A rugby team as a content brand? What a load of cobblers!
Actually, I think you’ll find it’s Northampton’s football team who go by ‘the Cobblers’. The rugby outfit are known as ‘the Saints’. The content the club produces is more than a match for other sides in the English top level.
Well that’s me tackled.
Let’s start with the Saints’ email newsletters. Most top sports sides will fire out weekly broadcasts with team sheets for the weekend ahead and occasionally plug ticket sales – but Northampton’s e-shots are much more frequent, and impressively varied to boot. We’ve received three emails from the Saints so far this week, each loaded up with an average of three content spots. The stories included in the newsletter cover everything from the club’s own stand-up comedy night, to making sure fans bag themselves tickets for the World Cup.
Tickets to Rio 2014? Sign me up!
Unfortunately for soccer fans, in this case we’re talking about the rugby world cup – the oval-balled version of the greatest show on earth is next year and will be hosted in the decidedly less tropical climes of the UK.
I’ll unpack my G-string and flip-flops then?
That’s probably for the best. When Northampton isn’t mailing out juicy titbits to its audience’s inbox, the club is busy creating content for its own channels. SaintsTV is, as the name suggests, where the club publishes video content. It’s hosted on YouTube, and features players and match footage heavily. Check out the champagne rugby in this video.
But isn’t this all just old TV footage? Will people really be interested in second-hand content like this?
You’re right that clubs like Northampton face stiff competition from media brands and sports broadcasters, and that means there’s more pressure to find a unique hook. For Northampton Saints this comes in the form of the exclusive and unlimited access it has to its own players. Saints would not be able to compete in terms of blanket news coverage, but it can provide much more depth and detail for those sports fans who want to know more about the club.
Ahh, so it’s about being in pole position in one particular field, not covering all the bases.
You’re really mangling those sports metaphors, aren’t you? But, yes, Northampton competes not just in the quality of its content, the team also understands that its audience are not going to get their sports news exclusively from the club website, so it does a lot to ensure that the user experience there matches closely the ones of other media brands.
The Saints are winning the digital scrum then?
We wouldn’t go as far as to say the online experience is perfect – the fan forum for instance, is run by an external group that manages the message boards for several large sports teams. The design of the page doesn’t link strongly enough to the main brand site, and could be seen to undermine the good work done there. We’d say that letting someone else run your main message board, whether you’re a sports team or a consumer brand, is a major no-no – as it means relinquishing control and access to a treasure trove of all-important consumer insight.
Anywhere else that the club can score some easy wins?
Overall Northampton Saints’ content is great. The brand’s social channels are lively and have been making the most of the clubs fantastic run of form this season. We’re seeing loads of retweets and interactions already today because this evening Saints will be taking on Bath Rugby in a home semi-final. When there aren’t these kind of ‘once in a season’ events to shout about, the club still finds ways to keep things fresh.