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NEWS: InCrowd introduces Front Row, a live fan video activation for LED perimeter and big screen stadium displays

For the foreseeable future, sport will be played without fans in stands; but that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of the game. InCrowd Cast Front Row allows the user to moderate live video feeds of fans from their homes and display the footage around the venue on any available LED perimeters and big screen equipment.

What is Front Row?

The use of LED perimeters is the key. Whilst numerous closed-door crowd noise and virtual attendance solutions have presented themselves in reaction to the Covid-19 crisis, Front Row is one of the only solutions on the market that allows the user to transmit video to the LED perimeters. Fans will be pitchside, their live video feeds displayed in close view of the players they are supporting. Importantly, Front Row offers real-time fan engagement which avoids difficult situations in which fan reaction doesn’t match on-pitch action, a problem often encountered in pre-recorded fan video feeds.

Front Row is a fan engagement solution with longevity; it does not start and finish with closed-door sport. Front Row allows fans unable to attend matches to be part of the action and to contribute to the stadium atmosphere. Create deeper connections with your international audience and massively improve accessibility for every fan, by putting them in the front row. There are also numerous new sponsorship opportunities for partners’ brands across the perimeter and big-screen displays whilst also driving direct revenue through ticket and merchandise promotions.

Front Row gives rights holders the opportunity to create a brand new digital fan experience and bring stadiums back to life.

How does Front Row work?

Front Row can transmit live fan video to in-stadia display in just a few simple steps:

  1. The Operator dials selected fans -+into a Zoom video call via a PC running InCrowd Cast Instadia Display Software. Zoom grid view will then allocate each fan a square segment.
  2. InCrowd Cast will then capture the zoom screen output of up to 16 fans and apply those individual camera feeds to the Cast software, ready to be transmitted to chosen stadium displays (fan grid format for big screen, single fan segments for perimeters).
  3. With InCrowd Cast connected to the big screen and/or the LED perimeters, these fan videos will be displayed in real-time.

What do I need?

A laptop/PC
Front Row works with 3×3 or a 4×4 grids of fan segments on a single Zoom call, giving 9 or 16 fans the opportunity to be shown live across the stadium displays. (If you would like to show more than 16 fans on the in-stadia displays, that is possible! Get in touch and we can explain the logistics).  

An InCrowd Cast licence
This is the control software that will be plugged in and operating the boards.

An Operator
An individual that can manage the Zoom call, so they can closely watch the call and preempt any misbehaviour or dismiss/add fans from the call.

Full Control

Front Row operators have the ability to fully moderate and control what is displayed in the stadium:

Adapt the grid size and number of grids to ensure a full display on the big screen.

Control the number of segments in perimeters to fit with advertising commitments.

Full moderation; operators can swiftly remove and replace video feeds as necessary.

Set fail-safe imagery; immediate activation if a fan drops off feed or is removed.

Dropped video detection; the system can detect a missing fan, auto-fills with fail-safe.

Sponsorship; the system can dynamically switch between fan & sponsor content

 

For more information on Front Row contact ollie.clements@incrowdsports.com

BLOG: How rights holders are managing to enhance & maintain digital engagement during the COVID-19 crisis

In times of crisis, sport has always been a reliable and constant presence, providing its fans with a much needed emotional distraction. When sports closed their doors in March for the first time since WW2, showing the world that they too were not immune to this disease, it seemed to bring home to many people how serious this situation was.

InCrowd is a business that has spent the last five years championing the importance of engaging fans digitally as audience consumption changes dramatically. However, we could never have predicted that it would take a pandemic such as this to highlight the importance of a retained and engaged digital audience, now more than ever. Without live sport, clubs and leagues have been burdened with the tasks of keeping their audiences engaged and continuing to service commercial agreements whilst planning for a world without matchday income in which digital channels become a vital centrepiece.

In this paper, we look at how InCrowd clients are successfully navigating a situation that no one was fully prepared for, implementing new strategies and uses for their digital engagement tools whilst battling major digital media outlets to maintain fans’ attention. In addition we gather valuable insight from sports marketing experts on what we can expect for sports on “the other side” and present InCrowd’s four-step approach for rights holders, guiding them towards creating their own positive outcome to the COVID-19 crisis and placing them in better stead for when sport makes its triumphant return.

Many weeks have now passed since sport effectively went into hibernation and as the green shoots of hope emerge with the German Bundesliga having started behind closed doors and the English Premier League setting a provisional date for a similar resumption in a few weeks time. At the time of writing, rumours began circulating of other sports around the world putting together proposals to find a way back into action.

Adapting to the unknown

This situation is unprecedented, inescapable, very real and it won’t ‘just go away’. As ever, there are those that are better equipped to adapt and through this there will be clubs, leagues and NGBs that will be able to come out of this crisis in a stronger position than others.
One trend that emerged early in the UK lockdown period was that clubs are better able to retain fan engagement than Leagues and NGBs, with some exceptions of course.

Perhaps this is no surprise due to the allegiance and draw towards the club brands, however, after analysis of the content themes doing well, the majority of the high performing categories could just as easily be published by leagues and NGBs, such as iconic moments, classic matches, legends content and retrospective voting i.e. “team of the decade”.

