With the Premier League and Euro 2020 postponed, this summer is looking to be a lacklustre one for football fans. However, when it comes to fan engagement in a time of crisis, Everton Football Club has been implementing a strategy underpinned by technology designed to maintain contact with its community. Not only is it working, it's doing good in the process.
While the word 'unprecedented' has become the term du jour for most businesses describing their reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, Everton started mapping out its own response back in January.
"As part of a risk and governance project launched in at the start of the year, we put in place solutions for remote working as well as measures for when the coronavirus would be classed as a pandemic," the club's head of communications and engagement Scott McCleod explained in an interview filmed for The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival.
Everton instigated its own lockdown a week ahead of the UK government, which meant it was able to “quickly evolve” into remote working. This, McCleod explained, allowed the business to start planning how it would preserve relationships with fans as football fixtures disappeared from TV guides game by game.
This resulted in the launch of 'Blue Family', a campaign that has been running since March in tandem with the Liverpool-based side's official charity arm Everton in the Community.
At the heart of the initiative is a coordinated outreach push, which has seen the club offer tailored support, assistance and guidance to some of the most vulnerable, socially isolated and at-risk members of its fandom in these uncertain times.
For the last four weeks, Everton Football Club and Everton in the Community staff have been providing vital support and assistance for thousands of individuals and families in need across its home city.
The first month of the campaign saw it reach out to those in greatest need, racking up 1,750 check-in phone calls to vulnerable fans from staff, players and club ambassadors.
McCleod explains how a “very robust” CRM system helped the club deliver this service. “That data has enabled us to conduct a mass outbound calling initiative. Our fan teams are working remotely but they’re using the same systems they would in the office.”
He added: “It’s helping us reach out to those who need it the most.”
Elsewhere, a referral service for access to Everton in the Community’s support provision received almost 400 applications for assistance for individuals ranging in age from 18-years-old to 98.
Since launch, Everton in the Community staff have delivered more than 850 emergency food parcels and distributed emergency foodbank vouchers to individuals and families living across Liverpool, as well as buying and delivering medical prescriptions for the elderly.
Rethinking the Blues' communications strategy
Beyond prioritising fan engagement, the Toffees also had to adapt communications and media strategies. Email, social media and its own platforms have played a key role in this, with both Everton and its charitable arm charged with producing engaging content for those in isolation.
Over 24.5 million fans from around the world have been tuning into ad-hoc content from their favourite Everton players, including bedtime stories read aloud by stars like Lucas Digne and Simone Magill. Other videos from first-team stars and training staff have included exercise and mindfulness sessions, cookery demonstrations and home-learning educational resources.
“We’re getting more time with the players because they’re in the same situation we’re all in – there’s only so much training they can do in a day and they’re happy to help out with the campaign,” said McCleod.
“Every player has their own social media reach and audience, and their buy-in to the campaign has allowed us to amplify its message, which is all about bringing people together and keeping in contact.”