The Chat by bFAN Sports & SCU Emlichheim 

Could you in a few words present your organization and its sportive situation in the championship?

My name is Wilko Vennegeerts, I’m a 42-year-old German who has been the General Manager of the SCU Emlichheim Volleyball Club for the last 3 years. Our club has been competing for the last 30 years either in the first or the second division of the Volleyball Bundesliga. Our team is known in particular for our local young players who are regularly competing against the best teams out there (Stuttgart, Schwerin, Dresden etc.) in the younger divisions. Our young players usually stay at the club until they are in their early twenties before their studies require them to move to other cities such as Münster for example. Emlichheim being a city of less than 10.000 habitants, this clearly emphasizes the talent we have here and how good we are at accompanying those talents.

Considering the limited budget of your organization, how did you manage to finance an application from bFAN Sports?

In the eyes of our sponsors, we are a semi-professional club which cannot be compared to the football and handball teams of this region, which compete in the top leagues. However, this does not prevent our sponsors from wanting to invest in our organization. Their objective is to reach and be associated with our youth development ambitions. By contributing financially to their development, it sends a clear signal to their employers and to the region in terms of corporate social responsibility.

Today, less and fewer young individuals are using Facebook and Instagram, the new generations are spending most of their time on Snapchat and TikTok. Thus, it is getting harder and harder for our sponsors to reach the younger generations. That is how I managed to get my employer interested by our app. We offered to implement in our app their HR (human resources) portal for apprenticeships and promote jobs offerings. It gives them a real opportunity to reach our players, their followers, and potential future employees. Finding new ways to reach their target audience has become a real challenge for them.

Without going into specifics, how effectively were you able to monetize your application considering that your app hadn’t even launched yet?

At first, we had 2-3 companies which were interested by our project, but we quickly went ahead with my employer. It was easier for me to present the project to the head of HR. I already knew that they were looking for this kind of project which is why the discussions were quick and constructive from the start. Both parties were looking to solve the problem about the players and young persons who were leaving Emlichheim at the beginning of their twenties for other cities. We had a mutual interest in keeping the young talents in the region. For us it meant keeping our players and for them it represented a pool of potential employees. Thus, we decided that they would be our exclusive partner and that we would include and showcase their HR portal within the mobile application of the club. This enabled us to cover bFAN Sports’ fees for the whole duration of our contract (next 3 years). For them, they see it as a real opportunity to try something different. This HR budget was usually spent on newspaper publications. A regular publication in the newspaper can cost up to 5-7k. They already knew that those publications had a very low return on their investment, so they were opened to think outside the box. Worst-case scenario, they will not get additional candidates but the potential upside for them could be huge and a potential game changer!

Did you have multiple offers from different partners to monetize your application?

As said, we had several offers, but our main objective and lowest hanging fruit was to cover the cost of the application as quickly as possible as it represented an important part of our yearly budget. Of course, we will try to sell additional spaces of the app to other sponsors in the future, but this remains a chicken - egg problem. We won’t be able to sell those spaces until we have our application up and running in the stores. They usually ask you to come back when it will be visible and in place. However, for now, the season hasn’t started yet, and we already have financed the app which means that we won’t have to take this money from our yearly budget. Just to be clear, no bidding war took place, we have a very open communication and are completely transparent with our sponsors. As said, a few different parties were interested by the app but it’s not like we had all our sponsors queuing up to be part of this project. At a certain point in time, I just had to give my employer an ultimatum regarding this proposition. Did they want or not to move ahead with this project? If they would have decided not to, I would have completely understood their decision and would have discussed with the other sponsors.

We often hear that partnerships are “win - win” situations, what kind of actions did you have to commit to for this partnership to work?

As said earlier, we agreed on them being our exclusive partner and to implement their HR portal in our app. For us, the win was that we found an investor to finance the entire contract we had with bFAN Sports very early on in the season. We needed an ice breaker to show to the rest of our sponsors that one of them was willing to sponsor our project. Furthermore, it enabled me to send a clear message to my shareholders and partners. It showed that we are willing to try out something new, to take risks, to think outside of the box rather than spending our budget in the more common ways. From their point of view - whether the app works or not has not been proven yet, which is why we’ll need to measure its success by looking at KPIs such as downloads, average age of the fans etc. Even if I am confident with the fact that this project will turn out to be successful, we had to convince them by helping them to visualize the project we were trying to build. Thus, we used an existing app from the 1st division teams to show them what could the result look like. Plus, the fact that this platform is very flexible and easy to modify from our end gives us the liberty of not having to employ an external agency to implement any new content within the app. Thus, the content they want us to implement could be changed or modified as they wish in just a few clicks!

In the past, we had externalized our website and it turned out to be a complete disaster which is why now we are trying to do everything internally and the app does fit this vision. We now have a direct access to the platform to modify the things we want in real time. Overall, I would say that sometimes you need to dare taking decisions and fail to learn quickly and that is what we are after here. We are trying to differentiate ourselves from the other clubs of the Bundesliga 2. For us, being the first ones to join the bFAN Sports family is clearly an opportunity for which we decided to go for, no matter what the other clubs from our division wanted to do.

What would be your recommendations for the other clubs trying to monetize their applications via their sponsors & partners which can be done even before the launch of their application for example?

I think that one of the biggest hurdles for some of the clubs today is that they are managed by individuals who have a very good knowledge about the sport itself but less about managing a business and its marketing. Thus, my recommendation to them would be to focus on their club’s DNA, find what your sponsors like about your organization and why are they choosing to sponsor your organization. Once you have those elements clear, you have to think about the way an app could amplify those objectives.

Plus, one of the most important criteria is that you need to have at least one person who will be in charge of managing your club’s application on a regular basis. It is not a full-time job, but it is very important to have that decided from the start of the project. For example, we have two persons in charge of the app, the public relations and its communication, marketing, and design.

The app won’t sell itself, at the end of the day you need someone who will be in charge of selling the app. They need to define a strategy which reflects your core values and your club’s identity.

It’s really important to have a close relationship with your sponsor, identifying what they want and how an app could help them achieve their objective then selling them the app becomes pretty straightforward.

To conclude - It’s very important to show your club and your sponsors that you are trying out new things and dare to do things differently than your competitors.

What they says about us ?

The fan experience is at the heart of our marketing strategy: Providing qualitative content, offering gamification solutions to reward the loyalty of our fans, etc. We are delighted to work with bFAN, which solution meets all our expectations. Its backoffice is easy to use and the application has been well received by our fans

CSP Limoges
Marketing Manager

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Andrew s.
Sydney, Aus

The fan experience is at the heart of our marketing strategy: Providing qualitative content, offering gamification solutions to reward the loyalty of our fans, etc. We are delighted to work with bFAN, which solution meets all our expectations. Its backoffice is easy to use and the application has been well received by our fans

CSP Limoges
Marketing Manager

bFAN Sports is an excellent solution that meets our expectations and fully satisfies our fans. A real pleasure to work with their team. The functionalities are very advanced and bFAN Sports is very attentive to taking their solution even further in line with our expectations, I recommend it to all clubs

JL Bourg
Director of Marketing

bFAN solution allows us to develop new relationships with our supporters and to provide additional visibility to our partners and sponsors. The level of download is beyond our expectations and enables us to fill-up our CRM database

Section Paloise
Head of communication

Excellent product, team at the top. bFAN Sport allows us to offer an optimal digital experience to our fans.

RC Toulon
Marketing & Communication Director

We have now a genuine fan engagement and retention solution, even our partners play on the app

Elan Chalon
Digital & Communication Manager

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