that are played in the stadium. So if Liverpool plays Arsenal, you’ll see an increased number in the 24 hours before and in the 24 hours afterwards. You even know how many gamers have set which team as their favourite one.

I’d immediately strike a deal with EA Sports that let’s me interact with my teams’ gamers straight away. Suddenly, you have the possibility to connect with brand ambassadors across the globe in a relatively easy and incredibly meaningful fashion. I’d bridge the gap between online and offline by inviting key gamers from other countries to the real club, to attend a game, to play a game against a player, etc. The world’s your oyster…

So, I am now going to send a tweet to the FA and ask for my accreditation as a blogger for the FA Cup final – you’ll know if I was successful just based on the number of tweets from me during the match itself.

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