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Sports Dissertation Summary by Archie Cooper

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Name: Archie Cooper

Course: Marketing and Management BA (hons)

University: Oxford Brookes University

Dissertation Title:

“A new era of fan engagement: An investigation into how Football Clubs are incorporating the digital transformation into their fan engagement strategies”

Number of words: 10,000


Semi-structured interviews with representatives from six of the UK’s leading Premier League Clubs, provided me with some invaluable insights into how football clubs are adopting a new digital landscape to optimise fan engagement

Key Findings:

Club Apps offer a great way for clubs to utilise their digital assets and specifically tailor engagement to their core audience. They provide fans with highly sought after ‘behind-the-scenes’ content of the players which helps elevate their match day experience Tik Tok grew by 75% last year making it the fastest growing social media platform and football clubs have certainly capitalised on this to satisfy the needs of their younger fans. Many leading clubs mentioned how they used TikTok to produce authentic, data-driven content to increase engagement with this demographic.

eSports is exploding and viewership is set to increase by 10% a year up to 2023. This growth is being fuelled by people spending more time online and fans finding new ways to consume sports content during lockdown. However, one of the more surprising findings is that there is still uncertainty among clubs as to where the opportunity lies behind the eSports proposition. Although it is recognised that there is the ability to monetise additional revenue streams through sponsorship opportunities, clubs seem to be waiting for a first mover to fully utilise the platform and provide a clearer vision of the return on investment

On return to the physical experience, these clubs will be able to take advantage of the popularity of eSports and these digital platforms, to provide entertaining experiences to enhance the match day experience. The digital transformation is likely to use in-stadia technologies and entertainment to help clubs maximise the live experience for loyal fans as well as broadening their fan base beyond just avid football fans. Any lessons learnt? I’ve learnt that the power and community spirit of football has meant that clubs have been able to rely heavily on loyal fans pouring into stadiums every match day. While this has helped generate over a billion in commercial revenue for the Premier League clubs, it has also given the industry little reason to adopt new technologies and emerging trends. With the crippling impact of COVID on the live experience, as well as fans’ new levels of digital interaction and engagement, clubs are now being forced to realign their fan engagement strategies to maximise fan loyalty - Clubs are realising that their fanbases now fulfil all the audiences who’d typically be associated with supporting them. I’ve learnt that because of this, clubs are focussing on making sponsorships outside of a football environment to encourage audiences with different interests to start associating themselves with football and thereafter joining their fanbase.

Conclusion: My dissertation has strengthened my urge to work in sports marketing as it’s expanded my knowledge on the growing role digital plays in clubs fan engagement strategies.

Sports sponsorship strikes me as a particularly interesting sector of sports marketing. As clubs look to extend their fanbases by using sponsorships to steer their brand image into industries who wouldn’t typically be associated with football, I believe that this sector of sports marketing is a particular exciting area to work in.

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