For Premier League clubs, a savvy digital strategy is almost as important as a standout team roster. Fan engagement can make or break your brand value, so Premier League soccer teams are always exploring new ways to connect with fans. With the proliferation of OTT and advances in mobile technology, it’s become more challenging over the years, as clubs need to reach fans across new technologies, viewing platforms and social channels. Southampton F.C. (Football Club) is recognized as a team with one of the most progressive digital strategies in the league from its website to interactive live streams, which earned the club a BT Sport 2017 Cutting Edge Sports Award nomination.
Ahead of its epic matchup against Manchester United F.C. (Football Club), Southampton F.C. launched a pre-match show for fans on Facebook and Periscope. To streamline production, Southampton turned to Grabyo’s flexible cloud-based video production, editing and distribution platform. A staple in Southampton’s social streaming workflow for nearly two years, Grabyo fuses recorded and archived content with interactive fan comments and Q&As for a number of Grabyo’s social streams, making it a natural match for the debut.
The workflow included three cameras that captured live footage from various vantage points including the pitch, entry tunnel and locker room and fed into Grabyo’s cloud-based interface. Tapping into Grabyo’s unique ability to interlace anything rendered as a URL with live video, Southampton’s media team populated the live feed with graphics created by Reality Check Systems (RCS) that were rendered out of the Singular.Live graphics production platform.
A focal point of the show was the starting lineup reveal. As part of a Premier League charter, clubs cannot announce player names and positions until one hour before the game on match day, and are only given 15 minutes to prepare the information for live distribution. Creating and changing high quality graphics for the player names and positions in that short timeline proved difficult in the past, until Grabyo partnered with Singular. “Integrating Singular with Grabyo allowed Southampton to bring live broadcast-quality titling to fans, which is a challenge for most clubs with existing tech setups,” shares Grabyo Head of Marketing Aaron Duckmanton. “The quality at which the graphics were rendered out of Singular is also impressive, not to mention it’s fast and easy to use.”
Before the show’s debut, Reality Check Systems (RCS) created a series of templates in Singular, including: an animated ticker with a placeholder for each player’s name, image, number and position; a full screen CG pitch view graphic with a placeholder for player names and formations; and a full screen squad list. Using these graphics Southampton’s production team populated the graphics as the presenter read off the starting line-up. “Taking social video to the next level is a huge focus for us. We want our clients to be able to create bespoke and engaging pieces of content, and Singular can help drive this, making it easy to render high-end graphics in the cloud,” Duckmanton explained.
Typically in pre, post or live match social streaming, clubs will use static PNG or existing broadcast graphics, but the visuals are not optimized for mobile viewing. Grabyo and Singular combined translate the total broadcast viewing experience for mobile and social. “Creating a different viewing experience for social is becoming increasingly more important and fans are demanding new ways to consume content. Grabyo and Singular built a live experience that was dynamic, premium quality and built for a mobile, social audience,” said Duckmanton.
With several international football clubs on its client roster, Grabyo anticipates further collaboration with Singular to bring clients new graphics and data visualisation capabilities for their live productions. Duckmanton adds, “We’re working with major sports leagues and broadcasters, and digital publishing outfits like BuzzFeed, to push the boundaries of modern technology and make high-end live content more accessible on social and digital platforms. Working with Singular and RCS opens up new potential to do more to enhance the fan experience.”