Increasing fan engagement, driven by a new app for the RBFA

PwC worked with the RBFA on its digital transformation to develop an app that delivers digital, personal and 24/7 fan and player engagement

The challenge

With the Belgian Red Devils flying high in the FIFA rankings, PwC was delighted to be approached by the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) to support it and its digital transformation over a three-year period. Seeking to communicate more digitally, more personally and 24/7 with the broader Belgian football community, PwC was assigned the exciting task to develop a brand-new digital platform for the federation. 

Manu Leroy Director of RBFA

“At first sight, it might have seemed that this was a relatively simple project - creating a football app. In fact, it was pretty complex. PwC had to manage competing demands from two sides. On the one hand there were expectations from IT, whose priority was to provide a functional app for players, while the marketing team was looking for fan engagement features to entertain and attract a broader group of users. The team from PwC consulting handled this balancing act extremely well, pulling in all parties to work together towards a common goal.”

Manu Leroy, Marketing and Communications Director at the RBFA

Digitisation and gamification 

The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) is the largest sports federation in Belgium. It services and insures more than half a million members and 4,000 clubs. It is also, among others, the home of two national teams - the Belgian Red Devils and the Belgian Red Flames.

Recognising that technology has become an integral part of modern football, the federation set out an ambitious three-year strategic plan for its digital transformation.

“Football fans now expect a personal experience. Our goal is to be able to communicate more digitally, more personally and 24/7 with the broader Belgian Football family.”

Manu Leroy, Marketing and Communications Director at the RBFA
Manu Leroy marketing and communications director at rbfa

Through digitalisation and gamification the Belgian Football Association’s goal is to stimulate commercial growth over the coming years so that it can continue to invest in Belgian football.

“Our new digital platform should be the go-to destination for the Belgian football ecosystem and a central enabler of the RBFA strategy. Our dream is to offer our customers a combination of Netflix, Strava and Tomorrowland. We want to entertain, inform and inspire. We want to make a positive impact in people’s lives, giving everyone the opportunity to get involved with football, whatever their age, gender, or level of interest. And naturally we want to make it as easy as possible for fans to buy tickets to watch their national men’s and women’s teams play,”
Manu continues.

Developing a new app from scratch

Central to this drive towards increased engagement with stakeholders and commercial growth was the development of a mobile strategy and a new RBFA app. For this, the federation approached the Technology Consulting team at PwC Advisory.

“The existing RBFA app failed on many levels in terms of user experience. There was no single sign-on for the different platforms, no video, no personalisation, no possibility to buy tickets and most of all, no fun! PwC drew up a plan that not only delivered a highly functional and user-friendly app, but also promised to deliver on customer journey and experience,” recalls Xavier Verhaeghe, the technology consulting partner who led the project at PwC.

“We chose PwC because of the strength of their consultancy. They didn’t think in terms of just developing an app but looked at the bigger picture with us. They provided benchmarks, best practices and innovative ideas. The result is an app that caters for the needs of our 500,000 members, whether they are players, referees, or the parents of youngsters playing in the amateur leagues. We compared it to developing the perfect Swiss army knife - just the right number of tools, not too few, and not too many!” Manu Leroy

 

xavier technology consulting partner pwc

“With four companies working on the project and ten technologies to combine on the front end, the smooth running of the project may have been doubted by some! In fact, the opposite was true. Successes and failures were shared by everyone involved. It was a truly collaborative effort, and the positive team spirit ensured an app that was delivered on time, on budget and met all the client’s expectations. Features are still being added, dynamically improving the digital experiences along the way.” Xavier Verhaeghe

 

Emotions are the new currency of a data driven customer experience

Rather than approaching the design of the new app from a purely technical and commercial perspective, PwC drew up a plan around the concept ‘Sell emotions, not tickets’. This unique approach brought together business, experience and technology (BXT) and allowed PwC to look at the business and technology aspects of the transformation journey through the lens of the user experience, right from the start.

To realise the RBFA’s ambition to provide entertaining, personalised content with commercial possibilities, PwC combined and leveraged data and analytics, mobile development and transformation expertise. PwC led the transformation and launch of the entire project, working closely with other external service providers. Devoteam, already a partner at the RBFA, was perfectly positioned to take on the D&A aspect, ACA IT-Solutions joined the team to build the user-friendly mobile application and Fanpictor was selected to provide the fan engagement platform. Software company Kaltura was the chosen supplier for the video platform.

The importance of knowing your customer

Creating an engaging user experience for fans and a happy customer journey starts with knowing your customer. Six key personas were identified for the app including fans, players, referees and football club owners.

To understand what these different stakeholders expect from a digital platform and how it should look, PwC organised workshops, attended by around one hundred participants. This resulted in a mobile first strategy and an app designed to meet the needs and interests of all stakeholders, one that can evolve with Belgian Football over the coming years.

 

Dare to challenge

Another factor in this successful collaboration was that PwC would question what RBFA had in mind if they believed there was a better way of doing things. 

“We didn’t just execute what the client told us to do. Instead, we looked at the objective, and then asked ourselves, what is the best way to achieve this? This openness to being challenged creates an incredibly strong collaborative spirit,” Xavier Verhaeghe enthuses. 

Manu Leroy agrees “This approach worked really well. We ran surveys and focus groups in the first phase to check our assumptions were correct. Our global idea remained more or less the same but thanks to PwC there were some changes in how we achieved certain aspirations.”

 

Manu leroy Xavier verhaeghe

Delivering a more engaging user experience

The new app went live in March 2021. The first interactive feature was a ‘predict the score’ competition for the European Football championship. Video content features prominently and fans can now take part in quizzes and competitions as well as buy tickets and merchandise. They can also consult the statistics - goals, red/yellow cards, teams - of their favourite players.

‘My zone’ offers, amongst other things, an easy way for the user to alert the RBFA if a user witnesses or is the victim of discrimination or a bad experience. Tackling discrimination and fostering a positive culture around football is a central tenet of the RBFA’s strategy and so this was a vital component of the app.

The development team also introduced a novel way for users to send feedback on the app or ask a question. With a simple flick of the wrist a screen pops up offering the possibility to submit a question or suggestion or report a bug.

“PwC gave us more than a functioning app; they developed an emotional link between the Belgian football federation and the wider football community in Belgium. Their unique approach of combining technology, business and customer experience strengthens the bond between our national teams, fans and stakeholders,” affirms Manu Leroy, Communications & Marketing Director at the RBFA.

 

manu leroy rbfa director marketing

This is just the beginning

PwC’s collaboration with the RBFA runs until the end of 2022. The app is still in its infancy, and there is much more to come to increase fan engagement. The new app is just one part of the RBFA’s strategic plan, built on four main pillars: football first, internal culture, digital transformation and commercial growth. 

“PwC promised to deliver a more engaging experience with all the stakeholders and they delivered. For future consultancy needs, PwC will be our first port of call,” Manu Leroy concludes.

 

Contact us

Xavier Verhaeghe

Xavier Verhaeghe

Partner, Technology Consulting, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 495 59 08 40

Bart Vossen

Bart Vossen

Director, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 473 45 55 56

Connect with PwC Belgium