West Ham’s recent exposure on social media giants Groupon is testament to the new measures clubs are resorting to in their constant battle with declining attendance figures. Cut price deals now circulate news feeds and message boards as clubs seek to attract new audiences and drive them into the stands on match days. Is this a sign of desperation in their attempt to generate much needed income or simply evidence that clubs are becoming more media savvy in their marketing strategies.
The phrases ‘Kids for a Quid’ and ‘Family Fun Day’ are now a prominent feature in the season calendar as clubs try and attract future generations of supporters from the earliest possible age. In recent weeks Twitter has become awash with bargain match day deals from clubs trying to combat fans tightening their purse strings after the Christmas period. It’s perhaps more important than ever that clubs explore each and every avenue as they seek to balance their books.
West Ham are not the first club to experiment with distributing ticket sales through Groupon, with fellow London sides Fulham and Crystal Palace both making an appearance on separate occasions. However, neither side replicated anything close to the scale of the Hammers recent promotion as their upcoming match against Watford had pride of place as the site’s ‘deal of the day’. Many fans may praise West Ham’s crusade to boost their turnout but if you scratch beneath the surface it flags up some worrying signs. For instance, Groupon takes a 50% cut from the overall revenue so the original £40 ticket, which went on sale at £20 will mean just £10 lands in the pocket of the club.
These Groupon deals with inevitably provide a good source of short-term income but will they really inspire people to return on a regular basis? There is also a risk of alienating the existing loyal base with individuals seemingly profiting from waiting until the very last minute to purchase their tickets. Surely there are better and more financially rewarding schemes that can be implemented with their existing sizeable online following. Their appearance on Groupon will also surely hurt their plans to move into the 60,000-seater Olympic Stadium.
As a Palace supporter I’m aware of a number of innovative schemes being put in place across the various online mediums available to the club. In a recent attempt to generate interest in new season tickets the club created a ‘trailer’ and posted it on YouTube. Not only did the video help source a new audience on a potentially global scale but it was packed with hidden ‘easter eggs’ which made reference to iconic imagery associated with the club. This enabled the club to create an advertising campaign that could also be aimed at the existing fan base, increasing the likelihood that it would be well received and therefore more readily shared on the web.
These sweeping measures that are being implemented across the Football League are in stark contrast to the Premier League elite. Arsenal have frozen their ticket prices for next year after coming under heavy criticism for their 6.5% increase at the start of the season as well as their record-breaking £100 ticket, whilst Manchester United have seen a gradual rise in prices during the Glazers reign in an attempt to subdue their scaling debt.
It’s not all rosy at the top though with the likes of Blackburn and Bolton introducing discount rates at various homes games. However, these offers are more likely to stem from falling attendances due to poor league form rather than a dire need to generate income. The sad fact is that many fans are being priced out of watching their own club, perhaps its time the big teams adopted a selfless approach and started encouraging people to attend games at their affiliate clubs. Oldham recently introduced a deal that meant you could watch five games for just £15. That works out at just £3 per game, which would barely get you a programme at a Premier League venue.
The role of social media in football is becoming increasingly evident with services such as Twitter and Facebook offering an unprecedented direct communication with fans. Information can be shared in an instant over vast distances, which allows clubs to draw in huge audiences figures. It then boils down to how you interact with your following, rather than simply broadcasting information at supporters its vital that a two-way stream is opened up.
In March 2011 French outfit Marseille asked fans to submit their own designs for the new official kit. In just a few short months they received an incredible 60,000 submissions before a final shortlist was drafted and then offered back out to their Facebook followers to make the final decision. This innovative strategy allowed fans to feel like they were actually part of the club and will no doubt help boost attendances in the long term.
In the Premier League we’ve had QPR chairman Tony Fernandes tweet his followers asking for potential transfer targets, which is a quirky and endearing gesture that could see the likes of Twitter and Facebook evolve into a valuable scouting network.
How does your club currently use its social media sites? What would you do to attract more supporters to attend home games? Join the debate on Twitter @theunusedsub.
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