Aberdeen FC

By The Drum | Administrator

March 12, 2004 | 5 min read

Contrary to popular belief, there is one Scotsman, an Aberdonian in fact, who has held every major international football trophy aloft in front of his cheering peers.

Indeed, the World Cup, the European Cup, the Champion’s League Cup, the Cup Winner’s Cup and the UEFA Cup are not strangers to Ian Riddoch, sales and marketing director of Aberdeen Football Club, who was once given the onerous task of “babysitting” the priceless silverware for a night, while working at Manchester-based sports marketing firm Ptarmigan.

Like any self-respecting young bloke, he immediately rang all of his mates, who joined him for an evening of living out every boy’s dream of raising the World Cup above their heads and screaming uncontrollably.

However, protecting priceless silverware is one thing. Now Riddoch faces the slightly tougher task of protecting the future of Aberdeen Football Club. Riddoch is the man responsible for maximising revenues at one of Scotland’s best known football clubs and, with administration never far from the newspaper headlines, he knows that exploiting every revenue stream is vital for today’s football businesses.

Top of Riddoch’s list is to find a shirt sponsor who will take over from current sponsor A-FAB when that deal comes to an end at the close of the season in May. And while in yesteryear shirt sponsorship deals were done on the back of a cigarette packet, that is certainly no longer the case.

Riddoch says: “Football has taken a downturn in recent years, primarily because of the Bosman ruling and TV contracts not being as valuable as once predicted. Last year we lost £2.5m and again this year we will be subject to making a loss. But if you look at Rangers, they are £68m in debt; then it puts things into perspective. Because of facts like these there is a bigger emphasis on people like me in football clubs to make more money from more revenue streams.”

Clearly, the shirt sponsor is perhaps the highest profile revenue stream and Riddoch is keen to secure a deal that delivers not only for the club, but also for the sponsor’s bottom line, as he explains: “Decisions on shirt sponsors are normally made many months in advance. Our current sponsor, A-FAB, has been a fantastic supporter of the club, but both parties felt it was time for a change.

“People do not just walk in and put their name on your shirt. It has to be more accountable than that. With the system we have in place we have something special here, which a sponsor can get real value from. There are lots of opportunities for a potential shirt sponsor. The club is certainly prepared to look at more unconventional deals, so that the shirt sponsor really gets something out of it.”

Another way Riddoch is maximising revenue is by the recent launch of an affinity card, the Red Army Membership card, operating in conjunction with Sports Loyalty Card. In December, 70,000 cards were sent out in the Aberdeen area and Riddoch says the response so far has been phenomenal.

Aberdeen FC has now linked up with a number of high-street partners and businesses, including Littlewoods Extra, Tesco Clubcard, Woolworths, PC World, P&O Ferries, National Express and Allders, enabling Aberdeen supporters to collect points as they shop. These points can then be redeemed on Aberdeen FC merchandise or season tickets.

“Everything we do has to be value driven,” says Riddoch. “Obviously, the affinity card is to make more money for the club, but it also aims to make supporting the club considerably cheaper, which, in turn, brings more money back into the club.”

However, the really clever part of the Red Army card is the website that drives it. The site is powered by a database, which includes a simple data capture mechanism, and through Ascent Software the database becomes a data mining tool and a customer-profiling tool. Therefore, Riddoch can offer extra points to supporters in return for additional information about them. This information can then be used to tailor offers to a supporter’s wants and needs and allows Riddoch to go to third parties and offer to do joint marketing initiatives based in the information that they have collected.

He says: “We believe we have created a new advertising stream and one which is very trackable. We have worked with a number of partners and we have the biggest website in the North East of Scotland, with 46,000 unique users.

“We hope the Red Army card will become like a Switch card, in that people carry it with them and use it all the time. Many of the top clubs are following now, such as Man Utd and Lancashire Cricket Club. Pretty soon all the league clubs will be doing it.”

Looking to the future, Riddoch says that the club is going ahead with its relocation and redevelopment but, with regards to the future of the beautiful game, things have to change behind the scenes in order to have an impact on the field.

“Scottish football is in survival mode at the moment and there is no quick fix to it. We need to go forward with a sound business plan.

“There is lots of money in Aberdeen. The average monthly wage is £400 above the national average. There is also lots of creativity here and it is a great marketplace to test market products. We have great media, such as the Press & Journal, Northsound and Grampian TV. To be honest, we are the only show in town. So if you are a client looking to spread their message then we are pretty hard to beat.”


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