As sport gradually returns post COVID-19, full stadiums on match days still seem many months away, posing a key question: how will clubs communicate effectively with their fans on behalf of their sponsors whilst matches are played out behind closed doors?. With this in mind, Sport Industry Group sat down with Tom Matthiesen, CEO & Founder of MANY Digital, a brand new ‘all-in-one’ digital ecosystem, to talk about turning fan engagement into new digital revenue.
Tom, talk us through your background and the inception of MANY Digital
I’ve been working in the sports industry for 20 years, with many years’ experience as a rights holder, involved in everything from club ownership to CEO of Fobazo, IconsZone and Azzurri. Each of these roles gave me an increased understanding of effective fan engagement, brand building and the growing importance of a digital strategy. Observing the changing landscape of sports sponsorship during that time led me to create MANY Digital, a platform which gives rights holders the power to turn data into revenue, and which streamlines all of their digital content. This allows sponsors to utilize and potentially enhance their return on sponsorship investment and track results, whilst fans benefit from a club loyalty program, receive personalized content they are interested in, tailored to their profile.
How can sports rights holders connect and communicate effectively with fans in these challenging times while also delivering real value to their existing partners and attract new sponsors?
We are now entering a very interesting phase, thanks to the unfortunate situation caused by COVID-19, where many clubs will need to rethink their commercial models. The full suite of “traditional rights” is not so available to sponsors when matches are played behind closed doors, as they will almost certainly remain for the next 6-12 months. It’s clear that a club with a strong digital environment will have better insight of their fans, and have more opportunity to convert this data into revenue at this time. MANY Digital has developed an “all-in-one” digital eco-system - a combination of front and back end data - which allows clubs to bring all of this information together in one place, whilst serving its fans with tailored content, and allowing sponsors unique access to the audience they have paid to target. Until sponsors can access the services they would normally expect as part of a rights package, such as hospitality, and brand exposure on match days, they will need alternative avenues, a “value exchange” to connect with their audience, which only digital eco systems can provide.
How do you think clubs will be able to still offer sponsors return on their investment without fans in the stadium?
Return on investment will become more important than ever in the future and technology is perfectly placed to help with this through digital tracking and online engagement. As the world recovers from COVID-19, budgets will be tight and will depend on evidence of success in order to be renewed. If rights holders can demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of their fanbase and what type of campaigns work well within their eco-system they maximize revenue opportunities and weather the storm until traditional match days return. Even after this time, “the game has changed forever”, digital transformation needs to be embraced, brands demand evidence of a campaign’s success, and a unified and organized digital community will be essential for all clubs to thrive financially in the future.
You’ve been very successful in the Scandinavian and German market, what have you learnt from these experiences, working with the likes of FC Midtjylland?
We’ve had a very successful run in Scandinavia working with the top three Danish football clubs and have signed our first German club which is exciting. We are also in advanced discussions with rights holders in other parts of Europe, the US, and Asia as well as the UK with each market progressing well. Our learnings from our initial club signings are there is an infinite need for clubs to apply data aggregation, to know who is sitting on the seat at the game or watching the match via streaming. This ability to segment the data, and have precise knowledge of the audience means clubs and sponsors can create targeted communication, and is a departure from the ‘one size fits all’ strategy. It means all communications are now more relevant to the audience and engagement levels are far higher as a result. Our first case study is FC Midtjylland, which is a forward-thinking club and trailblazers in terms of their digital eco system. They have been utilizing our platform for 19 months, and are purely data driven. The results have been impressive, as day by day we see the club’s digital revenue increasing as a result.
You’ve recently launched in the UK with a London office, what are you hoping to achieve both in the UK and worldwide over the next few years?
Setting up a London office is an important part of our strategy, and gives us a unique opportunity to access a huge potential market. We’ve appointed some powerful individuals to help us grow an already great network in the UK and this give us direct contact to some key decision makers here, not just in football, but in a full range of sports, where we see the same need for brand activation and improvement of the digital transformation. It’s getting more and more obvious post COVID-19 that we will see a shift in the whole paradigm of driving a sports business forward.