Mark Bradley: How to create a ‘Fan Experience' strategy

The phrases ‘fan engagement’ and ‘fan experience’ were rarely used in sports before the turn of the millennium. Certainly, in the UK, a winning team was considered the key to supporter satisfaction.

That has changed in recent years and the Fan Experience Company have been at the vanguard of this movement. Director Mark Bradley has wide experience in challenging environments across England and Europe. His vision is not just Family Stands and face-painting, he argues that a coherent fan engagement strategy will reap a commercial return, especially for those clubs operating outside the upper echelons of the Champions League.

Bas Schnater: Starting a CRM ecosystem at a 'smaller' sports club

If data is the new oil then Customer Relationship Management is the process of mining and refining the information for business use.

Over the last few years, major clubs have spent millions of dollars on getting the right message to the right person at the right time on the right platform. But what if money is tight, you don’t have the scale and those who run the club would rather put their resources elsewhere.?

Bas Schnater is an international fan engagement consultant. He has just left Dutch football team AZ Alkmaar after two years running the marketing department.

He built a CRM ecosystem from the bottom up. Appointing a partner, dealing with internal stakeholders and the changes they must accept, managing the messaging, commercialisation v content.

There is a lot to consider but the improvements can be significant.

Prof Simon Chadwick: How to wield soft power via sport

George Orwell once wrote that sport is “war minus the shooting”.

But that was in December 1945, just after the end of the second world war.

The use of sport as a political tool has evolved considerably since then.

Prof Simon Chadwick has studied the way football, F1 etc have been used as part of ’soft’ power plays by nations attempting to grow their ‘brand’ and authority.

While countries like China and Qatar, as well as clubs like PSG and Man City, spring to mind, the UK and the US are also adept at utilising their stars on the field to enhance their influence overseas.

Jacqui Oatley: How women in football are raising their voice

Match of the Day is a British institution.

The BBC’s Saturday night football show started in 1964 and still sets the weekly agenda for the sport that dominates the UK and the League that enthralls the world.

So it is incredible to think that it took until 2007 to hear the voice of a female commentator for the first time.

In this podcast, Jacqui Oatley talks to me about the attention see received on the back of that appearance. We also discussed the state of play for women sports broadcasters and journalists in the UK. What is changing, what is not and, as usual, how the social media has changed the landscape.

As you’ll hear, everyone, including me, has a lot to learn.

Egor Kretsan: Zenit St Petersburg - bold, brash and speaking 15 languages

Russian football is undergoing a makeover. It has just hosted a successful World Cup and its club sides are regulars in the latter stages of European competition. The Russian League revealed a radical rebranding last year and its leading club, Zenit St Petersburg, are thinking beyond the serious stereotype into which the country’s persona sometimes falls.

They are creating high polished content, translating it into 15 languages and are not afraid to take on the world’s big teams and major media outlets on social media.

New Media Director Egor Kretsan leads the club’s content strategy. He spoke to me about their approach.

Kei Koyama: The J.League breaks out

The emerging football leagues around the world might consider the J.League as a model.

Since starting in 1993, it has formed the foundation upon which Japanese club teams have become a force in the AFC Champions League and their national side regulars in the latter stages of major international tournaments. They even co-hosted the World Cup in 2002.

Now, the J.League is looking to expand overseas using digital as a driver.

Kei Koyama, from their international development department, spoke to me about the past, present and future, including the J.League furoshiki (translated as 'wrapping cloth'). This is a digital asset hub which allows them to create better content quickly and efficiently.

We also discuss the competition’s very different demographics and the strategic importance of the 10-year broadcasting deal with DAZN.

Ben Warren: Can digital media save County Championship cricket?

Cricket, lovely cricket.

England's national sport has been under pressure for many years, with the four-day County Championship widely perceived as the domestic competition in the most precarious position.

However, there has been genuine hope in the blossoming audience for a relatively basic video streaming service synced with the traditional radio commentary.

It is a League-Wide scheme developed by the England and Wales Cricket Board but Somerset CCC have been at the forefront. Digital marketing & communications executive Ben Warren runs the service for the club.

With a controversial new franchise-based tournament starting next season and threatening to take attention from the longer-form game, the pressure is on.

But can digital media really help save county cricket?

Julian Valentin: Rockies, social media and ballpark figures

In terms of digital and social media, Major League Baseball is perhaps the most enigmatic sport in the world.

We are constantly told that America’s pastime is past its prime. It is an ‘aging sport’ that is struggling to hold on to the coat-tails of the major players, NBA and NFL whilst coming under increasing pressure from up-and-coming sports like soccer.

However, MLB Advanced Media and incarnations were at the very forefront of innovation long before other sports started to plough resources into digital and continue to be a leading light.

The Colorado Rockies are not the most fashionable team in baseball but they have built a reputation for quirky interaction and content with personality.

Julian Valentin leads the strategy at Coors Field. With the 2019 baseball season fast approaching we discussed the past, present and future for the Rockies and how the hell his team covers 162 regular seasons games!

Alex Fynn: The 'Spiritual Godfather of the Premier League'* outlines his European vision

The Sunday Times described Alex Fynn as the ‘Spiritual Godfather of the Premier League’. He is uncomfortable with the label but, in many ways, it is an apt description. The marketer and author also had an influence on the inception of the Champions League and he is critical how both conceptions have developed.

Now, Fynn is outlining his proposal for a fully-fledged European League. The concept has been talked about a lot in recent months and, if you believe the revelations in Der Speigel last year, the Continent’s elite clubs are trying to hammer out a format right now. It is fraught with difficulties but, more importantly, is it dangerous to the future of the game?

