As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for digital solutions and the appetite for a personalised fan experience has become insatiable.

Adam Goodyer, CEO and Founder of Realife Tech, spoke to Insider Sport to discuss how the company’s digital solutions can make for a safe and seamless return to stadiums.

IS: Can you tell us a bit about the firm and the role it plays within the sports industry and the clients you work with?

AG: Realife Tech is a technology company that focuses on how to create better fan engagement experiences across sport and entertainment. We have a vision within the company – hence the name – that sport is the perfect area to create that better experience that you can then take into other areas of life and ultimately, our experience with the real and physical world can be better improved with technology. Sport and entertainment in particular provide that in a microcosm. How can you just use digital technology to remove those really annoying parts of the sports and entertainment and experience so you can just focus on enjoying great sport.

IS: You recently formed a partnership with Premier League outfit Southampton FC and have previously collaborated with Tottenham Hotspur. How did that come about?

AG: Fan engagement through mobile but with a particular focus on the stadium experience. That’s where our sweet spot is. How can you make it easier for people to get to a stadium, to get in – so they’re not having to queue – and to buy things when they’re there? It’s a big issue in football and rugby grounds. At half-time, you’ve got 40,000 people trying to go to 20 bars and it’s just not going to happen. But if you can use technology and you can use mobile ordering and get things to people’s seats, then many more people can enjoy something.

Especially nowadays for clubs, unless you’ve got a big media rights deal and you’re top of the Premier League, you rely on people in your stadium coming and spending money on tickets and beers and pies. It’s fairly simple stuff. How do you sell more? Just make it easier for them to get that stuff. That’s our ultimate goal.

IS: Is generating additional revenue for clubs, particularly during these turbulent times, one of the biggest motivators for approaching firms such as yourself?

AG: It’s a big driver. We work across all forms of sport and what we see across the board is that when you have a digital solution that works, people spend more because it’s easier. Therefore, you just end up spending more. You get a happier fan and you get more revenue. At a time when clubs and organisations have been decimated financially by COVID, generating more revenue is really important.

For every club, the need to create something relevant for a fan and have things they can engage with which is relevant and personal to them is really important. What our technology allows is an easy way for content to be filtered and personalised. Then the club can generate the content that they want to. It’s fantastic to see that there’s many clubs creating really great and engaging content. What they use us for is then ensuring that gets to the right segments of fans and the ability to use data in the right way.

We’re so used to it as digital consumers that the technologies that exist for us in this space, whether that be other sports apps or social media platforms, we are used to receiving content that is relevant to us and easy to consume. It therefore makes sense that when you really love something – as fans do with clubs – that they should have that understanding of you. More so than Instagram or Twitter or whatever else it might be, that they should be able to get that right content to you at the right time.

IS: The pandemic has accelerated the demand for digital solutions – initially for safety purposes and now sports supporters have got used to them – so that must have benefitted Realife Tech in some capacity…

AG: It’s been both good and bad. We are a company that pretty much operates exclusively in the sports, leisure and entertainment space when there are crowds. With no crowds, it means that people’s ability to pay us as a business is limited. However, getting over that short term over the last year has done exactly that. People now expect digital solutions. 

Fans were always people who would adopt. Fans are not customers, they are fans. They have a much stronger relationship so they’re always willing to adopt new things but now they expect that there should be less queuing, that it should be easier to get in and that there should be these solutions in place because their very safety is at stake.

It will only remain to be positive if the experience is better than it previously was. It’s one thing for COVID that will get people using something. For 30 years, people would have ordered a pint in the pub beforehand and then going off to the pub straight afterwards but how can you make it so they want to get into the stadium earlier and stay longer afterwards? This is the better experience. There’s a lot that can be done with technology in this space.

There’s a big responsibility on sports clubs to make sure that their operations work well with digital technology. Just throwing technology in and hoping it’s going to work, that’s where that focus needs to be.

IS: Can you tell us a bit more about the fan profiling techniques you utilise to boost fan engagement?

AG: If you’re looking at people’s patterns of behaviour, things that are common with sports fans is that they follow particular players or they look at particular rivalries with other clubs and if they are active on certain social media platforms, and there are certain profiles of fans. While everyone is unique and individual, there is a lot that can be done with understanding how a fan fits into a specific profile and being able to create content sets to those profiles. In essence, that’s the core of what our technology does. It allows you to create rules around if a fan does this or looks at this, then this type of content package works best for them.

IS: Looking forward, have you got any projects in the pipeline with the date now set in the diary for spectators to return to sporting venues?

AG: Our goal is two-fold. We’re working with Royal Ascot, for example, which is going to be the major event of the summer in terms of post-June opening time and we’re a key part of the digitisation of that. Prior to Christmas when things were opening up again just before lockdown, we did the Anthony Joshua fight at Wembley where everything went completely digital; entry and all ordering was only done via mobile, not even getting up and doing card. What was great about that and what we’re doing at Ascot and the Test matches at Edgbaston, is it enables you to safely control queues, not just for convenience.

IS: How have fans taken to these digital solutions and personalised experiences?

AG: The feedback we get, us as a company directly and through the clubs we work with, is more of an ‘at last’ type of thing. It’s the expectation that this should be personalised to us and there should be this knowledge of us as a fan. When that is received, it’s received really gratefully. We’ve had it at Spurs, at Southampton and we’ll be launching soon with Saracens. There is a real desire from fans to have this personalised approach that makes their life easier.

The future of sport and the future of the fan experience, will see more and more those annoyances can be removed. It becomes more and more frictionless that more people want to do it. You continue to get this growth. I think we’ll see more of that, along with more personalisation of content, and a focus on the digital space.