Focus on Community

One organisation that has performed particularly well is Crystal Palace Football Club. Taking a look at mobile app engagement only, Crystal Palace have dropped just 14% of digital engagement comparing pre and post lockdown. This compares very favourably against a club average of 28%, and with two other significant football clubs that have reduced engagement by 39% and 45% during this time.

 

“The lack of football really has reminded us all just how much the game is loved and the huge role that it plays in many supporter’s lives.”

 

James Woodroof, Head of Content & Production at Crystal Palace FC explained the strategy behind their success:

“Two months of no football has been unquestionably challenging for all club editorial teams. Of course, in the grand scheme of things – these challenges and indeed the corresponding digital metrics are inconsequential, but nevertheless, the lack of football really has reminded us all just how much the game is loved and the huge role that it plays in many supporter’s lives. Therefore, one could argue that our role in providing engaging editorial content to give people an escape matters more than ever before.
As a club, we have been even more focused on the importance of our role within the community, and specifically on supporting those who are most vulnerable. Extremely early on in the crisis, we were sharing health and wellbeing advice from our club doctor for supporters self-isolating, as well as offering support to all 1,200 of our season ticket holders over the age of 70.

Our Chairman to his credit has been immensely proactive with statements regarding the club’s position on matters related to the pandemic, and also offering insightful thought leadership in terms of the various scenarios at a league level. Our manager penned a wonderful open letter to supporters, and these two articles have been our most read of all time. Our open lines of communication with our fans throughout this period about everything we are doing will undoubtedly have had an impact on our relatively healthy digital engagement levels.
We are extremely lucky to have a team of exceptionally gifted writers, photographers, social media experts, and production unit – and with the amount of time granted to us by the pandemic, that has helped us diversify our content in many ways. We have shown several classic matches in their entirety that have lay dormant for many years, supported by video interviews with the stars of those games as bonus content for our free members.

There have been regular Instagram Live interviews with first team players, even interactive pub quizzes. We also dusted off old Season Review DVDs, which were pay-per-view to raise money for our Foundation.

There have been countless phone conversations with former players that have been made into long-form reads, and we’ve engaged directly with supporters by asking them to share examples of their favourite club memorabilia that they’ve acquired, which has been illuminating for us – with several spin-off stories in the pipeline.

Finally, for several months, our video team have been working on a project where we shared our claim to be the oldest football club in the world through a fantastic short film, having been informed about new evidence clearly showing our lineage to the original Crystal Palace FC of 1861. This story has stimulated fierce debate around the world, and we have seen huge interest in our historical content since that launch.”

Focus on Content

Whilst in general clubs seem to be out-performing Leagues and NGBs, one governing body that continues to excel digitally, even during this period, is UEFA. In fact UEFA Champions League Facebook and IGTV platforms generated the highest number of interactions per video across all major global leagues and federations last month.

For our content team at InCrowd, which manages UEFA’s social content, there has recently been significant focus on converting digital audiences through to UEFA.tv subscriptions. Rather than letting the lack of live events scupper their targets, the team, along with their colleagues at UEFA HQ, have been innovative in their strategy to continue the positive trend of sign-ups by, like many right owners, turning to archive content. UEFA decided to create an entirely new brand utilising this archive footage and the result was the UEFA Classics campaign.

“In a planned two-month campaign, the KPI for UEFA.tv registrations was hit within ten days, with organic UEFA social media accounts being the primary source of new subscribers.”

Sam Adams, who heads up the content division at InCrowd, explained:

“The centrepiece of the Classics campaign was legendary UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League & EURO matches, replayed in full as live on UEFA.tv (UEFA’s OTT platform). The games went out every weekday at 17CET, the sweet spot time to hit all the key global markets. Vital to its success has been a fully integrated cross-platform collaboration plan in which UEFA’s other owned and operated channels switched focus to become referral drivers to UEFA.tv.

Our social media strategy concentrated on using Twitter cards, which have proved to be the biggest referrer, and Instagram Stories to drive fans to UEFA.tv. These posts were built upon by shoulder content tapping into fan nostalgia, while UEFA ambassadors who played in those games were also utilised (e.g. in Instagram Q&As). Classics-related video accounted for 12.5m views on Instagram the week of 4 May or 22% of all video views, demonstrating that the content was holding its own as a standalone strand.

The native platforms –– UEFA.com & competition apps –– published supporting content (video, text and still imagery) such as best moments from corresponding seasons, related match highlights, scene-setters and historical colour pieces. Following the initial success, corresponding ‘throwback seasons’ were added to each week’s content plan to enable existing competition sponsors to reignite branded partner posts on official channels.

It was then important for us to dial back the Classics referral posting frequency after its early surge, redressing the balance between our short-term campaign promotion priority and our long-term strategy to retain high engagement across our operated channels.”

Both Crystal Palace and UEFA have shown the power of utilising cross-platform marketing strategies to amplify their content and objectives; social as volume driver and converter, with owned channels hosting and converting audiences through to action like OTT subscription. But even owned channels are showing variation during this period with apps and websites performing very differently.

