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October 22, 2010

Why that amazing Drogba goal clip is relevant for your business

The UK's top football clubs are getting into the mobile space. Gary Flood examines what this means for your business

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Fancy a change? Get into a bit more of a glam business… kick back a bit even, take it easy? Footie’s got to be a fun market to be in, right? Who knows – you could even end up with a WAG, if you offer to fix their laptops.

Of course the reality is that top-flight football is as relentlessly competitive off the pitch as it is on, especially in today’s globalised, interconnected world. We knew this already on an instinctive level, but a recent chat with the MD of an interesting mobile marketing agency confirmed our worst suspicions.

In some ways we’re sure Michael Tomlins, MD of the outfit in question, InfoMedia Services, and his team must have a blast every Saturday in the season. After all, their Premiership clients include Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea (for whom they just did the iPhone app), Liverpool and Everton. So we’re talking handling the SMS, MMS, audio, video, apps, links to social media and so on for some of the biggest brands in the Beautiful Game.

But to satisfy the client, you have to deliver – and this is just as true in the marketing nimbus of an Old Trafford as it is in the City or what have you. "We need to offer a complete range of services to very demanding clients who won’t settle for bespoke, they need everything from SMS alerts to traffic updates for fans on the way to games to the latest scores delivered fast," he told CBR. "So our focus is on making all that happen in a seamless way and for the major Clubs, this is either something that’s already an area of focus or is next on the ‘to-do’ list."

Incidentally, you might have wondered if there’d be any client conflict here, with an Arsenal suspicious that a Chelsea might get more attention. Tomlins says that in fact having so many peers on board is a plus-point for clients – they are reassured that you ‘get it’ and can deliver to scale. Plus, this is a unique customer base; there’s no flipping – you just don’t suddenly change club allegiance – so churn is never the problem. "I’m actually more impacted by the ongoing Apple-Samsung conflict and spats like that," he told CBR.

Why? Because he has an endless format war to police, between different target media and the protocols they require. So think targeting, rendering, pushing to various channels, the management of all the above – as well as creating content and campaigns. That’s probably a problem you’d expect him to have and not feel that sorry for him about. You may be surprised to hear that he’s also competing with millions of ‘competitors,’ too, though – the fans.

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As it stands, broadcaster ESPN has the rights to all in-goal clips and for twelve hours precisely after the game. When that window closes, the rights to the content go back to the Premiership (or Champions League as appropriate). So the job of a supplier like InfoMedia is to follow those rules, then ‘compete’ with all the clips pouring onto Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc from the punters.

"Now content can be literally all over the globe in 30 seconds – we have to keep up with that," he says.

The point of our story is this – apart from peeking into a world a lot of us are probably fascinated with (apart from the diehard rugby fans, and apparently there are still some people who follow that odd game with the long bat where they used to wear white): as a CIO you’re going to be facing some of this pressure too.

Why? Because mobile is going just mad. Apple recently claimed over 6.5 billion app downloads from its App Store, Android claimed a 43% increase in market share, and social networking site Facebook released stats on mobile access that suggest there are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices and that there are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products. (The same site also claims more than 30 billion pieces of content – Web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc. are shared each month over it.)

Sure, the B2B apps market is way behind. But it’ll come. And the contribution the business will be expecting from its CIOs – who, let’s face it, will get this on their plate as, with online ten years back, there’s no new job title that fits the job spec yet – is to track, support, improve and extend the sort of activities InfoMedia is doing for its clients.

Yes, on a smaller scale. But mobile Internet is here and it’s about brand, fun and immediacy.

You match-fit for it?

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