Merging social and sport for a match day experience


By Pete Wood

April 23, 2013 | 4 min read

Last week, Saracens Rugby Club launched full-stadium WIFI in their newly constructed ground, Allianz Park. This presented a chance for the table-topping Premiership rugby club to become the first sports club in Europe to encourage real-time user-generated content (UGC) that could contribute positively to the match day experience.

Given this opportunity, 360i London set out to engage fans pre-game, during the game and post-game on Twitter, as Twitter is considered the most mobile-friendly and highly followed of the club’s social platforms.

We had two goals in mind. Firstly, we wanted to communicate that Saracens finally had a permanent home in London. Allianz Park was constructed half way through the season - the team having spent most of their time touring the globe for “home” matches - so getting the word out would be essential for ticket sales.

We also wanted to create awareness of the newly conceptualised Allianz Park match day experience and generate excitement for the game by encouraging the creation of UGC. We felt social media represented the best way to communicate the new team home and experience, and that it would be most powerful if the fans were responsible for doing so. To encourage social activity, Saracens promoted a series of hashtags that were publicised in the match day programme, across social channels and on two dedicated big screens.

Secondly, we wanted to enhance the match day experience for attendees. We recognised that one of the biggest omissions from the live match day was the lack of data (key moments, player statistics, team statistics, etc.) fans were presented.

To combat this exclusion, live game commentary was fed through Twitter so that fans on-ground wouldn’t miss a beat regardless of where they sat. The stream provided statistics around all major incidences that occurred throughout the match, positioning the mobile phone as a ‘sports stats screen.’ As the programme progresses, this screen will be modified to include live OPTA statistics as well.

The real-time trial paid off with an extremely positive fan reaction at 99 percent positive sentiment across the day. Men, women and children alike submitted content using the Saracens hashtags and the club compounded its reach by an additional 45 percent. In-game messaging by fans increased by an impressive 20 percent as well with picture based content increasing by a staggering 67 percent.

When social content began to appear on the big screens, there was a huge uplift in fan engagement. Additionally, concerns that mobile usage would interrupt the match day experience were unfounded, confirmed by the sheer number of happy Tweeters at the end of the game.

Times are changing, and as sport becomes more tightly integrated with technology, it is up to agencies and clubs to find more innovative ways to engage fans and enhance live sporting experiences. Edward Griffiths, CEO of Saracens commented on the new initiative, “not every rugby supporter will appreciate ‘second screen’ activity, but we are pushing the boundaries… and our fans are having fun.”

As the programme develops, we hope to drive additional revenue to bars and restaurants by running score based offers, launching an interactive digital programme and further engaging fans to develop deeper fan relationships.

This is the first stepping stone in socialising the match day experience. By building out a sporting event’s social entertainment - in addition to its attendance - we can drive more dedicated fans to a club’s social accounts, giving the club a great opportunity to drive additional revenue opportunities from its most important contributors, its fans.

Pete Wood is UK Social Director at 360i


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