INTERVIEW: Danny Lee (Swindon FC) “Everyone is looking for the best value for money”
Head of Ticketing at Swindon Town FC, Danny is launching very innovative and relevant activations to satisfy all the fans.
We are following Danny for a while now, as having a key influence on the fan experience sector and often digging very interesting content, especially on LinkedIn. Danny is very active at Swindon Town FC, always creating new activations for fans.
Swindon Town FC is a professional football club in England. Founded in 1879, the team now compete in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system. The club’s home is the County Ground stadium, with a capacity of 15,700.
Hi Danny, can you present yourself and help us understand better what you do for the club?
My role here at Swindon Town is Head of Ticketing which incorporates all match day ticketing for home and away fixtures but is also centered around the match day experience and fan engagement which inevitably leads to growth in attendances and overall interest in the football club. My remit is to improve and develop our ticketing outreach and customer service for all Swindon Town supporters.
How is the Swindon Town FC staffed around the fan experience?
Here at Swindon we are a fairly small team and as such our roles are often transferable and we all help each other out. In the build up to match day both myself and our Head of Media (Ben Hooke) and design team will put everything in place in terms of marketing and engagement pieces like for instance face painting and other match day activation but on a match day I take a very hands on role meeting and greeting fans and ensuring we deliver what we promise and once again provide that memorable match day experience to our supporters. We do also have part time match day staff but these are usually volunteers that help but all will have some connection to the club to again keep a uniformed match day offering.
Almost 2 months ago, you have launched ‘My First Game’ initiative at Swindon Town FC. A special diploma for kids that we shared on Fanstriker and many people reacted positively about this. Can you tell us more about this idea?
It has been a fantastic initiative and the feedback has been so positive from all fans both home and away, I am really proud of it. The idea originally came when myself and a colleague went to a football league seminar in April where we talked about new ideas and improving the match day experience for fans. My main focus has been on the kids and by making that first game so memorable with a little keepsake and something a little different it will lead to them wanting to come back irrespective of the result. We are looking to continue to build on this even further.
We observed that you are making many activations for kids and young people. Why acting mostly towards this type of public? Is it your main target for ticketing?
They are the future of our club and really important to us. They are future season ticket holders and we really pride ourselves on being a family club. I have found that children are less interested in results when deciding to attend matches in comparison to adults, so if we can engage with them their parents are more likely to attend also.
What is the fan experience action you are the most proud of with Swindon Town FC?
As I mentioned I am really proud of our ‘My first game’ but I would say our junior takeover day was the best so far. We had over 700 new children attend the game and in the build up to the game we went out into the community to deliver free tickets, the players attended school PE sessions as well as offering free stadium tours to local groups and projects. It was fantastic and a really proud moment for me to see so many new faces at the game. The introduction of our new family zone was also a very proud moment for me.
Is the fan experience a hobby, a passion or has it become part of your job?
First and foremost before it was my job I was (and still am) a huge football fan. So the way I look at it is what would I like to see and get from my match day experience and then I try and incorporate that into what we do at Swindon.
What is in your opinion the link between ticketing and the fan experience?
The link between ticketing and fan experience is huge, these days it’s just not about the football especially for families and everyone is looking for the best value for money. On a Saturday as a parent I have a choice: do I go to football and spend maybe £50 or do I go to the zoo or something else which is a full day out and spend the same? We need to add value and make it more than just the 90 minutes which is my main aim to engage and make it not necessarily all about the football. I am also looking to new and unique ideas on how we can do this so we have added face painting, selfie boards, activity areas and player visits to our junior areas all of which add value and improve the overall match day experience.
What motivates you in what you do?
My motivation is really to see the County Ground as busy and a great atmosphere at each and every game. This inevitably helps things on the pitch but as I said I am a supporter too so I am really passionate about being in the situation I am in to make a difference and get my point across.
How would you define the difference between fan experience and fan engagement?
I think that both go hand in hand when attending a match. A fans experience is not only about how well engaged they are with the club but also about who they come with and and overall shared experience. One fans engagement becomes part of another fans experience and that’s what makes football, as a business unique because as a consumer your experience is ten times more reliant on other consumers than in any other industry. It is our job as a football club and to facilitate this.
In general, do you think that clubs are creative enough in the fan experience and making fans happier?
I think more and more clubs are having to do it especially at our level and as I mentioned, everyone is looking for greater value for money. Some clubs do it better than others but it does depend on the individual as to how creative and emphasis they put on it.
