Matt Everett writes:
It feels like a long time since my last Commercial Update and certainly a lot has happened in the last few weeks.
Before Christmas, I started talking about the basic importance of ‘bums on seats’ to us, especially with the model which we run as a club with the stadium and revenue being separate. You can read that update HERE.
Since then we have of course had the Sunderland match, and I was personally delighted that we were able to achieve our target of over 10,000 fans at the game. That crowd, performance and atmosphere highlighted where we need to be as a club if we are to progress. It is my view that this is something which the club and fans can work together on to make an annual event for a big match – perhaps with fans voting when the fixtures come out which match to target for #OUFC10K. These type of matches really showcase the club and hopefully encourage new fans to attend and fans who may have drifted away to return.
In addition, we have started having informal working groups around ticketing and the matchday experience which I have found really useful and enjoyable. Several changes have already been made from ideas and comments raised at these, with several more in the pipeline. This type of open communication too can help fans to understand why we do sometimes have to do things differently to other clubs or are not able to progress some of the suggestions, though all suggestions of course remain welcome.
As it stands, our home support is just over 5% down on a like for like basis to last season after the same amount of games. With five big home games coming up, we will be looking closely at that to try and claw that decrease back.
For this update, I want to focus on the fourth pillar in our overall club strategy – Community and attracting future fans.
Several fans have asked me on Twitter and in person about these strategies, which were mentioned by Niall on the Radio Oxford phone in. As an organisation, we focus on four key pillars which all affect the progress and sustainability of the club:
1. First Team and Recruitment
3. Maximising Commercial Revenues
4. Community and Attracting Future Fans
In their own right, each pillar can be looked at separately, and each has its own set of targets against it and team of people working towards that. In reality though, all are deeply related and affect the success of the others – hence the pillars which support the future of the club. Behind the scenes, everyone knows and understands the importance of their own pillars, but also work closely together as each pillar helps the others.
It’s really important that the fourth pillar stands alone in its own right. Not only do football clubs all have a huge role to play in their communities, but if they are unable to reach out and attract a future generation of fans, eventually there won’t be any need for pillars one, two or three!
In that respect, I am delighted that at the Wycombe match later this month we will celebrate ‘Community Day’ and the 30th Anniversary of Oxford United in the Community by giving away over 1000 tickets to local schools to distribute as they wish. This week EVERY Primary School in Oxfordshire will receive this invite to join us at that match by distributing up to four tickets within their school as they wish.
As far as I am aware, this is the most wide ranging offer the club and Community have ever done within Oxfordshire at the same time, and we hope to see as many schools represented as possible.
There will also be the chance for our young fans who are OX4Life members to be heavily involved in the day. You can read full details about that HERE.
Our visit to Coventry City on 23rd March will also be our Family Away Day, with free coach travel for any of our more than 600 OX4Life members.
Internally as well, we are already discussing the Family Area for next season, and how we as a club alongside the Community can attract more groups of young fans next season. When I was at the club before from 2010-2012 with Group Sales to clubs and schools via the Community and their Soccer Courses and Coaching Sessions we regularly had 300-500 on the gate per matchday. Returning to this will form a key part of the club’s strategy next season.
In addition, we need to ensure that our Family Area is a friendly and fun place to watch football. We have spoken with experts in attracting new family support as a ‘day out’ which is a viable and enjoyable option for families in Oxfordshire otherwise spending their money on other leisure activities.
Before we invest in attracting them though, we need to be entirely confident that the facilities and experience we offer is the best that it can be – we will only attract them along once if not!
Our team in the Family Area are excellent, but we need to put additional marketing steps in place to follow up on these visits when people do attend.
We also intend to survey all Family Area Season Ticket Holders and regulars about how this area could improve, and our next working group meeting will focus specifically on this area.
Community and Attracting Future Fans really is a vital pillar for the future sustainability of the club, and one which you can be sure is rightfully receiving the attention and focus which it deserves.
Matt Everett, Commercial & Marketing Director