Subscription-based services have been a key feature of sports marketing for quite some time. Football clubs have thousands of fans registered for goal and ticketing text alerts and similar services exist throughout other sports.
These services have always been seen as good value but traditionally they have had a limited role; seen as solely a promotion tactic. There has been little effort to explore the commercial potential of the subscription model itself.
However, once again, sports brands are leading the way when it comes to mobile as the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton have introduced subscriptions for personalisation content such as ringtones, wallpapers and animations, and video content.
This has arisen because the previous “a la carte” single purchase downloads no longer offer the best value to either the clubs or the fans. As the novelty of ringtones and wallpapers has waned, those fans that do still enjoy personalising their handset are not prepared to pay £1.50 or £3 for the privilege. Even with Premier League content, single goal highlight video clips are not seen as good value at £1.50 or even 50p.
Clubs cannot cut prices because by the time VAT, operator and aggregator shares are removed, the return on producing and distributing the clips as well as any marketing effort, would be pitiful.
As a result of this challenge, working in partnership with top clubs, InfoMedia created the concept of ‘Mobile Memberships’ offering unlimited video clips, ringtones and wallpapers, plus full-time match score text alerts for £1.50 a week.
Fans get a better deal because for the same price as single download, they get access to unlimited content. The fact that the same money that once bought a single video clip now opens up goal highlights and club interviews, plus ringtones or wallpapers, rewards the fans loyalty.
For the club, a membership model means a better return on marketing investment than isolated, one-off purchases because the revenues recur each week until the fan unsubscribes.
It is of course critical to promote and manage the mobile membership in the right way. Our experience has shown that one of the most effective methods is targeted SMS messages to potential subscribers, as well as promoting the service via club magazines, match day programmes and on line across both official club websites and major fan forums or blogs.
However, equally important is managing this promotion – ensuring consistent creatives, tracking uptake from a given promotional activity and of course, plugging new subscribers into a CRM system that can deliver maximum return.
With some canny marketing Liverpool FC has seen a big increase in engagement among fans via mobile. This greater conversion rate and more established client base soon becomes a solid base for the club and its sponsors to communicate directly with fans.
Consistency is key in developing these services – as many clubs look to exploit the internet, mobile apps and social media, a mobile membership scheme offers a more consistent platform and this means better returns.