How far do you think the sport industry is to reward properly the fans loyalty and passion?
I would say every club is different, we at Swindon need to reward our loyal fans as they have been with us through both the thick and thin and its important to reward season ticket holders and not just new fans. That’s why all ticket promotions we offer ensure season ticket holders are also able to access the offer or we give something in return. Man United for example have a waiting list of 30,000 season ticket holders so for them maybe rewarding loyal fans isn’t as much of a priority to them.
Would you say that the fan experience is very cultural? Are British fans different from other fans around the world?
I would 100% agree with that, I have traveled a lot and seen football in a lot of countries. Football in England is still old fashioned with segregation. Authorities are still a bit cautious of fans mixing like other sports but this down to previous issues. This is cultural though as I lived in Spain even outside of football there is a far greater community spirit in mixing and socialising so I think this makes a difference. The introduction of fan zones has been great though as seen at World Cups and Champions League finals.
Have you already attended a game in France?
I have not actually, but yes I am always looking to see other clubs and cultures and how they go about things. I am a Manchester United fan so perhaps a visit to Paris for our Champions League game next year would be good !
In France, many sport stakeholder think that the american model cannot be copied in a country like ours. Because of the culture and how people consume sport. What is your opinion about that, is it a business model you are looking at within your club?
I am a huge advocate of that. As I mentioned above in making it more than just a game or the 90 minutes. America does that so well but it is cultural. Here in England fans are very traditional and have same routine each day, get up, go to the pub and then go the game at 2.45pm just before kick off. But it can be done and that is where targeting children is important as it gives them something to do and fans arrive much earlier and soak up the atmosphere pre match.
“On a Saturday as a parent I have a choice: do I go to football and spend maybe £50 or do I go to the zoo or something else which is a full day out and spend the same? We need to add value and make it more than just the 90 minutes…”
Everyone is talking about digital transformation in sport, with connected stadium, mobile apps, virtual reality, etc. What do you think about opportunities and risks by using digital tools in the fan experience? And what about the impact that can be expected for the club and the fans?
It is really important as everyone is on mobile devices and it is a great way to engage. We currently have turnstiles that can be used by a mobile so they can scan their ticket on them, we also have a fan app which we push offers, content and offer a ‘man of the match’ vote to further engage supporters. It’s all about getting them to social and share their experiences which inevitably leads to further growth opportunities across every area of the club.
What is the role of the sponsors towards the fan experience? Can they really contribute or is there always an impediment due to their last end objective of selling/being better known?
It is hugely important as again they are looking for better interaction and social from our supporters. A good example of this is one of our sponsors Relish wanted to promote at half time. So I came up with an idea of a half time challenge where 3 supporters were chosen to take part, and try and score a goal against our club mascot in front of all the fans. Whoever did it in the quickest time wins 2 hospitality places for an upcoming match. For me it was important that it was not only engaging for people taking part but watching supporters.
What is the best fan experience you lived? If you can remember and explain us why?
The NFL UK games at Twickenham. Amazing pre match build up and really made a day of it, it was buzzing.
What are your projects in the future?
My ambitions are to continue to grow and develop here at Swindon Town, I really want to make a difference and hopefully we can climb the divisions here at Swindon. There are lots of positives with talk of a new stadium and training ground investment so hopefully over next few years we can continue to grow. I would also like to work abroad at some point but just going to continue doing what we are doing here and see what happens…
Thank you very much Danny for this immersion into the very active English football club, Swindon Town FC. We are very happy to see that professionalism and importance given to the fan experience can be well implemented at all sport level. Well done!
To follow Danny on social, have a look at his Linkedin page!
We invite you to have a look at Swindon Town FC website which contains several good practice for clubs. One we particularly like and we have not talked about in this interview is the guide to welcome Away fans at the stadium. So smart!
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INTERVIEW: Elias Andersen (Hear Me Cheer), bringing the noise in arenas
As many leagues prepare to resume without fans in arenas, Hear Me Cheer makes sports during lockdown more engaging by allowing fans to cheer for their teams on live broadcast from their living rooms.
As many leagues prepare to resume without fans in arenas and stadiums, the tool Hear Me Cheer makes sports during lockdown more engaging by allowing fans to cheer for their teams on live broadcast from their living rooms.
We got the opportunity to talk with Elias Andersen, Founder and CEO of Champtrax Technologies, the company which created Hear Me Cheer.
