THREE "BIG NAME" English Premier League (EPL) clubs are close to signing six-figure deals to generate new revenue streams from in-stadium mobile apps.
The smartphone platforms will be used to add value to existing sponsorships, but also opens up the potential for brands in non-competitive categories to build relationships with fans without becoming sponsors.
The business model is being championed by Chris Ingram, executive chairman of the Sports Revolution agency, which is in advanced talks with three EPL clubs to provide limited access, in-stadium Wi-Fi to trial the opportunity.
Although the clubs’ sponsors would have first option on the mobile media space – either as part of improved rights packages or as an additional means to connect with fans – Ingram naturally hopes that the market will be highly competitive.
“We are acquiring rights for mobile applications to create football relevant apps,” he said. “Big name clubs are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to see if it works."
Ingram sees huge potential in the provision of statistics, gaming and gambling services inside the stadium. These could be customised for individual rights-holder (club or association) needs and identities.
The app portfolio could encompass a range of mobile experiences for fans – from Man Of The Match voting to football-themed mobile scratchcards, as well as exclusive fan-relevant multimedia content – with differing levels of revenue-generation capability.
Sponsors contacted by Sport Sponsorship Insider cautiously welcomed the new opportunity.
Eelco van der Noll, global director Sports & Entertainment, AB InBev, said that he could see “an immediate opportunity in the FA Cup where we’d love to engage fans in the stadium in the Budweiser Man of the Match.”
However, he is less enthusiastic about the potential involvement of third-party advertisers. “To have another brand advertise in our category is out of the question and I’d expect the clubs to provide that protection,” he said.
“But I’m old-fashioned enough to hope the Premier clubs ring-fence all rights for traditional sponsors – and don’t just chop their rights into a million pieces to make a fast buck.”
Rory Anderson, CEO of 12Bet, shirt sponsors to EPL club Wigan Athletic, highlighted the potential of apps in the highly competitive online gaming space: “If fans were guaranteed a secure connection in-stadium it could help to enhance the punters matchday experience in multiple ways: by offering voting opportunities, the ability to watch replays and, of course, the opportunities for in-play betting action are very real.“
Product category exclusivity for partners, he said, would be key. “Without such exclusivity the offering becomes diluted. It’s the exclusivity that makes this concept exciting. It would give the “Betting Partner” a lot more muscle and direct acquisition capabilities. The ability to run holistic campaigns with programme and LED ads, as well as stadium announcements could all point towards the benefits of pre-game registration and in-play betting opportunities.”
Sports Revolution’s apps will differ widely in their fan engagement capabilities with clubs able to choose from the different offerings in the mobile portfolio.
The agency, for example, has partnered with a number of e-mobile developers, including Qustodian (mobile fan channel), Scratchino (mobile scratch-cards), and Screach (mobile interactive controller).
The proposed Wi-Fi systems are designed to solve problems of 3G coverage and capacity in the stadium, but the limited access designation means that fans will not have an open internet channel. This will ensure that the value of the service is ring-fenced for club sponsors and advertisers.