Archive for November, 2011

The Match Day Experience: a Social Media experiment

MCFC City Square fans outside the Summerbee bar

City fans outside the Summerbee bar in City Square

Pies, beer, football – that’s all you need for the perfect day out. At least, that’s the view of some people who think that media and technology are a distraction – both in terms of the organisation of a football club and also the fans’ experience on the day.

Last week I was speaking at the inaugural How-Do Sports Business and Marketing conference and I listened to Robert Elstone, Everton’s CEO, speak about the importance of the match-day experience for fans. He was very clear about doing everything he can to ensure that when you turn up at Goodison, you have as good a time as possible.

Where he and I differ is that I believe that digital media has an increasingly important role to play. Robert said he wasn’t convinced and felt that there were more important things to focus on for now – and as he’s infinitely more experience in football than I am, I’m sure he’s right – for Everton. Digital media can be an addition to the excitement, not an alternative.

I know some diehards feel that nothing should distract from the action on the pitch, but my bet would be that it won’t be long before some fans are using handheld devices during the match to add something to the game.

image copyright engadget.

Football isn’t like many US sports where there are long breaks mid-play that give you time to check up on the last play or the stats or watch a replay (like with FanVision)… but I think it would be foolish to bet against services being used by a large enough audience in the near future. In fact, if you include the use of SMS, then you could argue that handheld devices and their communication capability has already changed a match-day. How many people do you know who are in touch with mates at other grounds during the game?

Now, putting aside the fact that all stadia act like Faraday cages and so getting a signal (never mind 3G) can be nigh-on impossible, and assuming that this will change, then it’s interesting to consider how social media might affect the fans on a match day.

[as an aside, thanks to all the @mcfcgeeks twitter followers who continue to ask about our progress with boosting signal or installing wifi in the Etihad stadium – we’re working on it and it’s a high priority for me so it’s good to hear your needs]

I wanted to experiment with social media on a match day. So we decided to run a test using twitter, discussion between two blogger/supporters over twitter, and integrating that into the pre-match media that we run in City Square.

As an experiment, it was a great success.

As an enhancement of the match-day experience it was, well… rubbish.

If you follow me on twitter, or @vickistansfield or @mcfcgeeks then you will know how much we try to be open and straight-talking with fans about what we’re trying to achieve as well as sharing with the digital community about our plans and progress. So, in that spirit, I wanted to share with you the case-study that we put together to debrief this experiment.

You can view or download the Manchester City FC Matchday Tweets Case Study_MCFC vs NUFC 19.11.11.

Our project manager, John Kearney, comes to some clear conclusions about what didn’t work and why: the conversation was out of context, it wasn’t live enough, you couldn’t interact with it … to name a few. But he also comes up with a series of recommendations which gives me hope for trying this again and making it work better next time.

Our American geek friends are particularly fond of a phrase that sums up our approach here – and it’s one we’ve taken to heart in the @mcfcgeeks team: Fail Better. Working with new technologies, new forms of social interaction, and integrating them into such a well-developed experience as the warm-up to a Premier League football match is never going to be easy, but we’re experimenting, learning and innovating…. and that leads to success.

When I wrapped up my talk about engaging a fanbase online at the How-Do conference, there was one thing I should have added: The reason why we feel like this kind of thing is important isn’t just to do with being innovative for the sake of it; it’s not because we like spending time and money on the latest digital fad; it’s not because we want to find a way to make money out of fans. The reason why we do this is because our fans deserve it.

City fans use mobiles and facebook and twitter and foursquare and and youtube every day, just like everyone else, and if we can give them more access to the club they love via those platforms, we will.

Pre match live streaming trial, City v Newcastle

We’re back in Premier League action today and for the first time on the site we’ll be trialling live streaming of our pre match build up.

City Square, Summerbee Bar

City Square - Summerbee Bar

City Square was launched last season with a café, bars, covered staging area, and big screens galore. It has given fans, including my Dad and me, somewhere to go close to the stadium prior to the match. I’m setting off shortly to start the pre-match ritual – pint in Summerbee’s bar, watch the big screen build up, argue about the team line up, Manc burger and then to the seats.

