58 clubs, 1 platform, 9 months
What we did
SHIFTING THE GOALPOSTS IN DIGITAL DESIGN
When the English Football League (EFL) announced they were on the hunt for a long-term digital design and development partner, 175 of the world’s best agencies responded. Realise were proud to be appointed, and entered into a 7 year partnership up to the 2022/23 season. And that was just the beginning.
The EFL manages and commercialises the digital rights of EFL clubs on a shared digital platform. As their existing deal came to an end in June 2017, we were ready to help them look forward. Clubs were presented with an improved commercial and digital offering and given the opportunity to re-enrol with what would be an entirely new iteration of the digital platform.
The start of a 7 year partnership
EFL chose Realise as the partner they could trust to:
- Deliver a premium fan experience
- Maximise commercial opportunities
- Develop a robust, scalable technical environment
- Ensure clubs had an intuitive CMS, delivering time-critical publishing
- Provide high-quality customer support
Based on a 9 month delivery time frame and the 7 year lifecycle of the platform, Realise decided on a product development approach. On Day 1 we would deliver the ‘Minimum Loveable Product’ for all clubs on the platform, continually optimising and enhancing it for the duration of the contract.
To achieve this successfully, everything had to link back to what would be useful and engaging for the user. We began by identifying 3 key audiences and their unique requirements:
The fans: These users are accessing the sites on a daily basis for club updates and news. Our aim was to drive deeper fan engagement through dynamic, relevant and targeted content.
The clubs: The clubs are looking to present themselves uniquely, and to operate as modern digital media publishers. In order to achieve this, we needed to provide an easy to use CMS with a much greater level of flexibility.
EFL: The aim of EFL is to provide a stable platform that can scale to meet future requirements while maximising all revenue opportunities for clubs and partners.
Working collaboratively with the EFL team at our Realise offices, we developed a flexible design framework that gave each club the ability to develop a website their fans could be proud of. These were websites that compelled fans to return time and time again, becoming a primary port of call on match days.
The platform was developed and measured against a set of core platform principles:
Flexibility for clubs
Understanding the importance of clubs and fans wanting a unique website to reflect their identity, we decided to focus on developing a flexible toolkit. This way, page templates and components can be configured in numerous ways to meet the goals of content authors and provide a great fan experience.
This flexible, dynamic framework consistently delivers for clubs, regardless of the size of their Digital team.
Scalable for the future
We worked closely with our platform partner Episerver to develop a robust hosting solution, leveraging Episerver’s Digital Experience Cloud Managed Service Solution (DXC).
DXC has a cloud-first approach ensuring high availability and performance with easy connectivity to other cloud services and existing systems. This allowed us to manage unpredictable spikes in customer demand along with high levels of traffic on match days.
EFL were clear that the new platform should maximise commercial opportunities for both themselves and the clubs. This encompassed multiple channels including advertising, subscription/PPV service, online ticketing and the online shop.
In the first phase of the project we focused on key areas of:
Sponsored content: Integrated sponsorship opportunities allowing sponsors to play a much more active role across club websites.
Integrated betting experience: Working closely with EFL’s title sponsor Sky Bet, we provided targeted, in-game betting experiences integrating their widgets across the website.
Smarter advertising across every device: With over 60% of traffic coming from mobile we took a mobile-first approach to design, ensuring a seamless experience and tailored advertising by device.
9 months to go kick off
The project was delivered by a cross-functional team operating within an agile delivery methodology. Following the definition of the Day 1 deliverables, we defined the core themes which would guide the experience design. Each package was worked through during a series of 2 sprints as end-to-end user journeys. The creative output (specifications, prototypes) from the user journeys were then broken down by our development team into detailed user stories for scheduling and implementation in the appropriate development scrum.
Over the 7 month development phase of the project we worked in close collaboration with the EFL project team. This level of communication proved highly efficient, enabling regular feedback and ensuring that EFL received early visibility of the platform. Monthly meetings with representatives from 12 clubs provided a further important channel of feedback on the progress of the platform and allowed us to stay on track.
As systems integrator, Realise held ultimate responsibility for all 3rd parties. Our aim was to ensure we were all working to a shared vision and to maximise the potential of each platform for Day 1 delivery, with a view to the future.
Our primary partner throughout the project was NeuLion, whose iFollow subscription service allows international fans to watch their club’s games live, whilst fans in the UK and Ireland can listen live to commentary of every single game their club plays in. As a new revenue stream it was imperative to incorporate these services within the website as seamlessly as possible, giving the fans the best possible in-game experience.
We also worked closely with OPTA (stats), Sky Bet (in game betting), Adition (advertising) and Goodform (CRM).