The digitization of FC St.Gallen 1879

FC St.Gallen's Head of Digital & Ticketing, Sandro Dal Farra in an interview about current developments, the introduction of a CRM system and the sports platform "Sports 365" by Ticketcorner & Ambit Group with the aim of working more data-driven.

 

With the fan relationship management solution "Sport 365" based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 from our cooperation partner Ticketcorner and Ambit Group, we were able to make great progress in digitalisation. Here we combine two relevant core competences of ticketing and CRM processes. This partnership is an integral part of the implementation of our strategy.

Sandro Dal Farra, Head of Digital & Ticketing, FC St.Gallen Event AG

Mr. Dal Farra, digitalization is an important topic in the sports industry. What is the current status - how digitized is FC St.Gallen 1879? 

Digitization is a key issue for us. The far-sightedness of our Board of Directors means that the implementation of the "digital fan strategy" has a very high priority in the company. Not only financial, but also human resources play a central role in this. FC St.Gallen 1879 employs specialists who bring great experience from the digital world. In 2019, the new website, the new online fanshop and the OTT platform FCSG TV had their "go-live". 

 

What has already been implemented, what are you currently working on and what plans do you have for the future? 

We have just completed the rollout of a customer relationship management system based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM and a new ticketing system with our partners Ticketcorner and Ambit Group. An FCSG app with a focus on stadium experience, fan engagement, and other self-services will follow in 2022. We also want to digitize our internal processes - we see great potential in the marketing, event management, and finance departments in particular. In the first step, we will visualize all corporate processes from the customer's perspective and derive current GAPs from this. We then want to derive an action plan and tackle the individual digital projects on the basis of a roadmap. 

For how long have these topics been on the agenda, and since when has digital transformation been an issue? 

In 2019, we started with a strategy phase and then successively implemented the touchpoints in the B2C area. The goal was and is to create new, additional sources of revenue with digitalization - in particular, we were able to successfully implement and market new digital products in the area of sponsorship. 

 

What areas are the focus of your development strategy? 

Besides the possibilities on the revenue side, especially our fans will have a much more direct and personalized contact with FC St.Gallen 1879: Loading and unloading of the cashless card via website, special offers for members, receiving news before they can be read on other platforms are some examples. And the new ticketing system with bi-directional connection to the CRM enables customer-oriented, differentiated marketing activities towards all stakeholders.

In the 2019/20 season, we have already raised a high six-figure amount of sponsorship money with digital products. In two to three years, we will generate a significant share of sponsorship revenue through digital products. We are particularly pleased that, according to other Super League clubs, we are one of the most innovative and exemplary clubs in Switzerland when it comes to digitalization. 

 

Where do the ideas and inspiration for this come from, and who do you look to for developments? 

Of course, from our fans, who give us extensive feedback, which we incorporate into the development processes accordingly. Then we also exchange ideas with other sports clubs or players from the sports industry in person. For example, we spent a day looking behind the scenes at Borussia Dortmund and were able to learn a lot. Then there are the classic sources like seminars, podcasts or magazines, such as Football Business Inside.

We have also entered into partnerships with companies that offer solutions in digitalization. These include Sportradar in the areas of CMS, OTT & e-commerce, Ticketcorner for the entire ticketing area, and of course the Ambit Group for the entire CRM area.

 

In every transformation process, there are barriers to overcome, problems arise. Where has this been the case for you recently and how did you overcome these problems? 

These are the classic challenges of any transformation project: grown IT systems with corresponding interfaces as well as change management. From our experience, there is no industry-specific difference here. 

 

Are you already working in a data-driven way? For example, with individualized approaches to fans, personalized offers? 

So far, we haven't really been able to exploit the potential of data-driven marketing because we haven't had the tools. One small exception here is campaigns with Facebook Ads, where we have used the targeting options. However, with the introduction of our CRM system Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the sports platform "Sport 365" from our partners Ticketcorner & Ambit Group, as well as the mobile app, we would like to take a big step forward in this area and offer our customers better service through personalization. 

The goal is to create a 360-degree marketing view. Does the weather situation have a significant impact on stadium attendance? How is catering & merchandising consumption, etc.? This should always be done on a voluntary basis and is not a must. The vision behind this is a loyalty program with benefits and incentives. 

 

Are you currently also trying to develop new revenue opportunities, especially digital ones that are not directly related to the sport? 

Our goal with our digital services is to generate benefits for our fans, partners and of course the club itself. This will also allow us to generate corresponding commercialization opportunities. The "FC St.Gallen 1879" brand has great value in eastern Switzerland, which we use accordingly. Currently, this is mainly based on the sporting events, but the Corona crisis in particular showed that we can also help the population through various solidarity actions. 

 

Were there or are there projects and developments that have gained momentum as a result of the current situation? Or has the Corona crisis rather slowed them down? 

As mentioned earlier, we have just completed the implementation of a new CRM & ticketing system with our partners Ticketcorner and Ambit Group. We decided that we would take advantage of the time and continue the project as planned despite the pandemic. Digital marketing products will become more important especially in Covid19 time. Campaigns are easy to measure - sponsorship investments and their effectiveness are therefore easier to justify and prove. 

About FC St.Gallen 1879

The oldest football club of Switzerland

FC St.Gallen 1879 represents tradition, down-to-earthness, fighting spirit and closeness to the large fan community. This also includes the most open and direct communication possible about goals and future plans. 

Communication is one of the six fields of action that the Board of Directors has defined in its Strategy 2021. Digitization is a central theme here.