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The 2018 World Cup Digital Battle Pt.4:The England Bid

Part 4 of a 4 part series

The England bid

After focusing on the Iberian, Holland Belgium and Russian bids we now complete the series by looking at the England bid and what it does digitally.

England, which last hosted a major football tournament in 1996 (and previously hosted the World Cup in 1966),  has a highly interactive bid site and has a large volume of supporters and followers. For these reasons we would argue that it is the best bid site we have looked at.

The official site has much of what we have seen elsewhere. It has comprehensive content, latest news and videos and again the countdown clock. The top banner also rotates in colour.

However, the England bid site differentiates itself from the others we have seen by the way it knows its audience (the global football fan) and allows the reader to get involved – and in so many ways.  Much of the interactivity is also featured on the home page so no need to click elsewhere. The site can be translated into 12 languages which is a good touch given that the World Cup is a massive global tournament. One of the slogans of the bid is ‘England United The World Invited’.

The reader is encouraged to back the bid by clicking in the top left part of the home page. So far a staggering 2.2 million people have done this (even some Scottish fans!). On clicking you are directed to another screen where you can register your details and leave a message of support. Such messages are constantly streamed onto the home page.

England United The World Invited

The site also points you to an interactive section which details English Football’s Global Impact. This section plays a video and features an interactive map which ‘highlights some of the work undertaken by the English FA, Premier League, clubs, government agencies and other partners over the last decade’.

The site also has a photo album of many supporters and ambassadors of the bid (in the Our Supporters section), including Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, and Simon Cowell of X Factor fame.

This site, like the others, also has a downloads section. The array of downloads offered to the reader is impressive. The site states that it has ‘created a whole host of ways for you to ‘Back the Bid’, show your support and interact ’. By offering everything from iphone applications to twitter backgrounds and screensavers the bid site has probably achieved that aim.

The site also makes good use of social media and earlier this week England 2018 launched the second phase of its digital campaign, created by Engine’s Jam. Football fans on Facebook are being targeting through a peer-to-peer recruitment drive. This facebook campaign has attracted over 300,000 from 170 countries (the largest number we have seen by any European bid. The facebook page is consistent with the website by offering photos, videos, supporter apps and further ways to follow the bid.

The England bid, like the others, can also be followed on YouTube (where there are 300+ subscribers), flickr and twitter. The homepage also has a News RSS feed and there is also a button to grab an app for your browser. The official twitter page provides regular updates – official and otherwise – and there appears to be a lot of interaction with twitter users. There have been over 600 tweets so far and there are presently 6,401 followers. In a great touch, the homepage has a live stream of the latest tweet.

This concludes our series. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the 4 bids. In the days leading up to the announcement of the successful bid next Thursday, December 2nd, we shall invite you to take part in a poll to vote for the best 2018 bid in digital terms.

The 2018 World Cup Digital Battle Pt.3: The Russian bid

Part 3 of a 4 part series

The Russian bid

We’ve previously focused on the Iberian and the Holland Belgium bids. For the 3rd part of this series we now look at the Russian bid and what it is focusing on digitally.

The theme of the bid is ‘Ready to Inspire’. The official website features this slogan big and bold using Arsenal star Arshavin as the backdrop. Given the low numbers of followers in social media (only 50 on facebook) it would appear that the website has failed to inspire fans. The lack of interactivity with the reader may be a cause of this. The only way I found to interact with the site was to download 3 bid wallpapers.

The site  is, however, comprehensive in terms of content . The reader is greeted with a side panel which provides plenty of information on the bid, its vision, news and events, a photo gallery and a downloads section. While the website of the Iberian bid features an array of official and illustrious ambassadors, such as 2010 World Cup winners, the Russian bid calls on important supporters such as the Mayor of Moscow. President Putin has also backed the bid. The site disappointingly does not have an innovative campaign encouraging participation and engagement such as the Join The Wave idea which we saw last week with the Holland Belgium bid.

The website allows the reader to watch a video on the proposed stadiums for the tournament and read both a bid highlights brochure and a stadium overview brochure. Like the Iberian bid, the website also has a countdown clock to FIFA decision day on December 2nd.

In terms of social media the site encourages you to spread the word through email, facebook, twitter and MySpace. This is the first time that we’ve seen MySpace in use in this series and it may prove to be a clever tactic by the Russian bid given that over 125 million people use this large social network. On twitter the reader is only allowed to tweet a message which spreads the message ‘Ready to Inspire! – Bidding Nation Russia’ driving traffic back to the official website. Twitter is not used as a communication tool like the other two bids we have seen so far.

