Swiss entrepreneur Cyril de Bavier had an ambition to change the way football and other sporting clubs were financed. UEFA had recently introduced restrictions on how football teams could raise and spend money at the top of the game and was ever so aware of the fiscal troubles of teams outside of that top bracket. Inspired by the success of kickstarter and other self finding platforms, he wanted to make a sports specific platform—that started with football—to connect teams with their passionate army of fans in a sports funding revolution.
Sampling from the established kickstarter model, he wanted to leverage club assets to encourage fans to dig deep into their pockets to help buy the next team coach, decorate the club bar, build a fan plaza and even maybe fund the purchase of the next club hero. In return fans would unlock rewards such as signed memorabilia, public recognition for their contribution or dinner with a player of their choice.
Cyril knew not what this was called, how it existed or what it looked like but what he was setting out to achieve was wanted by the clubs—his contacts at some of the biggest clubs in Europe had told him so. He wasn’t sure how to go about achieving this relationship with the fans. They already put their hands deep into their pockets on match days for tickets and memorabilia, how can he engage them and encourage them to dig a little deeper? This is where he approached myself and Scheybeler+company for help.
Early on in workshops with Cyril we hit upon what we believe was the key to unlocking this platform to fan relationship. We believed it key to build upon the already competitive nature of a football fan and their desire to be a better fan of their club than their friends. By pitting fans against fans in the pursuit of being number one, we can drive never before seen levels of engagement between fan and club, and by making the rewarding of fiscal backing to their club part of the measuring stick, unlock new revenue models for clubs.
Being the top fan for your club would not only give you bragging rights, but also unlock rewards from your club, such as being an invited guest at the next home game.
Developing week long programs of non-fiscal engagements—such as quizzes, predictions and games— that peaked around game day, keeps fans engaged in a club and its fiscal based engagements. This was key in ensuring those fundraising projects were successful.
The delivery platform for us was obvious, the mobile—in particular apps—were already the platform where most fans were engaging with their clubs and fellow supporters. Every match watched from a sofa is now done with a mobile in hand. They were already consuming club news, scores and fixtures through media outlets, and we believe it important not to take these existing platforms and behaviours. Left untapped was the gamification of being a fan, the contest to be the best fan.
We developed a feed based interface—behind a signup—where fans could take part in both generic and team specific engagements such as predicting the starting lineup for the weekends game. Each correct answer would result in points to further elevate you up your team's league table. For the MVP at launch we developed 7 engagement modules, but ensured the way we integrated them allowed for the easy inclusion of more, including one off modules under sponsorship relations.
Where possible, we wanted module interaction to happen right there in the feed. We designed as many of the engage modules as possible so that they could be interacted with and update without leaving the feed, only more complicated transactions like timed, multi-answer quizzes would see the app move outside of the feed. This allowed a fan to quickly engage with the module and move onto the next.
All engagements had an expiration to them—a time in which they had to be completed by. For example a score prediction engagement had to finish before the game started. The feed would arrange itself to always show uncompleted engagements first, followed by those engagements completed but with a result pending and finally those that had expired. Pushing new engagements to the top along with fundraising engagements would help to promote engagement between fans and clubs.
For art direction, I picked out the relationship between sport and patterns. From the crowds holding coloured cards above their heads to form a tifosi, the patterns cut into the grass for a match day and the patterns at the heart of kit designs and club embalms. The main Fans Nation pattern being inspired by the 1990’s fashion for kit design.
The shield depicted in the logo coming from the clan mentality behind fan passion and the club emblems themselves. We ensured that the Fans Nation general branding and interfaces remain club neutral, all black being used as its not common as a primary kit and unlikely to offend. All club specific interfaces were left to work with the colour pallet of the club they were there to represent.
Fans Nation launched in March 2015 with French League 1 side Evian Thonon Gaillard FC adopting the platform amongst others. Alongside a new revenue model for cubs, it offered them an important platform to gain insights from their fans to help shape the future of the club.