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Guide | August 11, 2021

How 2 Football Clubs Kicked Off their Digital Transformation

On the face of it, there are few things more low-tech than a football match.

Twenty-two people chasing a ball around a field for 90 minutes is how the game has been played for more than a century, and you could be forgiven for thinking that football clubs don’t need to be able to tell the difference between JavaScript and SEO to score success. The off-pitch reality, however, is an altogether different story.

As the European football season kicks off this week, clubs across the continent are not only ironing the jerseys, trimming the grass, and preparing the half-time oranges (or more likely, isotonically enhanced sports drinks), they’re ramping up their digital offerings for their fanbases.

Every professional football club recognizes the need to offer fans a high-quality digital experience, from retail to ticketing and providing content to consume. Aside from the vast amounts of money to be made (the European football market was worth almost $34 billion in 2018/2019 per Statista) it’s vitally important to keep fans engaged with the club. Fans have huge emotional attachments to their teams, which is a big advantage for a football club commercially, but also a huge responsibility when it comes to offering digital experiences.

Let’s take a look at two examples of top clubs that entrusted the heavy responsibility of their digital transformation with our platform partners and have reaped the rewards.

Celtic Scores eCommerce Goal With Magento


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Celtic's online store in its fully glory.


Celtic FC is one of the world’s best-supported football clubs, with supporters across the planet living and dying by “The Bhoys” results. Based in Glasgow, Scotland but with longstanding links to Ireland and the Irish diaspora, Celtic’s hooped jersey is iconic the world over and chances are no matter where you hail from, you’ve probably seen it at least once.

However, a few years back, that brand recognition was going largely to waste as the club’s web store was performing far below the level of the team on the pitch. Hamstrung by an inflexible site operated by a third-party eCommerce platform, Celtic looked to Magento Commerce to right the ship and turn around a losing situation, much as they did this summer past by hiring Australian manager Ange Postecoglou.

Near the top of Celtic’s wishlist was a store capable of allowing fans to visualize what their name looked like on a jersey before buying it, while the club also wanted to have more control over customer inquiries, printing, and order fulfillment by moving operations in-house. Perhaps most importantly though, Celtic wanted increased agility to customize the store based on results on the pitch, which is a no-brainer really, as what fan wants to see a Scott Brown shirt for sale after he’s already left the club?

The transition to Magento Commerce achieved all this and more, with features like a “shop by player” option, which allowed fans to find every product related to their favorite player, proving a big hit. The new site was designed with a mobile-first approach to better fit with how the majority of Celtic’s fans accessed the website, while the new personalized shirt feature improved the buying experience by allowing fans to see their customization on the product thanks to the use of bespoke JavaScript on the front end. Most important though was Magento Commerce’s ability to allow Celtic to test the functionality of the site before launch to ensure kick-off went smoothly.

The results spoke for themselves. The website launch coincided with the release of a new away kit which drove a spike in traffic that the site had no issues handling, while average order value rose 25 percent higher than Celtic’s target, resulting in a 4% revenue bump. Best of all, Celtic now has full control over an agile web store and a better link to fans.

Check out how you too can score some eCommerce goals with Magento here.

Saints Go Marching In With Sitecore


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Southampton FC's website prominently displays the Saints Live feature.

In 2016, after having consolidated its position as a top-six English Premier League club and qualifying for European football, Southampton FC wanted to capitalize on this sporting success in the digital realm. Unfortunately for those in the Saints’ marketing team, using the website run using the Football League Interactive Platform was downright hellish. When this contract expired and Southampton’s website was a free agent, Sitecore was the obvious choice for a new CMS.

The club aimed to have fans coming back to the website again and again, which meant competing with online news media outlets for clicks and experience. Sitecore was chosen as the CMS as it has all the features necessary to create a scalable, stable, and rich content platform, advantages best demonstrated by the website’s “SaintsLive” feature. Instead of a traditional static homepage, SaintsLive is akin to a social media feed or timeline, offering a stream of continuous updates combing editorial articles, videos, photo galleries, social media posts, and more. This keeps fans engaged by offering them a steady diet of high-quality content on all things Southampton.

Sitecore xDB was also a key tool in Southhampton’s arsenal, as it allowed the club to build rich data profiles of its fans. This meant the club could understand who its most engaged fans were and therefore personalize their experience on the website to boost session time, repeat visits and drive revenue by offering sponsors the opportunity to target their advertising campaigns more effectively.

The move to Sitecore took Southampton from the Championship to the Premier League in terms of website experience, and sessions soon increased 23.6%, repeat visits went up 27% and video engagement soared by 88%.

See how Sitecore can transform your website here.

Gotta Have Faith

Ask any diehard football supporter and they’ll tell you that faith is a huge part of why they follow their beloved team through thick and thin. In some ways, football runs on faith, so it says a lot that the people at Celtic and Southampton put their faith and trust in Magento and Sitecore to maintain the all-important club-fan relationship.

Both clubs reaped the rewards of working with our partners, find out how you can as well here.

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