Apps vs Web Behaviours

The relationship we’ve traditionally observed between our clients’ App & Web audiences has been consistent across sports & types of rights holders. Web audiences can often be up to 10x the size of their counterparts, but Apps make up for this with much higher user-level engagements; the likes of Sessions per User, Page Views, Pages per Session, and Duration per Session are significantly higher in App communities. This is unsurprising in relation to their respective positions in the traditional sporting funnel –– Web typically comes into its own at the top end whereas App is stronger towards the bottom at engaging, converting and retaining audiences. But how has this landscape changed as a result of Covid-19? Below, you will find a graph that plots the percentage of digital usage that App represents, where app and website combined for a single rights holder equals 100%.

Across a cross-section of Leagues & Clubs, there is a consistent average of ~10% of digital users use the App. The global pandemic hasn’t hugely shifted this behaviour, Web & App have both seen user volumes drop at fairly similar rates since Covid-19 began. However, we noted during our research that, for 65% of the clients we reviewed in this study, the proportion of App Users has actually increased (i.e. the number of web users saw a steeper decline than app users), but the ultimate average was tempered by 35% of clients who saw particularly significant shifts in app vs web usage behavior, towards web. Notably, as demonstrated in a previous graph, it has been leagues & competitions, more than clubs, that have experienced this greater decline in usage.

Regardless of rights holder type, where we have seen the most significant changes in behaviours during Covid-19 has been in the user engagement-based metrics. Our Apps are designed to create surges of Sessions and subsequent higher Page Views due to an array of content types, fan engagements, and communication triggers. This creates a hive of activity as higher-affinity fans have a larger variety of reasons to continually return. Over the last couple of months, we have seen the high shares of app sessions & page views drop to the ~30% mark where they were previously sitting closer to 40% & 50% of total engagement respectively. One conclusion we can draw traces back to a slowing of App content production – the cornerstone of the channel’s strategy – which has naturally declined while sporting events aren’t happening, as well as the high usage of apps typically seen in-line with matches, where fans utilise the apps for stats, commentary and are often tempted to open via match related push notifications such as line-ups. Less production = less engagement.

Web usage metrics have also dropped since March, but less pronounced. This is an expected outcome, with the majority of fans checking in occasionally from a search to retrieve a specific piece of information related for fixtures, results and live scores. Reductions in content production due to Covid have essentially had less of an impact on the audience & their expectation of the channel. Overall, it’s clear that, even in these unprecedented times, Apps are still performing very well in taking big shares of overall digital engagement behaviours considering their relative audience size.

What has started to become apparent across sports & client types over the last 3 months is that general engagement, regardless of channel, is simply beginning to drop at a sharper rate. While clients have tried to pivot their content strategies to keep capturing fan attention (so far resulting in mixed success across the board), April represented a significant drop across most metrics from the perhaps more novelty period of March. This is an intriguing opportunity to more deeply understand a fan’s relationship with sports, and how a period of inactivity leading to dwindling fan attention could actually be used to better tune marketing automation and audience management moving forward.

Naturally, the recent announcements regarding the resumption of competition for many sports is dramatically reversing this decline, but we shouldn’t forget the lessons this teaches us about how important it is to be able to engage fans with diverse content outside of matches. If this were addressed it would lead to a softening of typical downward engagement trends seen in the off-season or even mini-drops seen between match weekends and competitive events.

The Battle For Fan Attention

Regardless of the impact of this global pandemic, the need for sports rights holders to diversify and upweight content production was already a key theme in the industry, mirrored by the significant appointments of personnel with media backgrounds into organisations such as The Jockey Club, Premiership Rugby and the former shortlist for the Premier League football CEO position. The approach is designed to enable these organisations to successfully capture their fair share of audience attention from their competitors and partners in media.

Too often rights holders are losing out to major digital outlets in this fight, having a significantly detrimental impact on broader commercial revenues due to the intrinsic link between audience volume and engagement levels to the size of direct and indirect (sponsorship) revenues.
This is evidenced to some degree in the graph below which shows engagement with one major rights holders website (blue) and engagement from the league’s fans with league related content on third party websites (red) two weeks before and several weeks after lockdown.

What is clear is despite no matches taking place, the aggregate of third party channels experienced a smaller drop of audience engagement. These channels are typically media organisations therefore more nimble and able to switch gears to produce both COVID related and other general content in order to minimise the negative impact.

Max Jolly, CEO of digital marketing business Arcspire commented:

 

“The challenge for a rights holder is how to be relevant amongst the major digital media outlets. How do they retain uniqueness that fans can only consume through them?”

 

“It comes down to rights holder’s providing a reason for fans to go to their own site or app. At what point am I opening a new browser tab and typing in the rights holders web address (or opening the app)? What fan need is the rights holder fulfilling at that point that they can’t fulfil elsewhere more easily? As a fan, I go to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc every day and can get my updates and news there. I may also go to my preferred news channel every day e.g. Sky News, BBC Sport, The Times, The Daily Mail etc and get my news there. I might even go to a specialist sports forum e.g. NewsNow, RugbyPass, LiveScore etc to dive deeper into my passion.

