Making football digital

The most widely watched sporting event, the World Cup, comes to an end this weekend with the allure of a brand new name being carved into history. But, while the tournament has been a success to some extent, the lack of digital utilisation has stood out as a sore point.

OK, so this isn’t necessarily the biggest topic in digital marketing right now. But, the sensitive issue of goal-line technology has been a constant talking point (ever since THAT Lampard goal that wasn’t).

I did a quick e-mail survey amongst digital marketers using Twitter and the overwhelming result was that football needs to become a digital tool on its own.

With technology becoming the cornerstone of marketing globally (note that all the Cannes speeches expressed this sentiment yet again), it’s surely time for the FA and FIFA to put aside dreams of the traditional game, and move into the 21st century (much like most marketers have done).

Or as one respected head of digital put it to me: “What’s the use of all the if only’s or it could so easily have been? In the same way as a brand needs to move into the 21st century and be seen to be embracing new communication methods, so football needs to progress to the same standards as the likes of Grand Slam tennis tournaments, utilising technology to boost fairness and keep things modern.”

It’s heartening to see that Sepp Blatter has realised the error of his ways and has pledged to re-investigate the use of technology in football. Goal-line technology is back on the agenda after Fifa revealed this World Cup is set to be the last tournament under the existing refereeing system.

From a marketing point of view, it was interesting to see that sports technology firm Hawk-Eye has offered to install goal-line technology in every Premier League ground free of charge, in exchange for lucrative sponsorship fees.

And this week there was the interesting speculation that Facebook would take over duties as the new major sponsor of the England team, though the social network quickly rebuffed this.

In a statement, the company says: “Facebook is not in talks with the England football team regarding sponsorship. I don’t know where it has come from but it is not true. It’s bizarre. We obviously work with lots of different brands and the FA have used the Facebook platform and the England team have a page. We’ve obviously been talking to them about those sorts of things, just like any other brand.”

Good to see some sort of football spirit in digital world. But now, I’d like to join all the digital agencies I’ve spoken to in calling for you to write to Sepp Blatter and lobbying for a digital-embracing football. The templates can easily be found, and in the same way that the digital revolution is having a major impact on marketing, so it should do to football.

Enjoy the final!

PS: Congratulations to the British Interactive Media Association winners of the Schools Digital Challenge 2010: The three winning schools, Baxter College, Kidderminster, Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham and Homewood School & Sixth Form Centre, Tenterden, Kent. Yet another demonstration of student marketers paving the way for the future.

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