Manchester City Badge

Manchester City – Leaders of Digital Engagement in Football

One of the high-flying teams in the Premier League and the Champions League, Manchester City have made statements on pitch, but they’re also doing a lot off-pitch; incorporating Hackathons, utilising the VR trend and highlighting City super-fans to name a few…

Manchester City FC are known for being one of the leading football teams in the world, boasting one of the best starting XI out there. But not only do they top the stats on field… off field, they’re pioneering fan engagement through digital means. They have excelled across the board and have managed to grow their profile, not only on home soil, but also further afield.

Manchester City, over the last few years, have developed an infrastructure that is envied by many of the top teams. This has transcended through to the fans, with a Spanish Sports publications report in 2015 showing a 523% growth in recent years, with a staggering 72.5 million growth in fans.

Manchester City’s ambition within digital, to further engage fans and create new experiences is exemplified with their digital department. They provide new digital avenues for City to explore, their work is collected and explained via the blogging site Medium here.

City has produced and deployed a range of campaigns that seek to increase fan engagement and create new experiences for those fans, attracting new, global audiences as well as focusing on their Manchester-based fans, who live and breath the blues.

Club Support Group Finder

With Manchester City’s success on the pitch, the result has been effective off pitch with the ever-growing presence of Manchester City fans around the world, the club have been able to provide City fans with Official Manchester City Supporters Clubs. The Manchester club scouted the globe to find City hotspots around the world, and have made the various venues where City fans commune to watch the games, part of the club. Each commune venue is given a bespoke Manchester City plaque to recognise its affiliation with the club as well as

The club explains: “A Supporters Club is an officially recognised group of loyal Manchester City fans who have come together to share unforgettable City moments and to cheer on the Club they love.”

The club created a website to uphold and promote these supporter groups, as well as allow fans to find their nearest supporters group:

Manchester City Support Group Finder

#GlobalCityFans

A campaign from Manchester City emphasised the growth and depth of manchester Cities global fan-base. Through their lucrative sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways, Manchester City were able to raise the profile of their fans around the world with ‘#GlobalCityFans’. The campaign presented a range of video content that showed the community base that the Blues have created around the world, and how the beautiful game have unified the football community.

CityZens

As well as building their global fan-base, Manchester City offer exclusive packages to their fans which, in turn, offer exclusive opportunities and experiences to fans all over the world. Fans are able to become Cityzens. Fans of all ages are able to become Cityzens and this allows for an insight into the club not seen by the ordinary fan. Cityzens are able to become an integral part of the club, voting on club decisions such as investment opportunities.

Cityzens are able to access exclusive content; such as priority tickets, discounted home tickets, a free digital programme via the app. They are also able to enter competitions for experiences such as; flying with the team to a CL away game, playing EA Sports’ FIFA with one of the players and winning exclusive merchandise such as signed shirts. CityZens offers Manchester City fans across the world, the opportunity to become part of the England-based club, allowing for the global fans to become and feel an intrinsic part of Manchester City.

Most recently, CityZens have adapted and further created a ‘CityZens Givingwhere fans are able to choose their favoured City club (a choice of Manchester City FC, New York City FC and Melbourne City FC) and are able to vote on how money can be spent with the option of several causes.

Manchester City - CityZens

#ThisCityIsOurs

Though City have made great steps in securing global fans, their partnership with Wix enabled a campaign around their fans closer to home. The campaign consisted of a bespoke, Manchester City branded website, that shares the stories of some of the Blues’ supporters, entitled This City is Ours.

Manchester City’s CEO, Omar Berrada: “We are incredibly proud of the fans we have at Manchester City. Their passion and support is invaluable to everyone at the Club and Wix’s ‘This City is Ours’ is a unique opportunity to highlight their stories”

“Like Wix, we strive to be innovative and creative in every project we undertake and we believe this new website not only does that but also offers a new platform on which we can bring our fans closer together.”

Manchester City - #ThisCityIsOurs

Hackathon

Manchester City were also the pioneers of their own Hackathon. Aptly names ‘#HACKMCFC’, back in August, the event aimed to bring together football and the most innovative start-ups in the country in a bid to develop new ideas to improve on pitch performance.

Utilising the information gathered from data companies OptaPro and ChyronHego, the 60 plus start-ups were asked to produce a range software of that improved and enhanced the on-pitch stats of movement, passing, running and pressure on the pitch.

The challenge for the digital agencies included finding solutions to the following:

“Smart Movement” – which players, movements or passing patterns distort opposition shapes and create space to exploit.

