Rachael Church, Sport and Technology
Nat West is bullish about its association with cricket, its relationship with the sport began at the start of the 1980s with its first One Day sponsorship and the bank enjoyed a subsequent involvement with English County Cricket before turning its attentions to internationals. This is the fourth year that NatWest has had an online presence surrounding its N a t West Series sponsorship says Detheridge. “What started out as a simple microsite with some news and scorecards, has built year-on-year to where it is now, a dedicated sponsor site.” Detheridge says that N a t West's cricket website is not trying to compete with leading site Cricinfo, “but we do need a minimum amount of content to make it interesting for users.”
What NatWest has attempted to do, continues Detheridge, is to make www.natwest.com/cricket as interactive as possible. This includes the inclusion of the N a t West Speed Challenge, a competition aimed at young people. The competition will take place at venues around the UK between 21 May and 18 September 2005 with participants in six categories, (Under 12, Under 15 and Under 18, for both boys and girls). To take part in the competition, entrants have to bowl a legitimate delivery (as defined in the Laws of cricket 2000 code) of which the fastest speed is recorded. Accredited ECB coaches judge legitimate deliveries and all recorded speeds from legitimate deliveries are entered onto a leader board on natwest.com/cricket. The 4 fastest bowlers in each category win a place at The N a t West Speed Stars Final taking place at the England Cricket Board's Academy in Loughborough on Saturday 17 September. There will be an England player on hand to give winners a few tips. And the fastest bowler on the day for each category wins a signed bat and medal.
“We have also introduced a simple batting game based around the NatWe s t Challenge,” adds Detheridge, “where players choose which team they want to be on. They can then choose to play in a range of venues from a Caribbean beach to an English park.” Other features of www.natwest.com/cricket include player interviews and diaries, interviews, news, stats and team information, as well as live scorecards during the matches. An e-newsletter allows N a t West to reach existing and new customers “in a non-threatening environment” according to Detheridge, whereas links between the NatWest site and local cricket clubs keeps NatWest's hand in at a grassroots level and internationally.
In terms of leveraging its sponsorship of the NatWest Series and Challenge, Detheridge says NatWest's cricket website is being used to build support for the campaign. “What we have tried to do is tie certain products into cricket,” he explains, “thereby creating more of an overall message association.” The strategy seems to be working, with traffic figures doing well compared with previous years, thanks to N a t West cricket promotions in high street branches and at the actual games. “It's about linking the offline to the online,” adds Detheridge.
As far as statistics are concerned, the site recorded over 1 million registered hits in an 8-week timeframe during the 2003 events, over 7,000 unique users per day and achieved a 75% click through to parent site natwest.com.
With different nations entering the fray during 2005, NatWest will have plenty of scope for new content. In between the two 2005 npower Test Series, England will play Bangladesh and Australia (16 June - 2 July) in the 10-match 2005 NatWest Series and this will be immediately followed by a further three one-day games (7 - 12 July) against Australia in the 2005 NatWe s t Challenge. In advance of The 2005 N a t West Series, England will also play a warm-up game against Hampshire at Southampton's Rose Bowl, after which they played Australia (13 June) in the N a t West International Twenty20 match at the same venue. The latter game was sponsored by NatWest as part of its celebrations of 25 years of involvement in cricket.
Although it’s impossible to say what the next 25 years hold technologically, one thing is for sure, while NatWest remains involved in cricket, it is certain to continue to use new media as part of its sponsorship mix.
Finding the correct balance between quality content and revenue generation has fast become the Holy Grail of official soccer club websites. On the one hand, supporters want instant access to the latest news and features concerning their club while, on the other, common business sense dictates that revenue generation is the be-all and end-all. In reality, pursuing one and neglecting the other is a sure-fire way to limit the potential of your online presence - success lies in finding the correct balance.
That same methodology was applied to the recent redesign of www.fulhamfc.com, Fulham Football Club’s official website. In conjunction with Liquorice, Fulham FC's online partner, the task was set to put together a new-look website to further integrate the content and revenue generating areas of the Club.
The previous incarnation of fulhamfc.com had served Fulham well, however, as commercial demands began to increase it became clear that a new format with a more up-to-date and flexible design was required.
The advantage of having strong graphic design and journalistic resources in-house instantly allowed the Club greater scope for producing and, more importantly, maintaining a well-presented, graphically attractive site that represented all facets of the Club.
Dom Guerra, Fulham's Internet co-ordinator explains: “Strong content, attractive presentation and ease of use forms the backbone of any good website. We knew that those were our strong points so we didn't want stray too far from an already successful formula. However we also needed to give the main revenue generating areas of the Club a more prominent position on the site as well as giving the passing fan an easier route to purchasing tickets. Integrating the commercial side and the news side, without splitting the site in two was a challenge but we feel that we've hit the right mix.”
Prominent areas on the front page have been allocated exclusively for Club promotions and the main revenue generating areas are all represented. Front page sections for Ticket Sales, Corporate Hospitality, Official Merchandise and Season Ticket promotions all occupy prime locations throughout all areas of the site.
Other Club marketing initiatives have taken full advantage of the website with Friends of Fulham being the most recent. With the objective of making Fulham the most accessible Club in the English Premiership, the Friends of Fulham campaign was set up to allow all people, whether full Season Ticket Holders or just potential fans, to receive regular updates via text and e-mail on all the latest ticket news and special ticket offers direct from the Club.
Purchasing tickets online has also been made even easier with the implementation of a new online ticketing system from See tickets. The online ticketing solution allows the Club to fully maximise ticket sales, whether it is to Season Ticket Holders, Members or to the public on general sale.
The new website continues to feature a strong supporter focus with exclusive, in-depth interviews with players and management . Fulhamfc.com is also one of the few official English club sites to regularly supply completely free multimedia content in the form of player interviews and press conference coverage before and after matches. Providing such rich multimedia content completely free has helped the Official Fulham FC website to gain one of the highest visitor stay durations of all official English Premiership club websites, which in-turn has helped to boost all other revenue generating aspects on the site.
The Club's commitment to high-quality multimedia content also stretches to match days where live audio match commentary on all Premiership games is available, free to all. The service has been a long-standing trademark of fulhamfc.com with passionate (and sometimes biased) commentary being provided by fulhamfc.com's own commentator extraordinaire 'Gentleman' Jim McGullion. A lifelong Fulham fan, Gentleman Jim's coverage has built up a loyal army of listeners worldwide. He has even been known to receive the odd piece of fan mail!
Fulham TV's online highlights package allows supporters with broadband connections to view extended match highlights from all of Fulham's Premiership matches. Subscriptions can be paid monthly or with a one-off season-long payment. In addition to this, subscribers also gain access to an archive of highlights from all of Fulham League matches from the 2004/05 season.
The Official Message Board is another popular feature which provides supporters with a forum to discuss all matters Fulham. Registration is free and once logged in, supporters will be able to post on the most visited Fulham FC forum on the Internet.
With the first stage of the website revamp successfully completed, the second stage is already underway. A series of new marketing and supporter centric features are already in the pipeline with the aim to keep fulhamfc.com at the forefront of official club websites.