Digital engagement critical as football clubs look to grow APAC fan base

With just days before the English Premier League (EPL) kicks off, legions of football fans in Singapore can once again cheer for their favourite teams in pubs and homes across the city-state.

The exact number of EPL fans in Southeast Asia is unknown, but going by regular visits by top clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, and more recently Chelsea, during off-season months, the region is set to be an increasingly important market for the EPL.

But how can football clubs keep fans located over 6,000 miles away engaged? The answer, as you may guess, is to go digital.

At a recent event in Singapore, Stefan Mennerich, the director of IT at German super club FC Bayern München, said going digital was the only way for the club to reach out to its global fan base.

Stressing the importance of digital fan engagement in growing the club’s revenues, Mennerich said Bayern München has partnered German software giant SAP to deliver targeted content to a global supporter base in a bid to turn fans into loyal customers.

“The challenge is to get the attention of our fans,” he said. “And that means we should only give them the offers they expect.”

If Bayern München gets its way, fans at its home turf at Allianz Arena in Munich will also be able to order merchandise, such as jerseys, during a game and receive the goods on the way to their cars, Mennerich said.

Another way to engage fans is through quizzes. In September 2016, Bayern München and SAP launched an interactive quiz at a club exhibition where fans can test their knowledge of the club’s history. The data – which includes statistics on games, goals and trophies won over 116 years – for the quiz was analysed using SAP’s Hana in-memory database platform.

More clubs should take a leaf from Bayern München to engage their fans better. For now, not every EPL club has an app and even if it has one, the app isn’t always available globally. Liverpool, for example, has a mobile app but the app is curiously out of reach to fans in the Asia-Pacific region.

With more European clubs looking for revenues – and new owners in some cases – overseas, having a digital engagement strategy is the only way to connect with their fans and realise their global ambitions.