“Smart Passing” – Can you create a measure/visualisation for the passing options available to players and therefore assess their decision making in games.

“Smart Running” – A measure for team and individuals efficiency of energy use… if players aren’t using their running to pressure an opponent, recover organisation or create forward passing options.

“Smart Pressure” – Can you create a measure/visualisation for when player(s) press efficiently to recover possession. (player coordination, movement patterns, etc.)

In an interview with The Drum, Manchester City’s director of marketing and media, Diego Gigliani explained: “Manchester City and the wider City Football Group firmly believe in the key principles of a hackathon – tapping into the power of open innovation, bringing together people with diverse backgrounds, working collaboratively, focusing intensely on a complex challenge and delivering an output and results.”

The winning team of the Hackathon conjured an algorithm focusing on players’ in-game decision making, developing a machining learning process which was able to track in-game decision making effectively.

Due to the success of the first City hackathon, there are more in the pipeline. Manchester City will provide challenges for such agencies to consider and help find effective solutions to these challenges. A truly innovative idea in every sense, that helps not only the club but also the agencies strive to be innovative within the remit of the digital world.

Manchester City - #HACKMCFC

VR

Manchester City’s digital ambitions are at the forefront of the clubs initiatives, especially with the recent surge in VR technology. City teamed up with LiveLike VR and Sky to create new experiences and bring fans closer to the action. City’s aim is to broadcast live matches via the VR medium, allowing fans from around the world to access and feel part of the club, and further creating the most enhanced fan experience.

Gigliani; “We as a club are always looking into how we can be early adopters of new technology that can enhance the fan experience.”

Promoting themselves through digital innovations enables City to access the continuously growing ‘digital fans’ throughout the world. Last August, the blues were also the first club to instal a 360-degree camera in their stadium; within the players’ tunnel, the camera allows fans to experience a point of view they could only dream of.

Manchester City - VR

Facebook Messenger Bot:

The emergence of Messenger Bots in Facebook and other platforms have been a feature of digital innovations in 2016. Manchester City, not surprisingly, were at the forefront of this trend too and were the first team to release a Facebook Messenger bot for fans to interact and receive updates about their favoured club. Via the messenger bot, fans are able to access updates such as; ‘Pep Talk’, transfer news, social updates as well as in-game updates.

Amazon TV Channel

Amazon Fire TV has proved to be a sound investment for many, and now City fans have even more of a reason to make the purchase after Manchester City have created their very own CityTV app. The app allows fans to stream exclusive City TV video content directly onto any Amazon Fire connected TV. The app includes content such as highlights of games, behind-the-scenes tunnel access, as well as training sessions with manager Pep Guardiola and interviews with players.

Gigliani:As consumers’ viewing habits change and audiences migrate to over-the-top streaming services from companies like Amazon, we want to be there. Amazon Fire TV is a growing platform with huge potential and we’re extremely excited to bring CityTV content to it.”

Ballr

Back in September, Manchester City announced a regional partnership deal with the new fan engagement technology, Ballr. The Ballr app acts as a live fantasy football app. Users are engaged through live in-play action of premier league teams, whereby points are accrued by users who can compete and communicate via the app. The apps focus is to engage fans of the premier league in destinations such as China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

Apple News Outlet

Apple News acts as a primary news outlet for many. Users can tailor their homepage to receive updates and articles about their interest and favoured topics. For City supporters, this is an option… The first of it’s kind for football teams, the Manchester City News outlet allows users direct access and update regarding their favoured Sky Blues. The idea behind this push is to further access existing fans and target new ones, reaching more people with the great content that is released on their website.

Throughout recent years, Manchester City have positioned themselves as the frontrunners, not only on the pitch but also has leaders of the digital engagement realms. The blues have utilised the growing support base of the Premier League, outside the UK and Europe, with China and South-East Asia housing the largest majority.

Looking at the Premier League Supporters Map, supplied Twitter Interactive, while Manchester City don’t house the most supporters in comparison to the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, but without a doubt, with the Sky Blues’ ambitions within the digital engagement and their further success on the field, they will steadily begin to compete with those teams.

Creating the most enhanced fan experience is the ambition with City, and they’re succeeding. The several means mentioned above allow for fans engage with the Manchester club no matter your location. Other clubs will be envious of City and will look to replicate the ambition and opportunity City have created in attracting fans from further afield.

All photos taken from Manchester City FC sources.

If you’re interested in digital innovation in sport, contact us: kieran@puzzlelondonsport.com