Newcastle United: Making (Qlik) Sense of Fans
Newcastle United have been part of the Football League since 1892 after a merger between Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End. They remain England’s eighth most successful football club of all time, racking up 6 FA Cup wins and 4 League Wins.
With a capacity of over 52,400, St James’ Park is the 10th biggest stadium in the UK, and the Club boasts one of the biggest and most loyal fan bases. In the face of their 2016/17 Championship season, Newcastle United’s Data & Insight Manager Chris Scott talks about how they plan to keep the turnstiles turning, and how they are working with TSG to improve fan engagement.
Chris, why did you decide to engage with TSG?
The real driver behind the TSG project was the fact that we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of our fan base. We wanted to be able to offer them a more bespoke experience, depending on what they enjoy doing whilst they’re at the Stadium. We also wanted to vastly improve our online communication methods so that we could provide our fans with much more relevant, targeted and regular information.
I often use Leicester City as an example – they are fantastic communicators and they’ve sold out their Stadium for the past 7 years. They understand their fans really well, and they have some great ways of engaging with them. Leicester actually attribute their promotion to the Premier League to the sea of blue T-shirts which were handed out to fans sitting behind the goal. Fan engagement and reward is hugely important to us at Newcastle United, and we’re committed to doing it better.
To do this we knew we needed to conduct a data cleanse of our fan records, and come up with a system that would help us intelligently manage and interpret our data on an ongoing basis.
From our first meeting, TSG were incredibly up front and honest with me, and took a great interest in what we were trying to achieve. I’ve never met anyone who loves data and spreadsheets more than Stuart, our project lead!
What was the solution that TSG proposed?
After spending a lot of time in our IT Department and understanding the scope of our data ‘nightmare’ (as I call it now), we came up with a plan to implement Qlik Sense at Newcastle United.
I’d worked with QlikView before so I understood the value of business intelligence tools. What Qlik Sense would allow us to do is to spot hidden trends within our data, which would prove incredibly helpful in our marketing. Qlik Sense’s tagline is ‘Make stunning data discoveries’ and that’s exactly what we wanted – to bring our data alive, and allow us to increase our levels of fan engagement. Being in the Championship, we need to raise our fans' excitement again, and we have a massive opportunity to do that now. Having Rafa stay on as Manager has helped too of course!
However, I knew the worst thing I could possibly do was take Qlik Sense and ‘plug and play’. Data is a science, and to get the best results (i.e the results you might not be expecting) you have to work with people who know what they’re doing, and can ask the right questions from your data. TSG is an expert in both technology and how to get the most out of that technology, and we worked together to scope a fantastic Qlik Sense project. It was a definite partnership, with a shared goal to create and manage a robust and flexible data management system. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the work we have done has helped to put the Club on the right foot forward.
How did the deployment go?
Incredibly smoothly. It was clear from conducting the data cleanse at the beginning what we were dealing with, and the scale of the issue we had. For example we had 400,000 people on our database without a D.O.B - legislatively, that means we can’t target specific demographics. Plus we have a Betting partner, which we can’t market to underage people. So it was a huge undertaking to get us to where we are, but TSG stayed in constant contact – offering ideas and suggestions, giving reassurance, and making sure we were happy with everything.
I can’t praise the TSG team enough. It seems a bit strange to say this, but one of the benefits for me was the fact that TSG is ‘normal’. They didn’t try to bamboozle me with jargon or try to sell me anything. They genuinely wanted to help find the right solution for the Club.
How has the Qlik Sense project changed the way you see data?
I knew the importance of sophisticated data intelligence before – but this project has turned me into a bit of a ‘data freak’.
With Qlik Sense I’ve been able to spot trends and patterns that I wouldn’t have even thought to look for before, let alone be able to report on. Qlik Sense also allows you to spot ‘stories’ within your data – so instead of reporting on isolated metrics, I can spot trends. I also completely trust the results, and I don’t need to ask other people within the business for validation. I get all the data poured in via one portal – Qlik Sense. To get the right figure on a screen (without having to click anything) and with the database we have, is nothing short of phenomenal.
So after starting this project wanting to improve our marketing and communication efforts, it’s developed into something so much more than that. I can see now how we can use Qlik Sense for other areas of our business, and it’s actually in the process of informing business decisions across the Club. It’s still early days on that level, but having seen the results so far, the sky really is the limit.