The challenge for rights holders is how to be relevant amongst these options. How do they retain some unique content or element of the relationship that fans can only consume through them? This is a lot harder when live sport isn’t being played. I think a lot comes down to good content and thinking editorially about what content is where and how it is structured and shared. This could mean sign-posting content on social channels but requiring people to come to their site to consume it fully. Once there, how is the site structured to give them the next best piece of content and keep them there, and engaged, and with a reason to come back.”

Max is illustrating a core challenge we focus on at InCrowd; the ability for rights holders to capture and engage fans. Both of which are the first two steps towards successful conversion, where conversion means an outcome which supports the commercial objectives of the rights holders i.e. a fan registration, a direct transaction or engagement with a sponsored asset. We aim to align different technologies to each part of this process and illustrate this in a typical funnel:

 

 

Whilst several challenges that might occur for rights holders that aren’t able to digitally maximise their core asset are obvious, Max highlights a slightly less obvious threat of losing this audience to more sophisticated digital players. “The interesting shift that Covid-19 may accelerate is the digital giants winning more broadcast rights. The ‘digital-winners’ of Covid-19 will have their cash reserves enlarged and rights holders may be looking to carve up broadcast deals to get maximum value. This represents both opportunity and threat. The opportunity is clear: to bring in more revenues from new ‘alternative’ broadcasters. The threat is a little more hidden. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube etc are using their engagement mechanics to capture audience attention and discussion with little investment required in the content. Every rights holder has to build their audience and connect with fans on these platforms.

Social networks simply have the scale of audience and this is therefore where most fans reside digitally too. Whilst rights holders get to connect with fans, the digital giants get to hoover up data on fans. This enables them to offer these fan audiences to any advertiser that is interested. The digital giants have much better data on fans, capture the conversation as well as the emotion, which is sports secret sauce. So as more and more broadcast rights, highlights, memes etc are shared on these channels the bigger the threat grows.

Who has the ability to turn passions into purchases? The likes of Google and Facebook are able to offer a ‘full-funnel’ solution to brands, totally independent of any official sponsorship. I can watch the highlights on YouTube and then be targeted when I search on Google. I can watch the match on Amazon Prime and then be targeted when I’m shopping on Amazon. In this world, why does a brand need sponsorship at all when the digital giants have the data and gateway to fans that they need?

If any evidence was needed, Google, Facebook and Amazon recently announced their Q1 2020 results; together they grew by almost $7billion in advertising revenues in a quarter. This represents over 3x the annual growth in global sponsorship revenues forecasted by WARC in 2020. Marketing directors are voting with their budgets. They want the accountability and performance that these channels provide.”

The InCrowd Solution

 

“When sport returns, digital is going to be a more prominent focus than ever before, a huge acceleration in a pattern of behaviour.”

 

The COVID-19 crisis will change the way in which sports rights holders engage with their audiences forever. As the head of marketing a Championship football club said to me during lockdown – “digital is all we have now”.  But even beyond the “now”, when sport returns, digital is going to be a more prominent focus than ever before, a huge acceleration in a pattern of behaviour. So what can sports rights holders do to ensure they are one of the organisations that thrive in this new era:

  1. Think and act like a media business: For a rights holder, your greatest asset is your fans, yet traditionally, sports organisations prioritise the monetisation of physical assets and real estate. At the core of a media business is it’s audience and content production is the centre of success. Offer fans experiences that encourage them to engage with you on a regular basis that goes beyond the pre-match, in-match and post-match hygiene and invest in content production and delivery.
  2. Give fans a reason to visit your owned channels: Develop a content and technology strategy that considers deployment by channel. Know what is pushed to social vs what is reserved for own channels, perhaps with even further variations for Web vs App and logged in vs logged out. What can your own channel own that third parties don’t have? Fantasy Games, Specific Player Access and even utilities like Mobile Ticketing (which for one InCrowd client drove 24% increase in general app usage) are all reasons for fans to visit your platforms.
  3. Track, measure, analyse and react: The beauty of digital engagement is the ability to know what is working and do more of it! Whilst lots of digital metrics are tracked by all organisations, many are too high level to offer real insight. We need to understand not just overarching traffic numbers, but the details of engagement by content type, by audience type, and in relation to external factors such as time and form. Use this information to build the successful engagement formula for your organisation.
  4. Know your Value Per Fan and make it a key KPI: To be a successful “media business” digital engagement can’t be pure vanity numbers. We need to focus on driving users to valuable engagements; direct ROI, data capture or sponsor interactions. Define what success from a digital user or user group looks like by measuring your direct and indirect value per digital fan. Through your approach to point 2, measure this value continually and build strategies to drive more of it.

InCrowd is here to help plan & deliver all of the above. To find out about how we can work together to navigate this new world of sports engagement, get in touch!

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BLOG: InCrowd Recommends – The Round-Up

We’ve kicked off InCrowd Recommends, a series of tweets landing on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays offering recommendations from our team of sports nuts on Podcasts, TV series & documentaries and films that you should be listening to and watching. Every week, we’ll be adding to this round-up list so you can keep a checklist – ENJOY!

