Time for football apps to up their game

Apadmi is home to the UK’s best mobile app developers, so it’s not a surprise that we think football apps are an overlooked area of sports technology. This article explains why we think now – more than ever – clubs should be making the most of the commercial opportunities that such a valuable channel presents.

It’s been a very long nine months for football since Deloitte released their latest edition of the Football Money League. Barcelona were top of the table, but the English Premier League was most prominent with eight clubs in the top twenty.

Even in pre-pandemic times it was clear that the successful clubs were those that managed to drive commercial performance beyond broadcast and the stadium.

And then football stopped.

It’s back again now – but the stadiums are empty. It’s a very different experience with even more challenges around fan engagement and revenues. The importance of new commercial channels is even more pronounced.

Deloitte’s report highlighted four themes:

  • Sponsors want true partnerships
  • A diversifying fanbase
  • Owning the content strategy
  • Delivering a personalised experience

They also gave a report for each club including new commercial performance indicators like social and player profile – here’s top-of-the-class Barcelona:

Impressive stuff. But where’s the mobile app?! Surely football apps deserve a mention.

Worldwide mobile app revenues are predicted to double to 935 billion dollars by 2023 with downloads of over 300 billion apps.

Football is a global game and the big clubs have huge commercial potential in their international fanbase. Creating greater fan engagement through a channel they own, ticks all the trends that Deloitte identify around sponsors, content, personalisation and this huge and diverse audience.

As it happens, Barcelona do have a football app with more than 5m downloads. The other big clubs do as well. They do everything you’d expect but there’s so much scope to do more. Perhaps they just don’t have enough commercial focus? Their emission in the Deloitte report would suggest that.

Perhaps the pandemic can be the catalyst that shifts the focus on to mobile apps?

Restarting the premier league has undoubtedly helped to avoid some of the immediate fears facing football clubs – financial struggles or worse closure.  But with fans out of the ground for a while, clubs must look towards digital to engage the fans and revenue.

Apadmi’s sports lead Dave Stevenson, a former professional footballer, turned technology evangelist, has identified the key components required to drive this much needed change.

Data

Fan behaviour and habits have changed due to the impact of Covid-19 and understanding their needs and priorities is critical to drive engagement. Experience and interaction outside of the 90-minute window is key, so collecting richer data insights with a football app can inform personalised experiences that fans want. 

Communication

Mobile phones are the closest channel to fans there is, which makes a football app the best route to take. Always on, nearly always in the pocket. Push and in-app messages are highly responsive – up to ten times more than email. Football clubs armed with data can communicate more directly with fans. Strategies need to be shaped around all the different types of fan – from season ticket holders to those on the other side of the world.

Changing the way they do digital

Many football apps are supported by the EFL Digital platform, which is fine, but in such a potentially valuable channel, ambitious clubs should aim to innovate their own solutions to look beyond the often easy, but limited functionality options the football app platform offers.

West Bromwich Albion recently moved away from their previous football app platform and took the leap to lead their own commercial growth through digital product innovation. 

This is a big and bold step in the right direction and the start of a long journey. Let’s take a look at the key objectives behind their decision:

  • Generate a greater user experience for fans
  • Freshen up the existing West Bromwich Albion brand and modernise where appropriate
  • Introduce ‘Single Sign On’ (SSO) so supporters can manage one account, in one place, accessing all platforms

This last point – SSO – is a big one. Starting to think of a football app as a powerful CRM channel is important.

So, if these simple objectives are West Brom’s first pass at breaking away from the norm, why aren’t more football clubs following suit?

After all, outside of the football industry, digital has become a number one priority for most businesses. Before Covid-19, ‘92 percent of companies thought their business models would need to change given digitisation’. The pandemic has now driven change like never before. Retail has ripped up the rules, famously delivering ‘five years innovation in six months’.

Is it now football’s turn to show that same change?

 

Apadmi is a team of 180 mobile specialists, with growing expertise in innovative sport technology and mobile solutions. Our work with SailGP helped launch a global sporting championship and deliver a world-first fan experience. We’re working with a global football club right now, with exciting launches ahead.

We’d love to talk to you about how we can help you drive the next stage of your mobile strategy so if you’d like to find out more about any of the themes in this article, please get in touch.football app