The Russian bid can be followed on facebook, flickr and YouTube. On facebook as mentioned previously the bid has a mere 50 followers. The photo collections on flickr mainly focus on official presentations, media meetings and officials in suits. For my money the photos are lacking in the fun and enjoyment that we’ve seen in the previous two bids but you do get to see Chelsea FC owner Roman Ambramovich lending his support. The official YouTube Bidding Nation Russia channel features 9 videos and has just 21 subscribers. The latest video on the bid stadiums has had 10,524 views, which is only a third of the number watching the Holland Belgium bid channel.

Later this week on Thursday we wrap up this 4 part series on ‘The digital battle behind the bidding for the 2018 Football World Cup’ by focusing on a bid far closer to home – the England bid.

The 2018 World Cup Digital Battle Pt. 2: The Belgium and Holland Bid

Part 2 of a 4 part series

The Holland / Belgium bid

For part 2 of our 4 part series we turn our attention to the digital efforts behind the Holland / Belgium bid. Our Northern European neighbours have the legendary Ruud Gullit, European Championship winner in 1988, as President of their bid. The former Chelsea and AC Milan star has been highly active in supporting the bid and earlier this week he even took to cycling the streets of Paris to do so.

The Holland Belgium bid utilises more social media than the Iberian bid we examined last week and has more followers. The official website is full of informative content and, with features on great goals, a fanzone, a bidbook and a bid monthly magazine, there is more than enough to keep the casual reader or avid fan interested.

The site encourages participation. One unique and interesting way it does this is through the ‘Join the Wave’ campaign. Fans of the two national teams are encouraged to ‘create a virtual wave with the most colourful supporters in international football by uploading their videos to the site.’ At the time of writing, there are 41,776 ‘hands in the air’. This idea is particularly attractive to fans as it focuses on fun and sharing and enables them to share their own personal wave across multiple social media platforms – facebook, Hyves, twitter, Netlog and email.

Put your hands in the air for the Holland Belgium bid

The website also explains how this bid is aiming to be environmentally friendly with its goals of sustainable stadiums and a green World Cup.

Like the Iberian bid website, there is also a comprehensive multimedia zone where photographs are shared on flickr and bid on tour videos can be uploaded onto an official Holland Belgium bid YouTube channel (with over 30,000 upload views) .

As you would expect there is an official facebook page and the bid has its own twitter page, which posts regular news updates on press conferences and presentations (with 635 followers).

The website has links to both Hyves, which is the most popular social network in the Netherlands, and Netlog, which is a Belgian social network site. This is definitely a case of the bid knowing its audience and going where its fans and eyeballs are. This is consistent with some of the ideas we have been advocating here the theuksportsnetwork for some time. On Hyves there are over 1,000 members sharing photos, videos and generating general buzz behind the bid. Netlog is somewhat smaller but still plays an important role with over 100 members again sharing content such as blogs, videos and photos.Neither nation has lifted the FIFA World Cup, but both have had their moments. Holland has reached the final three times – mostrecently earlier this year in South Africa. We will have to wait until December 2nd to know whether the bid will be successful.

For the next post in the series out next Monday we head East to take a look at the Russian bid’s use of digital media.

Do you know your audience?

When talking to people about their social media plans, most will talk about Facebook and Twitter. Yes, these are the most popular platforms and we are all aware that Facebook has recently topped the 500 million mark.

But is this the right audience for you?

Taking a step back from the technology and looking at who your target audience is and where they hanging out is the first step that any organization should take. You may be surprised with the results and it will certainly impact on your plans.

Continue reading Do you know your audience?

Reading FC – How Social Media Can Win Me Back

Some of you may wonder why I have chosen Reading Football Club for this article.  Well it has been my hometown for the last 10 years and I’ve been following the team for a large proportion of that.  I was there at the Madjeski Stadium watching the big screen when they were promoted from League 1 after playing away at Brentford…. great memories.

Since then the club has played in the Premier League for two seasons and this year ended up a comfortable mid table (after a very shaky start) and went on an FA Cup run that included the scalps of West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool before bowing out to Aston Villa at the quarter-final stage.

Despite this I have found myself drifting away from the club as the prices went up and work/home took up more of my life.  I keep meaning to go to games but just not made it down to the stadium for a game.


Reading Football Club

The club has a bright future ahead of it; a good young manager in Brian McDermott, a young talented team, a prudent and wise Chairman and a modern stadium with the hotel, training ground and all the facilities a team needs.  The income streams are in place for merchandise, events, conferences, hotel stopovers and sponsorship. 

