Web 2.0 and the stadium experience

Sport Business News

MEI presents an interview with Chris Rivett, managing director of website development specialist Uptonaway Media (pictured above),

Everyone has been going web 2. 0 mad now for more years than we care to remember; everyone has jumped on that bandwagon and missed the next as talk naturally progressed to 3. 0 and beyond but it is still very much a case of, "could do better" as far as the concept of maximising the opportunities the internet presents to a stadia environment is concerned. That is the view of Chris Rivett, managing director of website development specialist Uptonaway Media. Rivett set up Uptonaway Media in early 2005 having spent five years prior to that working in the media departments of professional football clubs in England. Utilising that experience and expertise he set up a company that could provide an outsourced media department solution capable of driving a business through websites as effectively as any in–house team. The company has specialised in providing development support for websites in the sport and leisure industry since its inception four years ago, and has built up a substantial client base ranging from elite sports stars including England cricketer Monty Panesar; professional clubs such as Luton Town Football Club, to some of the most widely recognised organisations in English football, the Football League and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited. The company's latest venture, launched in December 2008 has seen it team up with electronic giants Samsung to run experiencefootball. co. uk and promote the Korean company's work at all levels in football. StadiaTech. com caught up with Rivett in his Northampton office to find out what his thoughts were on a number of topics and discuss the possibilities available to sports clubs keen to utilise everything the web has to offer as part of their marketing strategy. "The idea of a stadium website, certainly in the world of football at least, is still a relatively new concept that's perhaps seen as something for the 'big boys'. Before the start of this season I could count on one hand the number of football clubs that had a stadium website, a few more have popped up during the course of the current campaign but in that respect, it still remains almost groundbreaking. "There are massive opportunities for clubs, in the same way there was for them to have an official websites 10–15 years or so ago. There is as much reason now to have a separate website for stadium information as there is to have a platform for the latest club news because there is so much more going on in stadiums these days. "Now, you've got a functional facility that is available from Monday through to Friday; it's not just about the kind of money that's taken over the bar in the commercial and corporate hospitality venues on a Saturday afternoon any more, so any opportunity that a club receives to maximise these opportunities is one they should take. "If clubs decide to have a stadium website, they can expect a whole window of new business–related opportunities will subsequently open up to them:"I don't think clubs do as much in this area as perhaps they could do, they're moving towards it but there's still a great opportunity. It tends to be the case it only gets looked at when talk at board room tables turns to development but everyone should be, at the very least, evaluating it now. We're talking to clients at the moment about different concepts, which aren't really new ideas as such, for example the idea of using a wireless webcam around the stadium. "If the club gets an enquiry from someone who's interested in hiring a room, within a couple of minutes they can set the web cam up in that room and move it around and talk the person through their options over the phone. That complimented by electronic brochures and websites with details that can be downloaded, for example room lay–outs etc gives them a real opportunity to view as near to first–hand as possible, what a room would look like and how it could be laid out without having to leave their desk. "That's just one example within corporate hospitality and room hire that allows them to compete with hotels, particularly clubs who have out–of–town stadiums; they're near to motorways and ideally placed to provide as good as service as any hotel would but with the added pull of being at a truly unique venue. Once you're in a stadium on a match day, the world's your oyster in terms of potential. The clubs at the very top level are using Bluetooth and wireless networks to communicate with supporters during a game and in most clubs cases they've already got most supporters' contact details; mobile phone numbers etc. , on file from when they signed up as season ticket holders. "So there's an opportunity there to market to supporters directly while a game's going on. The idea that you can vote for your man–of–the–match, the idea that potential betting odds could come through to your phone if you've registered for the right service, there's so many opportunities out there for businesses to interact with supporters and it isn't really cutting edge, the solutions have been in place for years yet it's still relatively new to a lot of people in this field. "Another emerging area is how stadiums can work with stadium naming rights owners and sponsors to build a united brand across the internet. Although sponsorship can be a complex issue, the internet is fast becoming the best way to reach a wider audience:"Very few companies, commercially, particularly in the UK seem to be grabbing the opportunities that are presented to them for branding and joint–ventures. The idea of commercial websites to support a common goal is still quite a new thing, we're working on a project with Samsung, called Experience Football, where they're looking to showcase that there's more to their brand than just the shirt sponsorship of Chelsea Football Club. They do work at lots of different levels within the community and the idea of the website is taking the concept of football and how people interact with it in their day–to–day lives, at all levels from grassroots up to a club like Chelsea–one of the biggest clubs in the world. "It has already been nominated for a Sports Industry award in it's first season and a similar service could be replicated for clubs in terms of the stadia. A number of clubs have stand sponsors or people who pay for the privilege of having their logo on top of a stand, normally on a flight–path near a city airport. There are lots of opportunities to do something online to support your offline activities. The internet is your easiest way to engage with people and given that most people will be clicking onto the club websites throughout the week for all the latest team news going into the weekend, by doing it on a joint–venture basis you can push the services of your sponsors and likewise the sponsors can push the traffic back towards the club website, it's got to be mutually beneficial. Sponsorship is so much more than just a brand logo on the front of a shirt, it's got to work in so many different areas if people want a return on investment for it. "With the explosion in popularity of social–networking sites, particularly Facebook and most recently Twitter, the importance of football clubs utilising these free services to target a wide–range of current supporters and an even broader spectrum of potential customers:"The whole social–networking community is still a relatively new thing in terms of the age of the internet, and the idea that there's another means, rather than looking for people to click on a website and come to you to get the news, you can actually go out there and aggressively search for them by appearing on social–networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, where people aren't just popping on from time to time but are almost on there throughout their whole working day. "A number of companies have got policies around Facebook and similar sites because people spend so long on them, it makes sense that you find the sites where the people are, rather than the old age tradition of trying to get people to find your site, there's an even easier way of getting to market now. There are massive opportunities for people to get out there, to get to know their supporter base and their habits. Through that they can find new sponsorship opportunities and a lot more than the basic demographics they get when they look at their website traffic reports on a Monday morning; they can actually get in there and see how their fans are engaging with the brand, see how they utilise the news that the club provides. You've only got to have a quick look around at the number of Facebook groups that exist to get an idea of how your brand or your club is perceived. "On there, if you've created a service that's good, it's unlikely that people will shout about it compared to if you're delivering a poor service, but there's a very open planned feedback service now, through blogs, message boards, Facebook groups etc–you've got a means of finding out exactly what supporters are thinking about you and also the chance to identify your weaknesses, giving you the opportunity to put them right early on. "If someone goes on there with a negative message about something the club's done and you see it before the majority of your supporter base does, you've got an opportunity to put it right and then supporters are going to log on and through their ethics of social–networking will be putting other people right–interacting at that level also earns a lot of respect because you are making yourself more accessible that your competitors. I would advocate that any club or organisation not utilising a social–networking group at present needs to look at this as part of their marketing strategy urgently. "You can follow where Uptonaway have been and who they have seen by visiting their social networking pages on the following sites:You Tube – www. youtube. com/uptonawayFlickr – www. flickr. com/photos/uptonawayTwitter – www. twitter. com/uptonawayUptonaway Media Ltd continues to go from strength–to–strength offering a comprehensive and effective service for all of its professional clients. If you feel that your club or organisation would benefit from the company's experience in website and media development, please contact Chris Rivett at media@uptonaway. co. uk, or visit www. uptonaway. co. uk to find out more about the company.

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