Hello Elias, thank you for joining us today. You’re the CEO of Champtrax Technologies and you’ve recently developed a new product amidst the COVID-19 crisis. It is called “Hear Me Cheer” and it is designed to bring the noise in arenas as most leagues will likely resume without any audience. Could you please introduce us more precisely to Hear Me Cheer and tell us more about how you came up with the idea?
Hear Me Cheer is a product that allows fans to go to our website and interact with other fans as the game is going on. During a game, you have crowdnoise of the broadcast that you don’t really notice until it is not there. Watching the few sports league that have been on without fans, you realize that it’s quite boring without fans. We’re trying to get that back into sports by creating one audio stream from all the thousands of different households that are watching the game at any time.
Hear Me Cheer is an interactive platform. How do fans interact with each other?
They can hear each other through the broadcast or the computer depending on the set up that each team or league has. They can go to the website dedicated to the sports league that they want to watch and click on the right game. From there they can see what other fans are cheering about and cheer along with them.
That’s very interesting. One, because I believe that watching a game in an empty stadium is not as exciting as regular condition. Two, because we have seen that when games started playing in empty arenas, fans still wanted to support their teams by being vocal. I don’t know if you follow soccer but during the last UEFA Champions League games, fans would gather outside stadiums to cheer for their team during games.
How does it work? Is it free for fans?
Yes Hear Me Cheer is free for fans and will be forever. We’re trying to engage the fans. We want to get sports to a new normal.
“This will allow fans to feel a sense of community for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis started.”
Obviously this is not going to get it to where it was in January but this will really help. This will allow fans to feel a sense of community for the first time since the COVID-19 crisis started. There is a lot of people who have been posting about negativity and we are trying to bring some positivity and bring a sense of community back to sport.
Reviving a sense of community is a great way to bring positivity among fans in the sports world these days. What about players? Can the players in the arena hear the cheers as well?
The players can hear the fans cheer as well. It just depends on the set up. Each league has a different deal in place. It depends team by team and league by league. Some will want the sound of the fans in the arena, some don’t. But we have the possibility of doing that.
Hear Me Cheer works on a BtoB model. You talked about adjusting deals according to leagues’ teams’s preferences. Does it rely on partnerships with leagues, with teams or only with broadcasters?
We try to really partner with leagues so that we can get in and have access to the different teams right away. We prioritise having one client, customising the experience for the league and then having that go out to the different teams of the league. It is a simpler way of setting up the market than going to each team individually. I mean, we are working with teams and broadcasters but we are mostly trying to work with leagues.
Have you signed any deals yet? Have you been able to test the solution? In which country is the service available at the moment? With how many fans connected?
We have been testing with Eleven Sports which has been broadcasting the CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) held in Taiwan, one of the only professional sports that is on right now. We have been testing with them for a little bit and we are expanding making sure that we can have 1,000 people on and soon we will try to have 10,000 people on. There are always little bugs that you find in your software when you expand so we want to minimise that and create a product that can scale.
Do you already have any idea about future development of Hear Me Cheer? Is your priority to export the product to new leagues or to add more features to it?
We are working on some fan engagement tools. One is having some sort of trivia questions and questions like “Who is going to score the next goal?” and whoever gets the answer right receives some Hear Me Cheer points. We are working on platforms like that to engage the fans. We have not finished any of that yet. We are adding features as we go but we understand that most of the leagues want the audio solution to first. So we focus on that mostly.
Hear Me Cheer is a truly a well suited solution for the current coronavirus crisis. How will it fit into the sports events landscape once fans are able to go back to arenas?
Hear Me Cheer is an experience platform so we plan on existing long after the crisis. In fact we think this is just the best opportunity for us to go to market because there is a real need for a solution like that. But in order to stay in the market, we have ideas like a platform that will allow you to cheer with a community and potentially cheer on the away broadcast. If you think about an away broadcast, often times you have home crowd cheers because that’s what is in the stadium. If you can bring the visitor fans to this cheering site they would be able to be heard on the broadcast.
That is a very interesting horizon. Fan experience for the away fans is always a complicated topic. A lot of sports have this sense of unfairness between the home fans who can support their team live and the away fans who cannot. Thank you very much for answering our questions Elias. Where can people find out more about you and Hear Me Cheer?
You can come to our website. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. If you send me a message I will get back to you. We have been experiencing a high number of messages so give me a few days but I’ll get back to you.
We thank very much Elias for his time and wish to Hear Me Cheer all the best for the future. Do you want to read others Q&A with fan experience experts ? Discover all our interviews (in english).
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