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The Rise of Subscription-Based Ticketing in Football

Subscription-based ticketing has been around for a while, but the football industry has been slow to adopt this approach. Nevertheless, NewC Sport, a sports technology and consulting company, has been actively working on implementing this for the past five years and has seen some promising results. In this article, we had the chance to sit down with Mikkel Skou, CEO of NewC Sport, to explore why subscription-based ticketing is becoming increasingly beneficial for football clubs in terms of revenue, fan engagement, and season-ticket-holder retention.

By Quang T. Pham

Why is subscription-based ticketing beneficial for football clubs?

I believe subscription-based businesses are not unique to football, as we can observe this model in various industries. About five years ago, we started looking into how we can incorporate this approach into our operations. For football clubs, this approach is a relatively new and more modern way of receiving payment for products.  It’s also an excellent way to attract younger fans, which is a significant challenge for many clubs. 

While some football clubs may be more conservative in adopting new business models, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of subscription-based payments in my perspective. With the right solution and the right setup, it’s just as easy as selling and handling normal tickets and season tickets. In fact, it’s probably easier in the long run since you retain the vast majority of fans with an ongoing subscription model instead of spending a lot of resources getting them to renew their season tickets after every season. We’ve been working on fine-tuning our subscription solution for five years, and the clubs that have implemented this are seeing very positive results.

What would be the biggest benefits of subscription-based ticketing?

There are two main benefits of introducing a subscription model. Firstly, it allows you to budget more precisely and optimize ticketing revenue with better fan retention and year-round sales and marketing possibilities. Secondly, it helps clubs build a deeper relationship with their fans. By introducing products like this, you can engage with your fans more frequently,  present them with data-based storytelling, and push relevant, related products. It’s all about creating a digital transformation strategy that helps you stretch the clock and connect with your fans more closely.

But here’s the thing, it’s not just about having an app or jumping on the subscription bandwagon because everyone else is doing it. It’s important to have a wider strategy in place and understand what you want to achieve with it. A lot of clubs build an app without really thinking through their goals and strategy. If you want to truly create commercial success, it’s vital that you form a digital transformation strategy that makes sense for your club.

We all know that the football industry could be conservative when it comes to technology adoption, what are the reasons for such resistance?

What I have personally noticed is that even though football clubs receive a lot of media attention and have huge commercial potential from the thousands of fans, the football aspect of the club is typically a very big part of the overall picture. In fact, when you look into the structure, company, and administration of most football clubs, you’ll find that they are small businesses with limited human resources.

These internal mechanisms of a club are something that we understand very well, as we always work very closely with the club. That is why we always bring 50% technology and 50% consultancy to the table. Our goal is to help clubs implement the right digital solutions and to assist the management in understanding what is possible to achieve commercially. It’s not just about having all the technology, but also about empowering the club to use the tools right and reach new heights.

Does subscription-based ticketing mean you won’t need physical/paper tickets anymore? Or can they co-exist?

It’s up to the club to decide. We can be 100% digital and data-driven. We have clubs that hardly use any paper tickets anymore. We consult with the club and bring solutions to the table, but it’s not a case of “you can only do this”, it’s more about stretching out the possibilities and allowing the club and the fans to choose what’s the right path for them. When we help digitalize things, it typically becomes much more convenient for fans. They want to be able to service themselves, use micropayments, and have the ability to upgrade or downgrade their experience as they go. This is where technology provides these opportunities.

And yeah, they can coexist. Our solutions are very flexible and entail various possibilities for fans to service themselves. We don’t demand that you have to be all digital or use paper tickets or printed cards, but we ensure that all options are available so that the fan journey is as convenient and seamless as possible –  no matter where you are in the world or how you like your football experience.

What would be the first key step to implementing a subscription-based ticketing system for clubs?

To create as much value as possible, we like to have strategic conversations with clubs to understand what they’re currently doing and how we can help them move forward. After that, with today’s technology, the process of implementing new solutions and integrating with existing systems becomes quite plug-and-play. It’s no longer a huge IT project. We even have a program where we spend a day with the club before, during, and after a game to gather insights about their operations and needs. Based on that, we can put together a tailored digital solution that makes sense for the club and supports and aligns with its current processes..

Could you provide an example of how NewC’s subscription-based ticketing has been successful?

Actually, I believe that all the clubs where we implemented this have been a success story. I can’t think of any club where it hasn’t created value.. One particularly interesting case is the Danish league, where we managed to secure 70% of the fans in the different clubs as season cardholders when the pandemic hit. Most clubs faced a huge decrease in season cardholders during the pandemic due to the absence of matches. Still, we were able to help the clubs retain the same number of season cardholders, which speaks to the affordability and effectiveness of a subscription-based solution. Also, we are proud to be working with a club like F.C. Copenhagen which is extremely data-driven and has generated massive commercial success in recent years. They are in many ways digital frontrunners in the football industry, and probably the strongest case of what can be achieved with the right digital strategy and the right solutions to support it.

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