Jordan Gardner: Growing US soccer players on a foreign field

Increasingly, football clubs come in groups. Wealthy owners have multiple teams in different leagues on different continents. Sometimes there is an obvious vision, sometimes not.

US-based soccer investor Jordan Gardner is taking a different approach. He is leading a consortium that hopes to take over a top-flight Danish club and change their business model. A major part of that is developing talented players from the overseas, primarily the fertile development area of the US, then selling them on to major clubs.

It is a twist on an established approach and the among the first to link the North American game and Europe in such a direct way.

Daniel Weston: Founder, European Cricket League

Daniel Weston is a Germany international cricket players with a distinctly Aussie accent. But, having had considerable success growing the sport at home, his love for the sport has inspired him to start the Europe Cricket League. The inaugural event will see the best clubs in France, Romania, Russia, Denmark, Italy and Holland do battle at the La Manga resort in Spain this summer.

The focus will be to serve fans with a predominately digital and social media product, not only because it is cost-effective and modern but the ignorance of the sport by traditional media has forced fans to follow it that way.

Time to explore a new venture whose audience has been entirely overlooked until now.

Mario Leo: Sports Social Media Trends for 2019

This time last year sports social media analytics expert Mario Leo discussed his reflections on 2017 and his predictions for 2018.

We decided to repeat the feat this year with Mario picking out six major trends.

Given that his company, Result Sports, provides social media data on some of the world biggest football teams, Mario is in a perfect position to predict the next 12 months.

Richard Glover: Tennis South Africa's return of service

These are crucial times for tennis in South Africa. When Richard Glover took over as CEO two years ago, the governing body was in a perilous financial state. Therefore his first job was to develop the organisation’s partnership portfolio. His second was to start schemes to develop the grass-roots of the game. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum and unrelated to Glover’s tenure, South African men’s No 1 Kevin Anderson reached the final of the US Open and Wimbledon. 

It has all created the correct conditions for a resurgence. 

But can Tennis South Africa close out the game when they are only a challenger sport in the country? What groups in this deeply sectionalised population are they targeting? Will the blazers or the country’s difficult history play a part? Where does social media fit in? How does a CEO balance short-term and long-term aims? And, most importantly, why are they talking about eating elephants? 

UFF: The future of football fan channels

Football Fan Channels have made a huge leap forward over the last few years. The likes of Arsenal Fan TV and United Stand have started to become essential viewing whether you supporter the club involved or not.

Now, the movement is evolving. Or, more specifically, organising, professionalising and monetising. We are seeing better videos by better presenters on a wider variety of platforms.

They have even moved to our television screens.

Ultimate Football Fan are at the vanguard of this development. I spoke to Managing Partner, Brett Lotriet Best and Rob Walk, from parent company DIG, about this maturing area of content.

Alan Smith: Penalty Box to Xbox via Press Box

Alan Smith has had a long career in English football

But, in all probability, his different achievements have different meanings depending on the demographic of the supporter.

For the over-40s, he is most famous as an unselfish striker for Leicester City, Arsenal and England. The thirtysomethings will recognise Smith from his co-commentary on Sky Sports. However, millennials will know him best as the voice of the video game Fifa.

He has just written a book, Heads Up, charting his career and I wanted to explore his journey from the pitch to the virtual pitch, via the commentary box.

John Dykes: Taking the Premier League to Asia

If you live in Asia and you follow the Premier League then John Dykes will be a familiar face. 

He hosts coverage of the English top flight for Fox Sport Asia out in Singapore.

John is English but has spent the majority of his broadcasting career in South-East Asia. Therefore he is well-positioned to discuss how interest in the Premier League has grown in the past few decades, analyse which leagues are best-placed to compete and also challenge some of the myths about football fans in this part of the world.

Misha Sher : The Art of Branded Sports Entertainment

Branded entertainment is one of the most important new components in the content strategy for any sports rights-holder.

Every club, governing body or broadcaster needs partners and, in the digital age, their demands have changed rapidly and dramatically

I wanted to explore this area so I spoke to Misha Sher, whose LinkedIN profile says he’s Worldwide Vice President, Sport & Entertainment at MediaCom.

Misha has vast experience in the field and sits on the Entertainment jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

He has collaborated with his fellow jurors on a new book called the ‘The Art of Branded Entertainment’.

This podcast is called the Art of Branded Sports Entertainment.

Barry Hearn: Darts, DAZN and Digital

Barry Hearn has been promoting sports for well over 40 years.

As the head of Matchroom Sport, he has revolutionised snooker twice and made his PDC Darts World Championship the second most viewed event on Sky Sports. He managed a stable of boxers in the 1980s and his son Eddie is now guiding the career of world heavyweight king Anthony Joshua among many others.

Now 70, Barry still describes himself as “an accountant from a council estate with a chip on his shoulder”. He still rallies against “the blazers” and still wants to change the sporting world on a daily basis.

Neil Smythe: Turning Hashtag United into a 'real' non-League team

For the last two decades, Neil Smythe has forged a career at the vanguard of football content.

He was behind the camera (and in front of them too) at Soccer AM before helping to launch Copa90 and the Man United fans' YouTube channel, FullTimeDevils. 

But his new role is helping Hashtag United convert from a 'YouTube team' filming friendlies to one that plays competitive football in the non-League pyramid in England. Their launch channel promised the Premier League in 10 years!

Suddenly, it is serious football and how with that affect the well-publicised success story of Hashtag United