Matt Everett writes:
It’s been an incredibly busy start to the season commercially for the club. With two more home matches this week, and last Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win, the matches are coming thick and fast as the season gets underway!
One thing I have noticed, both as a fan previously and since having been involved back at the club, is that sometimes we aren’t quick enough to communicate with the supporters about the good work going on behind the scenes at Oxford United. Dan Harris’s excellent Academy Updates have certainly started to change that, and this is the first of what I hope will be regular updates into the commercial and marketing work at the club.
I have identified four key aims for the commercial side of the club as we move into the season. These are:
1. Marketing and CRM
The club has made significant investment over the last few years in the best ticketing, retail and CRM systems in the industry. However, it is very easy to underutilise these systems. Club’s far further up the leagues than ourselves use these same systems, and whilst of course they may have more human resources behind the scenes, we shouldn’t shy away from the fact that we can use these systems better.
As fans will have seen, we have already launched a fan membership, and a loyalty scheme for Season Ticket Holders and Members. As these schemes grow, we will be able to offer better content and benefits to supporters via the scheme.
Over the coming weeks, hopefully fans will start to notice new more responsive email templates, and start receiving only information that is relevant to them. We now plan our marketing campaigns a month in advance to avoid blanket sending, reduce costs, and we also monitor the response rates and revenue of each campaign carefully.
As a club we should reward loyalty, not rely upon it. Over the season, it is our job to ensure every season ticket holder, member and match ticket purchaser as well as all of our corporate clients are looked after in such a way as to retain your support, and earn that loyalty.
2. New Support
In terms of fans, in the last government budget in November 2017 it was confirmed over 100,000 new homes will be built in Oxfordshire in the next 10-15 years. That is a further 300-400,000 people in a county where we remain the only professional sports team. That population growth means our catchment area will be around 1m people. The opportunities at this club are huge.
We don’t need these people to suddenly convert into fervent fans overnight. We need to be seen initially as a viable and enjoyable local club to support on occasion with the family, regardless of any existing loyalties elsewhere. We need to ensure that when families do attend matches for the first time, they are welcomed, and we ensure they receive relevant communications and are encouraged to return.
We need to ensure that everyone moving into the county is introduced to Oxford United, and we are talking to new home developers to ensure that this can happen.
Longer term, we need to work closely with the Youth and Community Trust, who have the reach of all of those school children in the county. They are the fans of the future, and we need a successful and sustainable programme to reach them. The Youth and Community Trust already do excellent work across the county. As a club, we have already visited a club which I feel has one of the most sustainable and well linked models here, and is considered within the industry to be best practise.
3. Better Business Networking
As with most clubs, we have an incredibly valued, loyal, and supportive group of sponsors and partners who support the club. Their support is of course invaluable.
However, in order to grow, we need to enhance our network of businesses involved with the club. It’s important commercially that we offer the right mixture of products to grow our network. One of the first things I did in July was to launch a Business Membership, offering a means for local businesses to get initially involved in the club, focussed on season tickets and the matchday experience – whether they are used for clients or staff, and non matchday networking events. Already in the programme, and in the coming weeks added to the website, I hope that the growth of this Business Membership will provide a comprehensive directory by sector of businesses which support the club, which fans can use when looking for services, and who can network and generate business between each other.
I have seen in two previous roles the success of these directories and events, and feel it is important that businesses can get involved with the club for a reasonably low initial investment. It has already attracted ten new businesses to the club and resulted in additional advertising sales.
It will also add benefit to our existing sponsors and partners, who will also of course be listed in the directory and invited to the networking events.
The first networking event will be held at the new training ground in November – a great chance for us to show off that fantastic new facility.
4. Do more in the City
Fans will have already noticed that our team photo was once again taken in the city centre, at the stunning Brasenose College. This was the first time that this had happened for several years.
Especially going into our 125th year, we need to shout about our club more in the city, and the part this club has played in its history.
In recent months, the opening of the new Westgate Shopping Centre has transformed the city centre. We have the club shop in the Covered Market, and both of these provide interesting opportunities for us to promote the club and ensure we aren’t forgotten about out on the outskirts.
As a commercial team, we will be out in the city more, and there will be other big events to come in the city in the coming months.
Matt Everett Commercial & Marketing Director