How can lower league clubs draw in the crowds?
Many lower-league English clubs do not have the benefit of multi-million-pound endorsement deals or TV rights, making finances tight. So, how can these clubs begin to ascend the football pyramid by increasing game attendance? The key to success lies in enhancing the customer experience. Here are three well-known strategies and a newer one that can significantly improve the customer experience.
For a lower-league club with limited funds, determining how to allocate your resources can be challenging. The top priority should be increasing the number of people who attend each match, and then maximising the revenue potential of those attendees.
In today's football, it isn't just about ticket prices. A significant part of the strategy to boost attendance and cultivate fan loyalty involves the overall experience fans get.
This includes everything from browsing the club website and purchasing tickets, to arriving at the stadium and their activities during their visit, even their journey home. Furthermore, each interaction they have with the club or its representatives plays a role.
Since everyone has expectations, it's crucial to consider the broader picture - the customer experience you're providing. Each of these factors can influence whether it's an unforgettable and enjoyable experience (regardless of the final score) that they'd love to repeat.
High ticket prices can deter fans. Offering fair prices can win the crowd's hearts. Group discounts, family tickets, student, OAP, or budget-friendly games can all encourage repeat visits and, in turn, create a more vibrant atmosphere.
Consider season tickets as well. Those eager to purchase one are your club's most passionate fans - don't let the price tag discourage them.
2: Fan engagement
Sponsorship activation isn't only about jersey sponsorships or adverts on the club's walls. Companies can leverage their ties with football teams by producing a range of content that resonates with their target audience, such as athlete Q&As, match-day fan competitions, or even viral YouTube stadium videos. Each piece of content is designed to promote your business partnership.
Interactive activities like online polls, surveys, regular event updates, blog posts, and more can be enhanced and disseminated using SEO. Regular activations, both online and in-person, help fan support grow and keep them engaged.
3: Social Media outreach
Regular updates about training, away games, new arrivals, and setbacks can make fans feel part of the club. This is something lower-league clubs can capitalise on.
It's essential for fans, even those who don't live locally, to feel like they're part of the community. While this can be more challenging for larger clubs due to their global reach, lower leagues can focus on this and seize the opportunity!
Subscriptions offer a more affordable alternative to season tickets, with two significant advantages:
- The cost is spread across 12 monthly instalments, making it more accessible for the fans.
- For the clubs, choosing a subscription model eliminates the annual renewal process.
Subscriptions within football are not new. The first club to introduce them was the Danish top side FC Copenhagen, who saw an immediate boost in their ticket sales and attracted younger crowds who became loyal subscription fans.
Inspired by the Danish success, both the Norwegian and the Belgium leagues have introduced similar solutions, both with great success. Streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix have demonstrated that subscriptions work, and modern ticket buyers are more comfortable committing to a modest recurring monthly cost than paying up front, a full year in advance.
Combined with the option to still buy traditional season tickets (to avoid alienating older fans), introducing subscriptions is probably the easiest and most effective way of drastically improving your club’s customer experience.
FC Copenhagen’s success
To prove it, here's what FC Copenhagen’s Ticketing and Customer Service Manager Mikkel Bjerre said about the club’s experiences on TicketingPodcast.com earlier this year:
“From the beginning it was a huge success, much more than we had dreamt of and much more than we really dared to hope for. It was especially the age group from around 15 to 24 years old that really started to purchase subscriptions. They had never purchased a season ticket before.”
→ Listen to the podcast with Mikkel Bjerre
“And that just really proved the case almost from day one, that this was something that really had some potential.”
The subscription model also showed a massive positive effect on the club’s churn.
“What we saw already from the first winter break was that the churn rate, which for us means people unsubscribing, was really, really low. This has just continued throughout the years we have been working with subscriptions. The churn is really low because people are really loyal.”
FK Viking’s success
Another Scandinavian club with positive subscription experiences is Viking, one of the most successful clubs in Norwegian football, with a stadium capacity of 15,900.
Viking introduced subscriptions before the start of their 2022 season, and at the end of that season they conducted a survey which showed some remarkable results.
- The club saw a significant increase in first-time buyers compared to previous years
- 70% of the respondents stated that they were happy with their subscription
- Only 10% were displeased
When interviewing a random selection of their 1,000 respondents, the most common advantage highlighted was the possibility of being charged a modest sum each month instead of one yearly payment.
For families, this was mentioned as a significant improvement compared to Viking’s previous season ticket model.
In conclusion, reasonably priced tickets, sponsorship activation, and creative use of social media can all significantly improve your club’s customer experience. Introducing subscriptions can enhance this even further.