Paul Hanrahan
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On the surface, the Scottish arts and European football are worlds apart, but the beautiful game has a lot of lessons that the Scottish arts can learn from.

The beautiful game – art in motion 

Last week in Germany I witnessed participatory art in motion. It was at a football stadium watching Darmstadt SV. The football fanatics had organised a ‘choreography’ or ‘choreo’ to show support for their town at a sold out event. It struck me that football has marked similarities with arts and culture in Scotland. For big sporting events, the opportunities for cultural organisations are evident. What can we learn? And what do we do that is similar? Here are my observations.

Data-Driven Campaigns

A Dutch Football Club – AZ Alkmaar – are leading the way in data-driven marketing by sending personalised emails based on loyalty and survey results. For example, season ticket holders no longer receive annoying promotional emails about forthcoming matches they are already attending. In addition, past match attendees receive an email on their birthday that contains an offer to receive a discounted ticket or piece of merchandise. The team also uses post-match survey feedback about their favourite player in a very exciting way. During winter 2017, the favourite player data was used to send a personalised e-card from their favourite player to each fan with an offer for tickets. These initiatives have caused a marked increase in attendance.

What can we learn? A data-driven approach, alongside segmented messages and a good Client Relationship Management (CRM) system, will improve your chances of increasing the number of attendances at your performance or venue. Personal touches from survey data can go a long way.

Diversity & Demography

Back to the Darmstadt match: the stadium seemed less divided than most Scottish grounds I have visited in terms of gender split, race and age. Some Darmstadt fans are also particularly well-known for championing diversity – previous choreography had displays welcoming refugees, as well as anti-homphopia, anti-sexism and anti-racism messages.

What can we learn? A diverse audience is beneficial for the arts too, as our case studies with several Scottish organisations have shown. If you want to make your art more welcoming to different groups of people, then our population profiles are a good place to start. They provide you with a clear view of some of the key diversity issues that face Scotland and our arts and cultural organisations.

Website, tickets and transport

Although Darmstadt are a small club, purchasing a ticket on their website was a trouble-free experience, and I was able to choose my seat so that I could be as close to the action as possible. In fact, almost every page is driving you to buy a ticket. Price caps mean that football is very affordable in Germany – most of the football teams are majority fan owned, so fan groups have a say on the prices, which results in tickets remaining affordable for all. Another great aspect is that purchasing a ticket gives you free access to local transport. A short tram ride brought us to the stadium for free.

What can we learn? The prominence of merchandise, tickets, season passed was prominent throughout every page on the website – try making it as similarly easy for your attendees to book tickets. Oh, and free transport to the stadium – I don’t know of any organisation that offers free transport to their venue?

Social Media

I follow many football teams on social media. Most of the images and videos that they post are focused on the audience and not the sport: lots of photos, videos and GIFS of fans enjoying the experience.  The players and the stadium are secondary to the audience. Interviews tend to be very conversational and jovial in tone and tends.

What can we learn? The focus on audience not art in your social activity may be beneficial. A conversational tone of voice in your communications will help.

Main image credit: Photo by Paul Hanrahan.