Podcasts

  • Quickly Kevin Will He Score? (FOOTBALL) – A series in which 90’s football aficionado Josh Widdicombe is joined by friends, and fellow 90s experts, co-host Chris Scull and ‘Director of Podcast’ Michael Marden, as the trio embark on a tour of niche football topics of the period 1st January 1990 to 31st December 1999. Worth looking back in the archives for classic episodes with the likes of Le Tissier, Lawrenson, Neville, Pearce and Frank Skinner.
  • Tailenders (CRICKET) – Radio 1 DJ Greg James, cricket legend Jimmy Anderson and The Maccabees guitarist Felix White deliver an alternative (and musical) look at cricket as well as often going a bit off-topic. Regularly funny & always interesting there are loads of episodes & live specials to catch up on. 
  • Undr the Cosh (FOOTBALL) is a podcast with Ex and current footballers presented by Jon ‘the Beast’ Parkin, Chris ‘ Browny’ Brown and award-winning writer Chris Brown. This is a very light-hearted series with ex-professional footballers who have very funny and interesting tales to tell.

TV Series & Documentaries

  • The Last Dance (BASKETBALL) – This highly anticipated series gives a definitive account of Michael Jordan’s career & the 90s Chicago Bulls, with unaired footage of the Chicago Bulls’ dramatic 97-98 NBA season. Jordan anchors the series, while star teammates Scottie Pippen and Rodman are among a host of NBA legends to speak alongside, journalists, childhood and college friends and Barack Obama.
  • Sunderland Till I Die (FOOTBALL) – This docuseries follows English soccer club Sunderland through the 2017-18 season as they try to bounce back after relegation from the Premier League. Season 2 follows the team under new ownership, as they start on their quest to climb out of the third division and bring pride and hope back to the club’s passionate fans.

  Films

  • Draft Day (NFL) – find it on Amazon Prime. An outstanding look at just what goes on behind the scenes of the NFL draft (note, if this is accurate, it is just crazy), this movie revolves around Sonny Weaver Jnr (Kevin Costner), the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns who is presented with the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men dreams of playing in the NFL.
  • Coach Carter (BASKETBALL) –A 2005 American biographical teen sports drama film starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Thomas Carter. The film is based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter, who made headlines in 1999 for suspending his undefeated high school basketball team due to poor academic results.

 

BLOG: A World Without Sport – Part 1

It’s incredible to think that it was only two and a half weeks ago that 86,000 fans were packed inside the MCG watching the Australian Women’s Cricket team celebrate their ICC T20 World Cup title on stage with Katy Perry.

It was a seismic moment in women’s sport. Not only did the Aussie team capture the imagination of a generation of young girls with a sublime performance on International Women’s Day, but it was also the highest crowd figure ever for a women’s cricket match globally. As the sun set at the MCG, COVID-19 was simply something on the horizon. Of course, it looked terrible on the news in China and Italy, but still remained very much on the horizon…

 

 

Today, COVID-19 is the reality for every sports organisation around the world. Not even the most cautious sports executive would have forecast such a crisis. As Murray Barnett described on a recent Unofficial Partner Podcast, the sports industry is currently “punch drunk”. A situation in which no sport would be played around the world, and major competitions Euro 2020 and The Olympics would be postponed, is simply unthinkable.

Whilst there are bigger concerns for the world to deal with than the lack of sport, the COVID-19 crisis is of course unique. In other periods of crisis, from recessions to terrorism, sport has often provided comfort for people and generated positivity from the dire reality, and here we are without our usual go-to pick me up in this time of crisis.

So what do we do now?

For those currently at home (which should be everyone, #StayAtHome), the recent Netflix series “The English Game” is a great watch and a fabulous example of the power of sport as an important connective tissue to bind people together, both across and within societies. Without giving any spoilers away, the series dives back to the 1880’s and tells a story of two footballers on opposite sides of the class divide, who forge a bond to help bring the upper-class sport and its joy to the masses, in particular the mill workers of Northern England. It was the birth of modern football and professionalism as we know it, but the series at its core shows the power that sport has, even back in the 1880’s, to distract humans from life’s troubles.

 

Looking to the future

So as we navigate our way through this increasingly anxious and unknown period, the lack of sport only exacerbates this feeling. For the sports industry, the commercial consequences of media rights, sponsorship, ticketing and hospitality revenues suddenly drying up has sent shivers throughout the entire ecosystem, and will no doubt change the industry and its operating model forever. However, just as COVID-19 was on the horizon at MCG a few weeks ago, so too are the myriad of sports events that are to eventually come.

For any sports fan, the prospect of the European Championships, Olympics, Lions Tour, Ryder Cup, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and many other events sitting ready to reignite once the virus has passed is beyond exciting. As Southampton CEO Martin Semmens explained, that once it is safe to do so, the return of sport will be a crucial sign that life is ‘returning to normal’.

But for now, as fans rightly stay at home the sports series, archive footage and rightsholder digital platforms become more important than ever in keeping the sports audiences engaged (and sane!) whilst also keeping the commercial ecosystem alive. And when the sun rises, there is no doubt that sport will be welcomed back by the world with open arms, returning bigger and better than ever…

Keep an eye out…..

We’ll be keeping in touch and keeping you up-to-date with our “A World Without Sport” blog series. We’ll share as far and wide as we can when new posts go up but keep an eye on our social media channels and our website!

