On the Monday before Christmas, I sat down to watch the Merseyside Derby on Sky Sports. Whilst Everton and Liverpool huffed and puffed their way through 90 minutes, I was more interested by some of the advertising boards around the edge of the pitch (it wasn't the most enthralling of games!) and how they were using digital assets.
With time for Christmas shopping running out quickly, Everton were pushing adverts for last-minute club gifts at their online store: www.evertondirect.com. I wondered if they’d thought of using www.everton.direct, www.evertonfc.store, or www.thetoffees.online – all of which were available. The Liverpool/Everton game is one of the oldest and most famous local derbies in world football. Although the vast majority of the 40,000 people at the ground on that Monday night would have been focused on the events on the pitch, the estimated global viewing audience of tens of millions in 190 countries could not fail to see the adverts. How many of those would it have taken to visit the website and buy an item to give the club a return on its investment?
Gone are the days of a local butcher or undertaker having a perimeter board advert at the highest level of English football. Today, technology means we have interactive digital boards that not only rotate (thus more adverts and more cash for the clubs) but can also create moving images that are designed to draw our eyes away from the game, with each one having a call to action. That may be to push people to social media networks, visit a website or call a number. In the simplest terms, they want the viewing audience to ‘get involved’.
Domain names need to be readable, meaningful and memorable. They are the three pillars that underpin the whole search network. That’s the beauty of the new gTLD program, launched in 2012 – previously unavailable keyword-rich domain names were available for those who understood the value of using the right name in the right place. Unfortunately, most football clubs have never been the fastest at taking advantage of changes in the digital world. Despite the introduction of such domain name suffixes as dotFootball, dotSoccer and dotClub, few clubs have registered them. A sample of ten Premier League clubs, including both the red and blue sides of Liverpool, revealed that only one club had registered their own dotFootball domain name. Not only is that a missed opportunity, but also potentially an issue of intellectual property infringement if a third party has registered the domain name and intends to use it to deceive or trick fans.
I’m sure that Everton aren’t the first football club not to have yet seen the opportunity that using the new gTLDs in digital campaigns brings – and they certainly won’t be the last. Hopefully, if a few other clubs engage in the program, then everyone will benefit.