The Thames Valley area is one of the wealthiest in the UK and with the likes of Microsoft, HP, Nokia, Vodafone, Oracle and Dell on the doorstep so sponsorship should be an area in which the club should prosper.

To give you an idea of the clubs local reach before I delve any deeper.  The nearest football clubs of note are Swindon Town and Aldershot.  Beyond this you are travelling into London hence why the majority of Reading locals support Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.


Social Media

In terms of Social Media the club does not have any official presence.  Not on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube…. not even a fans forum on the man www.readingfc.co.uk website. 

There is a fair amount of unofficial activity going on with over 5,000 fans following the Reading FC fan page on Facebook.  That is a large number of people that are showing a great interest in the club, want to talk about what is happening and want to engage with the club. 

Add this is to unofficial players fan pages of Noel Hunt, Shane Long, Sigurdsson and Matejovsky this brings the Facebook activity for Reading FC up to almost 10,000!  That is not a small, inconsiderate number considering the average crowd at the Madjeski was 17,408 for the season just gone.

There is obviously a life away from Facebook where more activity is going on.  If you search YouTube for Reading FC content this brings up over 9000 results.  This is another sign that the fans want to engage, show their experiences from their point of view.  On Flikr, the photo uploading site from Yahoo, there are almost 2000 photos from fans that have been added.

A quick look at that other major social media platform, Twitter, shows that @ReadingFC and @Reading_FC have already been taken by fans.  With almost 1,500 followers between them with little content being offered this is another place in which the conversations and updates are taking place.

  Continue reading Reading FC – How Social Media Can Win Me Back

The Boat Race: A Social Media opportunity floating away

One of the finest traditions in sport takes place this weekend, but if you spend most of your time on Social Network sites you may not even know. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Racefirst held in 1829, will be contested this weekend. Yes, this is a classic sporting event that speaks to heritage and legacy, but in the year 2010, the lack of official Social Media engagement around The Boat Race is somewhat baffling, especially when one considers that there must be alumni from both those universities literally all around the globe who would be interested in following the event.

A look at The Boat Race website seems to indicate that they aren’t completely against modernity. The site looks nice enough, but there is a glaring lack of utilization of Social Networks. A quick scan shows no Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Flickr presence. Here’s how the organizers could be utilizing these platforms:

Twitter: Organize the existing conversations around The Boat Race by creating a Twitter account and the hashtag #theboatrace. This would be a great way to disseminate information about the race and provide an opportunity for sponsors to get engaged as well.

Facebook: There appears to be a fan created page for The Boat Race… that is in French. There is a page for The Oxford & Cambridge Goat Race that has more fans. This would be a great opportunity for both fans and former competitors to get together and share photos, comments and make connections.

YouTube: There actually is a YouTube channel for The Boat Race, but I couldn’t find mention of it on the official website. The official site has a section called Race Videos, but it doesn’t include or even mention the YouTube page. It’s difficult to tell on the YouTube channel how many videos there are, if there are comments, who other subscribers are and who else, if anyone, they are subscribed to. 

Flickr: Of course there are plenty of photos of The Boat Race, but no organized repository of official photos. Another huge opportunity missed as having an official group would not only be of great benefit to fans, but would also be a great way of driving traffic back to the official site.

Of course, other things such as a podcast and blog would be great additions as well. This is an event with an incredible history and with what I would imagine is a very highly sought after target audience (both spectators and former participants). I think the sponsors of this event are probably not getting maximum value for their pound and conversely, I’d wager that with an aggressive Social Media campaign The Boat Race could increase their sponsorship fees.

For those unable to attend the race this weekend, look for live coverage on BBC One and World Service

Real Madrid and Social Media

Real Madrid is one of the most recognisable brands in sport, and no club better embodies our times, when sports, business and technology are in constant flux. With some of the worlds great players on the field Real need to make shrewd businesses moves off it and are very keen to embrace new technologies and communication to increase their profitability.

To find out more about how the Spanish Club is approaching social media I recently spoke with Oscar Ugaz, Real Madrid Online Marketing & Digital Business Manager about social media and Real´s digital strategies.

While many UK clubs are just starting to ride the social media wave Real Madrid have been utilising it for a while now explained Oscar, “two years ago we changed all of our digital strategies, starting by re-designing RealMadrid.com with the aims of providing fans with more features and services. When discussing the new website one thing that that arose was the importance of interactions and the importance to have the capacity to interact with our fans online.”