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RFL’s Our League named as a finalist at the Sports Business Awards

Our League, the Rugby Football League’s membership scheme for fans, players, coaches, volunteers and viewers, has earned the game further national recognition with a nomination in a second major sports awards ceremony this spring.

Our League is in the running for a Sports Business Award on May 31 in the Best Fan Engagement Programme category. This is the second award nomination of the awards season, having already been included on the shortlist for Best Fan / Community Engagement for the BT Sports Industry Awards on April 25. This second nomination comes after Our League recently celebrated breaking through the 100,000 members milestone, showing just how much Rugby League means to the fans.

Mark Foster, the RFL’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “It’s great to have this recognition for the sport, and also for the people who have worked so hard to establish and develop Our League since it was launched in late 2017.“It was the first Rugby League OTT platform, allowing more matches and features to be broadcast and watched than ever before – and a pivotal part of our strategy for ensuring that Rugby League is well-placed to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the digital revolution.”

Launched in Autumn 2017 in partnership with InCrowd, the membership scheme has improved fan experience and engagement for lovers of Rugby League at all levels of the game, offering exclusive content, predictor games, ticket offers, money can’t buy benefits and prizes via the digital platforms – app (iOS & Android) and website that members can access. This season Rugby League personalities such as Andrew Henderson and Jamie Jones-Buchanan have led extensive coverage of the Betfred Championship and League One competitions, focusing on the best tries and matches through the week – as well as providing live and exclusive coverage every weekend.

This weekend (30th March) focus turns to the Coral Challenge Cup, with the Our League cameras focusing on the famous St Helens amateur club Thatto Heath, and their attempt to spring an upset against North Wales Crusaders. That will be followed by a blockbuster opening fixture from the fast-growing Women’s Super League on April 7, as Wigan Warriors launch their defence of the title against fierce local rivals St Helens.

Darren Parsons, Marketing Account Manager at InCrowd said, “Recently smashing the 100K member mark, Our League continues to be a great project to work on in close collaboration with the Rugby Football League. It’s been amazing to see fans from all corners of the Rugby League community come together and find something to engage with on the platform; it’s fast becoming an absolute must-have, for every fan.”

Download the Our League app on Apple iOS and Android or visit rugby-league.com to sign up for FREE!

The RFL & InCrowd welcome over 100,000 members to Our League

Our League, the RFL’s website & mobile app for rugby league spectators, viewers & participants has officially surpassed the 100,000 members mark.

Launched in Autumn 2017 in partnership with InCrowd, the membership platform offers exclusive content, participation, ticketing integration, member benefits and prizes, enhancing the fan experience for lovers of Rugby League at all levels of the game.

Surpassing the 100k mark is the latest achievement for the Our League platform, having celebrated a number of landmarks since it’s fruition. Over 76,000 members interact with Our League through the official app with single day usage peaking at over 47,000.

The stats

53 rugby league matches have been streamed live, including Betfred Championship and League 1, Coral Challenge Cup (Men’s & Women’s) and Women’s Super League. 51,000 unique members have watched the live streamed matches, amounting to over 160,000 cumulative live streams views to date, with the current record at 25,000 viewers during England vs France in October 2018.

The popular round-by-round predictor game, which has engaged nearly 40,000 regular players, has awarded supporters with numerous prizes including hospitality tickets at all major Rugby League events, signed shirts/match balls and the opportunity to win the grand prize of £20,000.

Supporters have also been able to have their say by voting for the Man of the Match for every televised Betfred Super League and Betfred Championship fixture. Participation in the poll has generated an average of 3,000 votes per game. The app’s match centre, which covers community leagues right up to the Betfred Super League, was viewed over 1 million times in February alone.

Our League 100K members
Nichola Spencer, Membership Manager at the RFL said, “It’s fantastic that we’ve achieved the 100k members mark and the success of Our League continues to surpass our expectations. Our active membership numbers are constantly increasing and we are smashing record after record in terms of users and participation.”
“We’d like to thank InCrowd for the exceptional service they have provided since the launch of the platforms and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them to further improve the app and website. We are excited about what we will achieve together over the course of 2019, delivering an even better experience for our unique and passionate fans.”

Darren Parsons, Marketing Account Manager at InCrowd said “Our League continues to be a great project to work on, with the platform evolving and usage increasing regularly. It has been great to see members from all corners of the rugby league community come together and find something to engage with on the platform and in collaboration with The Rugby Football League, we will continue to develop Our League into an absolute must-have, for every fan.”

Download the Our League app on Apple iOS and Android or visit rugby-league.com to sign up for FREE!

InCrowd & The RFL celebrate a momentous first year for Our League

  • 84,000 members, 32 live match streams and over 13,000 prizes won to date.
  • Successful integration of ticketing, rewards, live streaming, predictor games and polls.
  • Live broadcast integration with Sky Sports for Man Of The Match voting.
  • Community-wide match centre and player stats dashboards.
  • Big prize winners of signed merchandise, finals tickets and trips to Australia.

Just over a year ago, The Rugby Football League (RFL) launched their membership platform Our League in partnership with InCrowd. The RFL had approached InCrowd to realise their ambitions to build a world leading membership platform for spectators, viewers and participants of rugby league.

