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From scratch to the Bulgarian top tier: The story of CSKA 1948 | Part 2

In part 2 of the interview Dobrin Gionov, CEO of CSKA 1948, speaks about building the club’s brand, fan data, 90k fans on facebook and their new home ground.

This is Part 2 of the interview with Dobrin Gionov. You can find Part 1 here.

You want to develop the club to a brand. How are you doing that?


Dobrin Gionov: Since the very beginning, we have been following the same constant philosophy and values that we as organization truly believe in. We keep the same tone of voice across all areas of our business and in every communication across online and offline marketing channels. We do not really want to appeal to masses, we want our fans to feel affinity and to truly identify themselves with the team.

You are actively looking for young, talented, and motivated people for the club. How easy is it to find them and why is this so important for you?


I believe in younger generations and their capacity and motivation to learn and develop and to apply innovative thinking in everything they do. However, finding such people particularly for the sport industry is not an easy task. The students coming from academic institutions are not prepared enough for positions in sports marketing, sports administration, etc. Therefore, our strategy for now is to find young, motivated people, passionate for football, and start teaching them how a sport structure should function.

Are you looking a lot at other football clubs or sports for inspiration?


Yes, this is crucial for the development of a football club. We are constantly analyzing foreign football clubs in Europe and the Balkans and we try to adapt their best practices to our reality.

How important is data for you? Do you have a data strategy?


Data analytics has an essential role in the football industry. As clubs are striving to gain a competitive edge on and off-the-pitch, data is allowing us to extract insights to improve players performance, prevent injuries and increase efficiency. We make use of several software solutions along with the valuable contribution of our scouts and football professionals.

Where and how do you gather the fan’s data and how do you use it?


Digital event ticketing, direct mailings, social media – these are some of our sources of data. However, as I have already mentioned, innovation is what we strive for and this area does not make an exception. Stadium entry systems, which can produce fan engagement analytics and other important information about who is sitting to watch our games is what we are looking for in the future.

What are the main communication channels for the club?


I would consider CSKA 1948 as one of the most active clubs in Bulgaria in terms of media participation and activity in social networks. The rise of social media offers challenges as well as opportunities to the football clubs to interact with people. It is the easiest way for a person to create an opinion of the whole organization and to follow the development of a structure.
Since the beginning of CSKA 1948, the club has adopted clear strategy towards media stakeholders. The most important acquired factors by the club in building lasting relationships with the media have been trust, quality of the content, transparency, network, and acknowledgment. At the beginning, CSKA 1948 was neglected by most of the media because of the poor level of football in the lowest divisions and due to the presence of CSKA Sofia in the first division. However, gradually CSKA 1948 got the image of a professional football club and a trustworthy partner for media stakeholders.

You have a pretty big fanbase on facebook – more than 90k followers. Can you monetise this asset?


Facebook is one very powerful gun. We try to make marketing activities in Facebook, involving also our partners and sponsors.

You are planning to move to a new stadium. The next big step for you as a young club? What are the advantages of the new stadium?


For the duration of the past three years, we have been playing at the national stadium, where the capacity is 44 000, with sports halls located under the stands.  Adding the large running track to the big stadium, the acoustics are seriously lost and the only way to make great atmosphere is to fill up the stadium with a public of at least 20000 people, which at this moment is a very difficult task for every team in Bulgaria. Therefore, we made an agreement to take the stadium of Bistritza. It is new, well maintained and very compact, with capacity of 3000 people. Even if there are 300 people at the stadium, the atmosphere is fantastic.
We also have the possibility to brand it with the colors of the team and we have more positions to advertise our sponsors. Last but not least, the cost to rent the National stadium is high, money we can invest in other activities. The only disadvantage I can point out, is the location. The stadium of Bistritza is in the mountain, the outskirts of Sofia. However, the area is very beautiful and a match visit could be well combined with a nice walk.

Do you have a strategy, a concept how the club should evolve off-the-pitch within the next five to ten years?


As I mentioned before, clubs with our dimensions from the Balkans should focus on realizing outgoing transfers of young players. In other words, our strategy is based on the development of young Bulgarian players. The first team should have four young players (age between 18 and 22) and at least two of them to be in the first eleven for every game. Through playing frequently together with experienced players in the Bulgarian tournament and hopefully also UEFA tournaments, they will gain great experience and confidence and will possibly become an object of interest for the scouting departments of the biggest European clubs.
With the beginning of season 2021/2022 CSKA 1948 has formed a second team, which competes in the second league. We hope that this decision will attract the best young players in Bulgaria as we are providing them perfect conditions to train and play professional football. When a transfer of a first league football player takes place, we will be ready with a worthy replacement coming from the second team.

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