“At first we talked about RealMadrid.com offering comments on articles but we we’re a little worried as we didn’t know how people would react with these comments inside our official website – so we thought about how we could test this and as a result we started our Facebook page in which we could find out how our fans behaved, if they were confrontational towards the Real Madrid brand and also how they like to express themselves.”

Since its launch the clubs Facebook page has been a massive success and built up a huge following with over 1.2 million fans and an average of around 3000 new fans joining every day. The page may have been started as a way for Real to test fan interaction, but, it has also developed into a powerful tool to direct traffic to RealMadrid.com.

“The important thing about the traffic from Facebook is that it is traffic that we can control, we decide where we want our users to be and where they go on RealMadrid.com. If we have news that we want people to see that maybe isn’t on the homepage of our website we use Facebook to drive traffic to those specific pages, and, we want to be very honest, in these sections we drive traffic to there may be advertising or other services that we can sell. We use Facebook as a way to drive people to news and pages on the website that they may otherwise not see.”

Madrid’s strategy focuses on more than just Facebook. “The strategy of the club is to go where the traffic is; we know not all the fans come directly to RealMadrid.com and although we get a huge amount of traffic we know there is a lot more out there. We distribute Real Madrid content and build the Real Madrid brand through the media that the people are using.”

“We want to be where the traffic is and in that sense we follow the trends – if people are using Facebook, we use Facebook, the people start using twitter, and we create a twitter page. We are always looking for the next trends, whilst at the moment Twitter and Facebook are at the top when they start losing traffic we want to be riding the next wave and making the most of new opportunities – for example what Google is doing with Buzz. However, we don’t just jump in, before we start doing anything we make an analysis and see how each platform can help us.”

Social media has also opened up many new opportunities for Madrid to test content, gain feedback and also understand things from their fans perspective. “When we post content or news articles people immediately comment saying this is cool or this is not cool, we like this video or this video is boring. This feedback is very interesting because we can relay it back to our communications department and show them what the people like, what they don’t like and also what content our fans are most pro-active to.”

A great example of how this feedback can benefit the club is when Madrid started to include links to the club’s online shop on their Facebook page, “it took fans a while to realise that this was our official online store. This made us think maybe the things which we think are obvious are maybe not so obvious to all the fans – maybe we need to include on posts that this is the official Real Madrid online store. We can also relay this information back to the people in other departments and say maybe we are missing are sales in other places because the fans are misunderstanding our messages.”

From speaking to Oscar one thing that really stood out to me was that Real clearly understand the importance of engagement and providing fans with great content, they also understand how this can be turned into revenue for the club. For one of the player´s birthdays the club produced special video content dedicated to the player itself and alongside this they ran a 24 hour jersey sale.

“We know you can’t make a direct sale on Facebook, you have to engage the fans in conversation and once you have the people interested you can then direct them onto a product or service. The key to the success of this promotion was great content which created conversation amongst our fans, we didn’t just say here is the players shirt you can buy it here – we created engagement and interest, via the content, which then sent traffic back to the online store and created conversions and shirt sales.”

They also use social media to encourage fans to join club membership programmes, by putting out content via social media they can encourage fans to join their eMadristas membership to access even more great content. “What we are doing is pushing people from Facebook to this membership, we are saying – you are a Facebook fan and that’s great you can get good content here, but you can do more with our eMadristas membership. So, we are moving people from Facebook to club affiliated membership programmes which in turn generates revenue via permission marketing and we also offer paid membership programmes so we are able to build a large database of fans affiliated to the club.”

Social media also opens up additional ways for sponsors and club partners to activate their partnerships with Real Madrid because now they have the opportunity not only to be in the stadium, on the shirts and on RealMadrid.com they can also get their message across via social media and provide engaging content for the fans – for example every week Bwin hosts an interview with the team talking about the next game.

Some partners even value mentions and space on the clubs Facebook and Twitter pages above advertising and banners on RealMadrid.com. “A lot of people are coming to us and making products with us who are saying no more that they want the coverage on Realmadrid.com they want to be on our Facebook and Twitter pages because they understand the reach of these platformss. An example of this is a company who came to us and wanted to make a toolbar for Real Madrid and another company who made a digital calendar. We were expecting for them to want a banner on RealMadrid.com but this is changing and they now ask us to send out a message to all of our fans on Facebook so we have created a whole new media not just for Real Madrid but for our club partners too.”

Real’s views on players utilising social media are very relaxed, and a sharp contrast to some Premier League clubs. “We don´t have a specific policy regarding players using social media to communicate with fans,” said Oscar, the players are free to use social media however they want. It comes down to common sense – obviously we don’t want players to be discussing business such as transfers and contracts as this not good for the club, but, it’s also no good for the players.”

