Articles Interviews

[INTERVIEW] Adam Field, Head of Global Fan Engagement, Chelsea Football Club

We caught up with Chelsea FC's Global Head of Fan Engagement at The Digital Transformation Conference in London

Roar Media’s Sam Button spoke with Chelsea Football Club’s Adam Field discussing marketing strategies and how brands approach consumer engagement. Adam Field heads up one of the core marketing teams at Chelsea, responsible for growing the global fan base, delivering the global brand marketing strategy to engage with new audiences beyond football, and owning the full fan proposition.

Throughout your career you have worked across some fairly iconic campaigns. How have traditional methods of delivering these campaigns changed over the last five years?

I think platforms have become a lot more sophisticated and developed, which has made it a lot more of a challenge for brands to be more distinctive in the way that they they can cut through the audience and the noise. People have become smarter and people have become publishers. The rise of the influencer has shown that traditional media models have been completely disrupted. We are talking to influencers as though they are publishers and media owners themselves, and that’s really tricky to navigate, because a lot of brands will throw money at that. Assuming that that’s just part of a media strategy, that X amount of influencers will give you X amount of reach. That just is the transformation you have to make from traditional media planning and buying into the modern world.

Then you need to think about authenticity, because you can’t simply just dump your money into the latest trend and hope that it sticks. I think both the development of the platforms themselves, along with the idea of these people as publisher models, has meant that we’ve had to innovate. It’s mirrored with the fact that we as consumers are smarter, and our expectations are greater. Whereas maybe five years ago, if we ordered something online, and it came within three to five business working days, we were cool with that. Now, if it’s not there within 24 hours, we don’t do it. The rise of tik tok as a platform globally, is a result of that ever changing evolution of our patience that we don’t have anymore, we want shorter pieces of content, we want it more accessible. We don’t want to dilute our time we want to centralise things as much as possible, and we want privacy as well. So all of those elements have massively changed and as a marketeer we are always trying to understand what the consequences are for for us as a brand. Because if you don’t truly understand that your marketing will fail as a result.

What are the challenges you are faced with in trying to develop an innovative approach to marketing strategy and where do you look for inspiration?

I was always told and taught when I was working at Nike lessons around scale, ensuring that when you do something within a business that has global appeal, like a product that Nike might sell, how do you ensure that the tactics and strategies you implement can have a real impact? It can’t be something that’s on a micro level, it’s going to be something that’s going to affect thousands and has to impact millions. There’s the debate and the challenge that asks how deep do you go to to ensure that that engagement is still there, because it’s all well and good getting 10s of millions of views on a piece of content or an ad but if your engagement through that marketing funnel doesn’t exist, it’s ultimately a vanity play. So trying to strike that balance is one of the hardest challenges that I have faced, and it’s something that I’ve faced a lot of the time when I was at Nike, but also Chelsea because every club is trying to do the same thing. That I think is probably the thing that we we look at the most.

A great example actually was the Dallas Cowboys. They launched an augmented reality mobile experience at their stadium last year which was a digital screen that you could use and you could select the players that you want to appear in a photo shoot with you. There is this really nice animated experience where the players show up on the screen with you in it and then you get to take that as a takeaway. Those initiatives are great, but they don’t scale. But what was interesting was that the Bleacher Report, picked that up and showed a video of a fan using it, and that video got 12 and a half million views on Twitter alone. So what’s interesting in that dynamic is you’ve got a piece of tech that’s helping to innovate and change the way that consumers interact with brands, through maybe live experiences, doesn’t scale, because you can’t take that around the world. But actually, the impact of those things can can impact millions and get people talking and thinking differently about how they interact.

We take a lot of inspiration from American sports. I personally take a lot of inspiration from American sports because they have cracked the creativity that a lot of European brands haven’t quite mastered. And they go quite big on that whole tailgating experience, which is all around engaging with the fan base in a physical capacity, whether that’s through tech or whether that’s through experiential, but then trying to understand how that scales is really where you you win or lose. We do lots of content at Chelsea all the time, some of it sticks and it can get millions of views and and some of it is creatively beautiful, but it doesn’t necessarily hit that mass audience, but has a really poignant message beneath it, which has a huge benefit to the brand and to the brand sentiment that we want that global audience to take away.

Who is leading the way with fan engagement at the moment?

I love the work that Gym Shark does as an apparel business, or a sports business. I’ve followed that journey for about five years and I don’t know if anyone knows them, but you should follow them, they are creatively outstanding, their strategy is brilliant. I think the way that they cultivate the community around them is inspiring. I admire the work that AS Roma within fan engagement, they’ve got a really irreverent tone of voice, and a cheeky personality through their social media channels. For a brand and a club that isn’t in the top 10 of the global clubs they have owned fan engagement through social media. And I look at those two examples as really hero pieces of work or, or brands that I will always be intrigued about what their next move is, either strategically or in a creative manner. But overall, the American landscape, I think trumps us in a huge way. So I’m always impressed with their levels of fan engagement.

Are there any emerging technologies out there at the moment that excite you?

I look less at tech innovation, I look more at creative innovation, because I think we’re miles behind where we should be creatively as a market and as a sector vertical. I try and stay away from being obsessed with the tech and instead I think how do we create pieces of content and stories that we know will travel much further and how do we take those creative strategies and really take them to the absolute maximum potential that we can take it based on the platform and based on our own abilities. I’m not in the business of trying to just innovate on tech, because it’s there, I’d rather get my creative to the point where it’s the most brilliant creative in the world. And then think about how tech plays a role in that later.

Leave a Reply