Plans for a membership website and mobile app included exclusive content, member benefits, participation features, a ticketing integration, gamification and polls to help improve the fan experience and drive return on investment for The RFL. All parties were full of expectation, but no one could have imagined the success delivered by Our League. In a single year, some of Our League’s achievements include:

  • 32 live match streams.
  • An all-inclusive live match centre covering Betfred Super League to community leagues as well as a community player dashboard, sponsored by Dacia, showing statistics for the majority of rugby league players.
  • The introduction of a seamlessly linked ticketing and rewards scheme, along with in-stadia discounts.
  • Live broadcast integration with Sky Sports for Man of the Match voting via Our League platforms.
  • The launch of a round-by-round predictor game with a £20,000 grand prize.
  • Simultaneous launches of video polls that include the “Try or No Try” poll sponsored by Patient Claim Line and the “Flair Play of The Month”.

The success of these fan experience initiatives by InCrowd and The RFL has been driven by the eager participation of an enviably diverse rugby league fan base, devoted to a sport that delivers competitiveness, entertainment, passion and pride with down to earth, approachable players and coaching staff. In its first year, the Our League membership platform has welcomed 84,000 members, 65,000 of which have downloaded the Our League app which has achieved an 80% active app user rate. The regular Man of The Match vote and other polls boast over 300,000 engagements throughout the Betfred Super League season, with the Betfred Man of the Match polls over a 10 minute period averaging 3,500 votes, and other polls returning an average of 2,200 votes.

Active participation is also driven by the exceptional prizes on offer to Our League members playing the round-by-round predictor. Just this year, we have seen over 13,000 fans win prizes including signed England shirts and rugby balls, hospitality tickets to the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final and Betfred Super League Grand Final and tickets to see the England vs New Zealand internationals. Four predictor players came within four correct predictions of the £20,000 grand prize. Other Our League big prize winners included:

  • 10 winners of “super fan passes” – two tickets to all major rugby league events throughout the season.
  • Two Betfred Super League 2019 season ticket winners for the club of their choice.
  • The 50,000th Our League member and lifelong St Helens fan Derek Hewitt won two VIP tickets to the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
  • Predictor player Neil Cunliffe won an all-inclusive trip to Brisbane, Australia for two to watch England play in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final.

“The success of Our League has more than surpassed our expectations. Our active membership numbers are constantly increasing and we are smashing record after record in terms of users and participation. The team at InCrowd have really taken the time to understand our sport and our fans and continue to provide an exceptional service. We are excited about what we will achieve together in the 2019 season, delivering an even better experience for our unique and passionate fans”, Nichola Spencer, Membership Manager at the RFL

Darren Parsons, Marketing Account Manager at InCrowd stated that “it has been a pleasure working with The RFL in this inaugural Our League season, building the foundations of their membership platform for fans to enjoy for years to come. We have immense pride in what we have achieved with The RFL in just one year and we are looking forward to continuing this successful partnership in 2019.”

The roar of the crowd – a powerful fan engagement tool

When we look back at great moments in sporting history, the majority of what we read and hear of those moments is about the team or the individual athlete. However we rarely hear about what that moment meant to the crowd of fans. People don’t talk about the atmosphere in which that moment was created.

The most renowned sport stadiums are those that have an unrivalled atmosphere, where the athletes truly feel the fans’ support. But when recording great sporting moments its rarely part of the conversation. There’s a disconnect in the history books.

Ronaldo’s bicycle kick has gone down as one of football’s ‘greatest sporting moments’; not only did the Real Madrid fans go crazy but the Juventus fans also congratulated Ronaldo and made noise for that moment of utter greatness. Goosebump inducing fan scenes at Juventus Stadium, created by the fans themselves. Let’s think back to some other great moments, like David Beckham’s free kick against Greece to secure a World Cup place.

Johnny Wilkinson’s drop goal for world cup glory. Andy Murray’s first Wimbledon title.

Anthony Joshua’s knockout to become World Heavy Weight Champion. The 2016 Chicago Cubs with their first World Series win since 1908.

These moments are down in the history books. One variable that never changes, no matter the venue or the sport, is the atmosphere present and the ear-splitting roar of fans celebrating. Fans that are engaged, immersed and fully present in that moment.

Atmosphere makes an event, there’s no doubt about it. I’m sure we’ve all been to a sporting event where great things have happened, but we don’t remember them because the atmosphere and event itself were lifeless. In such circumstances, we disengage with our surroundings. We watch the game and we go home.

Creating a great atmosphere incites positive changes in fan behaviour, and InCrowd have the tools to help you create the ultimate “in the moment” atmosphere for your fans. Not just for the big, nail biting events, but at every game.

We can supply any stadium with a decibel meter, installed and displayed in the stadium. These meters record and time stamp dB readings so that they can be matched with moments within the game. What if your greatest moments were documented in sporting history as not only a display of epic skill and talent but with a legitimately measured roar of the crowd to back that up? The fans would be excited to be a part of that history. To be remembered alongside their sporting heroes.

“I was there. I was in that crowd!”

Find out more about the InCrowd decibel meter and the range of fan engagement and sponsorship activation tools offered by InCrowd.

Email enquiries@incrowdsports.com.

Here are the world record holders for fan noise.