From 3 hours prior to the match the big screens show everything from highlights, interviews, features etc as you’d expect. Then there’s good stuff – live footage of City Square, teams arriving, giving away prizes and hospitality upgrades to fans and interviews with players past and present, celebs, team announcements as they’re read out from the tunnel – it’s impressive if I say so my self.

So we want to show the rest of the fans who can’t make it to the ground, local and international, what great content is available before a match. The site already has a Match Day Centre, which regularly receives double the stadium capacity in traffic, and post-match interviews and report but we want to give that sense of anticipation and excitement that builds prior the whistle blowing.

If you want to take a look between 1pm-3pm 19th Nov, City v Newcastle, here you go:

We’ve also been keeping an eye on the impact our changes in October have made to the site. This is always tricky given the other factors which can affect our traffic. News stories, matches, international weeks, transfers all affect the traffic but we have seen some nice increases in dwell time and video usage – especially interesting given the international break when we normally see a bit of a drop off.

The video player on the site is now served in HTML5 to iOS devices allowing iPad and iPhone users to view video in the site. It also delivers the related videos in the player, similar to YouTube. As such we’ve seen an increase in people watching videos that normally would have dropped off the radar – Micah’s fridge for example saw a small surge in traffic when normally it would have long since tailed off.

More changes are to come in this area which we’ll update you with over the next few weeks.

Last week I headed down to that there London for the ‘Lovie Awards’ winners’ party – which boasts a concept I think more awards should adopt in so much as everyone present was a winner. It was great to turn someone and say “so what did you win?”. The YouTube speeches will be available shortly, thankfully filmed at the start of the night so we’ll post a picture of our new haul of awards as soon as they arrive through the post!

Finally congratulations to Richard Ayers who received a DADI award for Individual of the Year, and for adding Joe Hart’s signature “Deeecent” to the acceptance speech, as requested by fans on twitter. Well done!

Hope you enjoy the live streaming – any feedback to mcfcgeeks @


Weeknote 2

I’ve been off for a couple of weeks and return to find we’re making good progress on more product roll-outs – with improvements to the search system (both algorithm changes and results page template upgrade) coming along. We’re also working on adding a ‘playlist’ element to the video on the citytv homepage which is shaping up nicely.

The site improvements have had a couple of weeks to bed-in and we’ll be getting stats back soon on how people reacted. More video views, for starters I’m sure, because we’re now offering options of related videos.

I’m itching to mention a whole bunch of new services for fans that we’re going to deliver – but I hate jinxing things, so I won’t mention any of them until they’re about to launch – and then it’ll be a sneak preview for readers of this blog. Suffice it to say that we think they’re going to be appreciated by fans, and will stick to our mantra of giving fans more and more access to the club – just like our youtube deal.

Wristbands, cards, rfid and social media

On a totally different note, I noticed this rather interesting article “What happened when a hotel armed social media-loving clubbers with RFID wristbands?” by Kevin May on Tnooz.

It’s something we thought about when putting together the ‘clever card’ with this year’s new membership scheme. We’re working on a range of ideas of how to use the technology best – in a way that gives something to the fans as much as the club – but bearing in mind that all our membership cards at the Etihad use an rfid chip in them to give holders access to the ground – then it’s a short step to thinking about what kind of social media integration we might do. Or my feeling is that there’s more than social media to be done – there’s fun to be had – fun that makes more of match day – and not just in the ground, but across the network of properties that the Club owns.

Anyway, having said I don’t like jinxing things, perhaps I’ll stop there. But, as ever, we’re interested in any thoughts you might have on good uses of this technology. Usual contact points: mcfcgeeks [at] and @mcfcgeeks, or talk to me on @richardayers.

One final thing:

We’re up for an award – tonight at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries (@dadiawards) in Leeds, where there are some really great entries in a whole range of categories. Our iPhone app, developed by our builders at Aqueduct is one of the finalists in the Use of Mobile category, but it’s well worth checking out some of the other creative work.

Also, we’re delighted to be honoured with two Lovies – the first European awards from Internet Week Europe. We got a silver award for the website in the Sports category (there wasn’t a gold award in that one) and another silver in the News category for the iPhone app. Which, as they say, is nice.




About this blog

This is the official blog of the digital and media team at MCFC.

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