“We understand that some clubs may have a stricter policy of saying that players can’t get involved with social media and that is a respectful decision. But there are a lot of opportunities in social media not only for clubs, but for players too. Instead of blocking social media which is an easy thing to do, maybe it’s better to use common sense and tell players not to say online what they won’t say in public.”

Social media plays a very important part in keeping Real’s global fanbase up to date with the club and allows them to make fans feel more connected. “We post in English and Spanish – but we are still missing a lot of people, whilst English and Spanish are very universal languages we have many fans who speak Arabic or Turkish for example, and we are working on sharing content in more languages – these fans may understand English but they will be more comfortable and feel closer to the club if we communicate to them in their language.”

“In terms of growing their fanbase through social media there are two markets which Real hope to focus on over the coming months. “The Arab and Asian markets are two growing markets that are very important to us as we have a lot of fans there and we want to become more approachable to these fans. Social media may give us ways to enter these markets and whilst Facebook is very popular in the US and Europe maybe in Asia it’s not as strong and doesn’t have as much reach, therefore we are looking into more local social networks that will have very good penetration in these markets.”

In conclusion Oscar says, “if you compare social media with our traditional business of television rights, sponsorship etc. social media still generates a very small part of the clubs turnover but it is also a good amount of money. The other revenues are tried and tested ways but we in the new media department we are always exploring what will be the future.”

I’d like to thank Oscar Ugaz and Real Madrid for this interview and for sharing some great information. Be sure to look out for my next article in which I will be speaking to Pedro Duarte, Real Madrid’s Mobile Marketing Manager.

Can social media help bring fans back to your official site?

I recently put out a question on Twitter, blogs and fansites: Sports fans, where do you go for information about your favourite teams/athletes, official sites or other sources?

The resounding answers were that sports fans get information from other sources, such as, fansites, local media and RSS feeds. I’m the same, as an Ipswich Town fan if I want to know something about the club about 99 times out of 100 I don’t go to the official website.

Is this a problem?

In some ways, no, many brands would do anything for the coverage that sports clubs receive. Sports clubs and brands have some of the most dedicated and loyal fans in the world, the fact that they blog about and discuss the club across the internet and various social media platforms is a huge bonus.

However, as a sports club you want YOUR fans on YOUR site, that’s where you sell your tickets, merchandise and where your sponsors get exposure. Just posting news stories on your site isn’t enough now, the fans can get these stories from other sources. In order to keep fans coming back you need to have engaging content and give them something different, something they can’t get anywhere else, and I think social media can play a huge part in bringing fans back to the clubs official site.

Clubs should take advantage of what they have at their disposal, whilst they have to report with a favourable spin and can’t report from different angles like the press they have a huge advantage with behind the scenes access to the team and the club. Fans want to feel close to the club and the players, via utilising social media and using what they have at their disposal clubs can easily offer some great content that will bring fans to their sites.

So, how can social media help?

Official club Twitter and Facebook pages make sharing club news much easier and would send larger amounts of people to official sites. If news about Ipswich Town FC comes up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds I’ll view it, whether it’s from the official club site or not, by not having a presence on these sites many clubs are missing out.

One thing that clubs need to remember is: The most important aspect of social media is interaction. Tools such as Facebook and Twitter should be used as a way to communicate with fans, let the fans know what’s going on, and also listen to what they have to say. This is one thing many clubs forget!

A club blog, similar to the Washington Wizards Blog is a great way to engage fans and bring them back to the official site. A blog is essentially a communication tool between your club and the outside world. Blogs are a place to share thoughts and also share what’s going on at the club. Traditionally readers are free to comment on blog posts, making a blog a two way conversation between the club and the readers. This helps build relationships with fans and will also give fans some great insights into the goings on behind the scenes.

It would be great to see more clubs, especially UK clubs, utilising social media and of course posting interesting and engaging content. Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts and carry on the conversation.

Do you think it matters to clubs if fans aren’t visiting their official site? What would you like to see clubs doing to attract fans back to their sites? What clubs have to best sites for fan engagement and interaction?

Interview: Why Manchester City Get Social Media

Ash Read recently had the chance to speak about social media with Chris Nield, Social Media Executive at Manchester City Football Club….

In my Facebook and Twitter Premier League blog post I stated that in my opinion Manchester City have really set the bar for the other Premier League clubs in terms of social media and online presence, so it was great to get the opportunity to speak to Chris about the clubs use of social media.

  Continue reading Interview: Why Manchester City Get Social Media