How top football (soccer) clubs such as Real Madrid and Everton use mobile to engage fans

The thing that most people forget about football (that’s soccer, if you are from the US) clubs is that while they are massive brands, with lots of (extremely loyal) customers, they are small businesses (employing far fewer employees than your average global brands). That’s why it’s fascinating that football clubs – led by the top brands – have readily embraced mobile as a way to communicate with, deliver news, content and offers to fans, while bringing in valuable extra revenue.

Real Madrid‘s Pedro Duarte; Everton‘s Kathy Smith; and MD Media Consulting‘s Mike Dunphy, who has worked with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, all share their experiences with mobiThinking.
For more tips, case studies and the musings of mobiThinking, please see: How to be a mobile winner at FIFA World Cup

Real Madrid Club de Fútbol, La Liga, Spain, by mobile marketing manager, Pedro Duarte

Real Madrid was one of the first football clubs to bet on mobile as a critical part of its marketing strategy. In November 2007 Real Madrid set the following objectives: 1) generate extra revenues for the club from the distribution of official mobile content worldwide; 2) create a mobile community for the club that allows Real Madrid to create a database of fans who have opted-in to receive permission-based marketing and to better understand the behavior and needs of the fans; 3) Offer the fans traditional services such as ticketing and merchandise sales via mobile.
Two and a half years on, we can justifiably claim that Real Madrid has the most advanced mobile marketing strategy of any football club. Real Madrid mobile content is distributed to nearly every corner of the world. Thanks to the dynamic licensing model the club has developed with its partners, Madridistas can find and buy official mobile content, on/off portal, in China, India, Japan, Portugal, Scandinavia, Spain, UK and the USA, as well as many countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America. In Spain, for example, Real Madrid has more than 100,000 fans signed up to mobile subscription services to download the latest mobile content, such as videos and photos from the games.
The creation of the mobile community, named MyMadrid, is key to the new strategy of the club. This multilanguage and multiplatform service allows fans to follow the games in real time, to chat to each other using messenger, receive the latest club news and soon they will be able to buy the official strip. So far more than 115,000 fans have downloaded the application that gives access to the MyMadrid virtual mobile community.

It is also important to note that Real Madrid has made mobile a key channel to communicate with fans and members using both 3G videocalls and MMS.
In three years Real Madrid’s income from mobile has increased by a multiple of 10. The mantra at Real Madrid is “to be where the fans are, using the channels that the fans use”.
See: Realmadrid.mobi
Video review in Spanish of MyMadrid
Recent news on Real Madrid’s mobile strategy: MyMadrid; creation of mobile games; distribution of mobile content (Japan).

Everton Football Club, English Premier League, by mobile manager, Kathy Smith

EvertonMobile launched in 2006 with limited club-branded content, such as, wallpapers and ringtones. Today it offers the full range of mobile services including text alerts, animations, reverse auctions, videos, iPhone applications and a full Bluetooth service in the ground on a match days. EvertonMobile is available through the club Website, mobile site and through an increasing number of networks overseas.
Mobile gives Everton the opportunity to interact with fans, not only when they’re on the move, but also when they’re at Goodison Park (Everton’s home ground) – that means the club can reach them when they are at their most passionate. Most, if not all, fans carry a mobile with them on a match day – the club needs to make the most of that. On match days, both the program and big screens encourage fans to react straight away using keywords and shortcodes – e.g. text EVERTON to 61718 to receive a link to the mobile site.
Goodison Park boasts one of the largest installations of Bluetooth nodes in the world. Everton sees an average of 2,000 transactions over the Bluetooth service at every home game, distributing free club content for the fans’ mobiles combined with paid-for advertising.

Launched in October 2009 iEverton – the official application for the iPhone – was the first from a Premier League club to include live match info. It has proved to be incredibly popular – already the number of downloads and subscriptions have surpassed expectations.
Top tip for mobile services in sport: you have to pick up on the mood of the fans and react quickly to it. Something that sells well one week won’t necessarily perform well the week after.
For more information see MobileEverton.

English Premiership, by Mike Dunphy, MD Media Consulting

Note: Dunphy was manager of Manchester United’s MU Mobile from 2004-2008, and has since worked with Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and other clubs.

For many of the bigger football clubs’ mobile services started out as marketing tool for mobile sponsors. Manchester United and Vodafone, for example, would run MMS-based campaigns to encourage fans to send in pictures to show how big a Manchester United fan they are. Around the same time, clubs started to introduce paid-for SMS alerts, which, if run properly, are still the biggest mobile money spinners for a lot of clubs; dedicated mobile sites; overseas content distribution and now downloadable applications.
It is essential for mobile to be more integrated into the running of football clubs. But even the biggest clubs are relatively small businesses, and while they would like to more to connect with their fan base, they only have limited resources. A lot of mobile development is driven by sponsors and partners. It’s no coincidence that MU Mobile started when Vodafone was the shirt sponsor of Manchester United. The same thing happens abroad – so a sponsor like Saudi Telecom will come forward to run the club’s mobile services in Saudi Arabia, for example.
Increasingly the big clubs have concluded that it is important to make content available as widely as possible – particularly in their own country – irrespective of the operator used by the fan – so will want to be on each operator portal.
The major premiership clubs, such as Liverpool and Arsenal, have recently released pay-to-download applications – though currently only for the iPhone. These include the latest news, fixtures, in-game commentary and some video. These are now some of the most popular paid-for apps in the Apple App Store.

Related content:

  • The Starting 11 – the essential mobile-marketing guide for the 2010 FIFA World Cup
  • How to be a mobile winner at FIFA World Cup: follow the pros
  • Also see:

  • Mobile metrics reports from ad networks: how they stack up
  • The insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in Germany
  • What’s the best mobile ad network for you? 10 more important questions than size
  • Five-minute interview: Jonathan MacDonald, JME.net – entrepreneur, consultant, blogger, speaker
  • Carnival of the Mobilists #206: mobiThinking hosts the weekly round-up of the best of mobile blogs
  • mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks (2010)
  • How to create an award-winning mobile campaign
  • Conferences & awards for mobile marketers’ diaries with offers
  • The Top Ten mobiThinkers 2009 – each profiled in full
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
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