Mark Rowan, head of media and communications at Everton Football Club, tells The Drum about its digital strategy following the club's recent website relaunch and new Android app release.
The club has recently launched both a new website and an Android app. What is it that Everton FC is looking to achieve through digital technology?
It’s about finding engagement on multi-platforms in an attempt to reach as many people as possible. It’s very difficult to try and understand which Everton fan is on which platform at which time, but you can see through the various platforms that there are small cases and, in some cases, large groups starting to become a community. So, for example, the Everton website has 700,000 visitors a month. That’s our largest group, compared with the number of people that have downloaded the new Android app. It’s about nanocasting now rather than broadcasting and operating in that way allows us to get our message out across multi-platforms in an attempt to engage more fans on a regular basis. The reason why we want to engage with the fans is quite simple – we want to grow the Everton fan base because more fans will result in us being able to generate more incremental revenue through ticket sales, retail sales, through media sales. The key objectives of what we’re trying to do is; we’re trying to grow more ticketing sales, we’re trying to grow the fan base and we’re trying to engage Evertonians and trying to communicate with them openly and honestly.
What was it that you recognised that needed to be done in terms of launching a new website and then moving forwards with that?
We’re on a path to convergence and this is probably the first step on the way to that path. You pick up your handheld device and sometimes you look at it and wrestle with it; “is it a phone or is it a computer?” As time goes buy, more people will realise what that means but I’m not looking to perplex people in anyway, but I’m hoping and I assume that the devices that we’ll be using on a desk or be it handheld, will all be able to convey a similar type of information. It’s no longer just about mobile clips for your mobile and broadband clips for, in our case, our Everton TV series. It’s about that same content, distributed across a number of platforms and it’s cost effective as well to produce it in that way.
What do you hope fans will gain from interacting with the club using digital?
First and foremost, prior to websites, clubs opened Saturday afternoon, 3pm until 5pm, and then they would shut the doors and say ‘we’ll see you in two weeks’. Now they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there’s a thirst for information and that’s the motivation behind what we do at Everton and I’m sure that the same for all our Premier League clubs. There is a desire to know what’s happening at your football club, day or night and hope that through the multi-platform approach, we will be able to get that message out to as many people as possible and as quickly as possible because there is competition in the marketplace. That competition is healthy and allows football fans to consumer their content, they do want to consumer ‘official’ content and we are the only outlet able to do that in the volume that a lot of football fans now want.
How has that changed the way that the clubs works with traditional news and media outlets that will be looking for exclusive news?
I think that we work a lot closer with them now and we actually complement what they do. Gone are the days of getting a story and waiting nearly 24 hours before it appears in a newspaper. The appetite for knowledge is such that things are getting out on the internet all the time. As far as working with the media, we have an excellent relationship with all of the media outlets and while there is that perceived argument that they are competitors, Everton couldn’t survive without them. They are crucial to the ecosystem of the club as they give a large percentage of our fan base the information that they crave. In the case of broadcasters, they provide a significant part of the club’s and the Premier League’s revenue, so it’s about working with them, but realising that people have got choice and will go to the most appropriate outlet which they feel suits them best. What it has done is that it has made football clubs become more professional in their approach to media platforms, which maybe wasn’t the case 10 or so years ago.
The media will obviously continue to do what it does best and we must be able to communicate in the way that best reaches our supporters.
What plans can we expect to roll out in the future?
We’ve got an digital media road map which we’ll be working on over the next three years and we’ve got a responsibility to keep the content as exciting, as fresh and as relevant as possible. We can’t rest on our laurels. We plan to introduce new things to each of the platforms on a regular basis.
The website for Everton FC was redesigned by Rippleffect and launched on 1 March.