Transport for London (Tfl) has partnered with ESPN’s football website, ESPN FC, to deliver football results to London Underground commuters during the World Cup – marking the first time the transport body has signed a commercial partnership.
Launched today by ex-England footballer John Barnes, the partnership will see Tfl and ESPN FC bring news, results and score updates from the games to more than 140 stations via overhead platform boards and 400 service update boards displayed at station entrances.
Nigel Holness Operations Director at Tfl told The Drum that he felt it was the right time to forge a partnership, and that he hoped it might help improve the perception of the brand, which is often accused of having "miserable" customers.
“I think the World Cup is a fantastic festival, everyone is interested in it – if you’re a football fan – and it’s just an opportunity for us to work in partnership and enhance the experience of people using the tube. We’re often accused of people looking a bit miserable on the tube and hopefully this will help brighten it up and improve their experience.
“The other good thing about it is it brings in a little income for us that we can reinvest in continuing to upgrade the tube so it’s a win, win all round really.”
The partnership will help secure income for re-investment in London’s transport network as part of a wider commercial strategy that is currently forecast to generate £3.5bn over the coming years. It follows click and collect services from major retailers and pop-up shops at Old Street station – both of which Holness said have been "hugely positive" with commuters.
He added that he hoped the tie-up will generate positive comments, such as those during the London 2012 Olympic Games, and that the success of the partnership will likely be measured through post event research.
The collaboration follows the recent re-launch of ESPNFC.com and the ESPNFC app, which is now fully responsive across all devices.
Speaking to The Drum, Alan Fagan, group director, ESPN EMEA, called the deal ‘ground-breaking’ and revealed that it just one part of a plan to raise the website to a new level.
“We’re working with Tfl in what we consider to be a ground-breaking partnership… and the reason we’re doing it is that it fits very well with our strategy of bringing fans of any sport the content they want any time, anywhere and it’s really just an extension of that strategy. It’s a very unique way of making sure that if people are travelling home or to work they don’t need to miss what’s happening.”
Fagan revealed ESPN has a marketing budget secured to "continue telling people about ESPNFC" – the financial details of which he declined to disclose – and that ESPN has some "interesting plans" around the website to raise awareness among football fans worldwide. He also hinted that there would be more innovation to come from ESPN in how it delivers sports news.
The brands have an agreement in place to look at similar opportunities in the future when the World Cup comes to an end.
As part of the partnership, which launches on 12 June, ESPN FC will run an advertising campaign on the home page and journey planner section of the Tfl website, as well as experiential activity involving football freestylers at Stratford, Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road stations later this week.