Could your fans be the ones to break the record?!

 

Fan Behaviour Trends

Fan Behaviour – what we can learn from Google Search and Daily Active User trends

At InCrowd, we constantly look into how we can best utilise our data and visible trends to understand fan behaviour; this analysis is beneficial to both us and the rights holders we work with. Most recently, we looked into what we can learn about our fans from Google Search and Daily Active User(DAU) trends.

We did the necessary research to produce viable and informed answers using three of our main clients – Lets call them Club A, Club B and Club C. For each club we compared the DAUs and the number of Indexed Google searches on all days in the season so far, and in doing so, noticed that the standard (and expected) trend was that Google searches spiked on match days as did the DAUs – no surprise there.

However, two things stood out to us:

One
On match days, the magnitude of the Google Search spike was much greater than the DAU spike.

Two
On the days where there was a decrease in users for both platforms, the dips for Google search queries were far more pronounced than the DAUs on the app; we actually noticed that apps maintained a decent number of DAUs on a daily basis, even on non-match days.

 

These observations suggest that the Google platform is a choice source of information on match days. However, Google users could be classed as non-reciprocal, one-off connections that are likely to disengage. Perhaps an away team fan or casual supporter looking for facilities info like travel and parking etc. App usage is clearly fan driven. These fans have an invested and consistent relationship with the app as their lead source of club content, on any day of the year and at any time.

We also asked ourselves what else could affect Google search and DAUs trends:


How about “Big Name” opposition?

Would playing a league leader, or a club from a higher league, have an effect on activity?
For Club A, the largest spikes were for matches against the biggest clubs in the country and those spikes came from Google. DAU numbers did not spike significantly higher than they would have for matches against smaller clubs. We can also speculate that a decent percentage of the Google queries will be coming from the big club supporters.

How about club rivalries?

Would a match against another local club, with storied rivalry, have an effect on usage?
For Club B there were some pronounced Google Search spikes, the largest of which occurred on the days that came up against their biggest rivals. However, once again, DAUs fluctuated only a little. This lends weight to the theory that Google Search numbers were again affected by outside sources. Oppositions fans, media picking up on the storied rivalry for their articles and other interested parties from outside either club.

Both of these mini case studies suggest the same thing – big club opposition and rivalries have little impact on DAUs.

Your fans care about the club, the team and the game, no matter who they are coming against.

What does all this mean?

Simple really. Clubs shouldn’t just rely on the internet and their website to give their fans what they need. Don’t make them search for it. Give fans a direct 24/7 portal to the club and you will see fan engagement and club advocacy improve significantly. To find out how we can help you and your club, contact us now via enquiries@incrowdsports.com or head to www.incrowdsports.com

Leeds United FC focus on fan engagement with their official app built by InCrowd

Leeds United FC are continuing their focus on fan engagement with the ongoing success of their official LUTV mobile app in partnership with InCrowd, available to download on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.

LUFC fans have access to a new two-way channel between themselves and and the club. The Official LUTV mobile app enables fans to engage with a host of different features no matter where they are.

Fan features include:

  • Full LUTV including highlights, interviews, features and more. Subscriptions are available to be purchased here.
  • Once logged in, UK subscribers will be able to access live audio commentary, while international users can watch the full match.
  • All the latest news & breaking news supported by the InCrowd push notification system.
  • A full 2017/18 campaign fixtures & results list.
  • Live league tables.
  • Official player & club Twitter account feeds .
  • Integrates official club social media accounts.
  • Access to ticket purchasing and merchandise.

“From a media perspective, providing content to our fans was one of our biggest challenges. However, this has been a smooth process as a result of the perfect cooperation between Leeds United FC and InCrowd.” Emanuele Montoneri, Head of Media at Leeds United FC.

What does this mean for the club?

The LUTV app currently holds a 4.5/5 rating across both the Apple and Google Play app stores. Furthermore, the app has over 170 five-star reviews. From the point of view of the club, Leeds United will now be able to:

  • Segment, target and send personalised messages to their fans using the powerful InCrowd push notification system.
  • Collect, grow and utilise rich behavioural and location based fan data.
  • Market new sponsorship inventory to existing and future commercial partners.
  • Showcase official club content on a much improved digital platform to fans around the world.

“We are extremely proud to be in partnership with one of the most prestigious football clubs in the UK. This new venture with LUFC means InCrowd now work with over 20 rights holders across four sports.’ Aidan Cooney, CEO of InCrowd.

Please check InCrowd’s and Leeds United’s Twitter feeds twitter.com/InCrowd_Sports and twitter.com/lufc for news of further updates to the official Leeds United app or get in touch via Enquiries@incrowdsports.com

About InCrowd

InCrowd provide a fan engagement & sponsorship activation platform. Our understanding of the avid and emotional mindset of a fan is combined with in-depth data analysis and ground-breaking digital technology to offer rights holders and brands a unique opportunity to reach out to sports fans in the moments that really matter. Many of the world‘s top rights holders & brands use InCrowd’s fan marketing platform to collect more fan data, sell more tickets and increase sponsorship revenue. We also help sponsors connect with new customers and convert fan interaction into revenue & advocacy. Find out more – www.incrowdsports.com