AC Milan Interview Meet The Member

Meet the Member: “Sports clubs don’t choose what is interesting for fans, algorithms decide”

February 1, 2023

AC Milan are not only a historic football powerhouse, they are a club that is evolving rapidly with a new ground in the works, a league title last season and an ambitious digital strategy. To get a better understanding the iSportConnect Content Manager, Alex Brinton caught up with Lamberto Siega the Digital, Media & The Studios Director for AC Milan.

You have been at AC Milan for nearly five years now, how has your role changed in your time at the club?

Over the course of the past four years,  my role has changed and evolved in line with the turnaround that has affected the entire club.

In 2018, Milan was experiencing a complex financial and sporting situation and the owners at the time defined a clear plan dedicated to sustainable growth. The entire digital area – about 15 people at the time – was identified as a key enabler from both a commercial and branding development perspective and as a lever  to strengthen the relationship with fans.

Thus, the development of the Digital area was based on three key actions:

– Full internalisation of the Media House and integration with Milan TV

– Development of a state-of-the-art digital ecosystem

– Strong commercial focus

Internalisation and integration responded to the strategic choice of becoming the Club’s internal creative agency with the aim of maximising the use of resources, optimising productions for sponsors and editorial channels, reducing costs at the same time.

From this point of view, the creation of ‘The Studios’ (200 sqm TV studios located within the ACM headquarters) was also an important step forward.

The development of the digital ecosystem corresponded to the need – very relevant at the time – to have a fan-centric approach to maximise the potential of fans from an engagement and commercial point of view. In just a few months, we created the official app, re-launched the website, and developed a new CRM and Identity system and changed the ticketing providers, guaranteeing an integrated and seamless experience for fans.

Lastly, the commercial focus responded to the goal of being able to provide the Sales and Partnership teams an exclusive “branded content” capacity, without negatively impacting communication and brand positioning. This was a critical element considering the importance defined by top management for revenue growth.

Over time resources grew consistently (from about 15 people to +40) and my role evolved accordingly, from managerial / end-zone activity to supervisory / directive.

In particular, I concentrated my efforts on organisational and procedural aspects to ensure that the resources can be autonomous in the decision-making and grow professionally, trying to manage and reduce the natural higher complexity, avoiding new barriers and limits for the operational activities.

The club recently changed ownership, have the new owners meant any changes to the way you have been operating from a commercial / digital perspective?

What I can say is that the new owner has a clear portfolio of skills and relationships in the sports and commercial fields that will be an accelerator in all the club’s commercial and brand development projects, from retail to summer tours, from original content production to new partnership agreements.

Since you have been at AC Milan there has been some massive technological advances and new ways to digitally engage fans, what is your view of that change?

I believe that apart from the continuous evolution of personal devices, media consumptions and the “always connected” status, the real macro-phenomenon that is changing how to engage fans has been the massive success of Tik-Tok and its impact on all other social networks. Today it is not only the first SN (2.9 Bn users around the world vs. 2.4 of Youtube) but Tik-Tok has also radically changed the approach to content production (its fresh video format was the inspiration for Meta’s Reels and YouTube Shorts, after all), with the affirmation of new trends and the role of creators as drivers for building contents.

Sports clubs don’t choose what is interesting for fans, social trends enhanced by the algorithms (it can be a music, a dance, a behaviour) “dictates” how to build  content, choosing what works and what follows a specific trend. It is a radical change.

The new ground presents such an exciting opportunity for the club both on the field and fan experience off it, have you got any plans yet for this?

The stadium project is in a early planning stage, and it would be too soon to think about technologies and methods of engagement. Technologies and social behaviours could be radically different at the time of eventual implementation. It will certainly be key to generate additional revenues, affirm the brand identity and integrate fan experience both offline and online.

And looking forward what new ways do you think clubs will find to digitally engage fans?

It is quite evident that NFTs, Crypto and Metaverse represent the next generation of tools with which to engage fan communities.

If NFT and Crypto have already a clear market and value proposition for fan and sport entities – OneFootball, Sorare and Socios example above – role and degree of participation of clubs are not yet so evident. I believe that in the future we’ll play a deeper and more involved role in engaging fans in this area.

Similarly for the Metaverse, today there is not yet a real community and value added offer for fan for being in a sport club metaverse (which is mainly a gaming experience) but the massive development of B2C technologies (VR visors above all) and B2B ones (3D streaming Srenas) will radically change the way fans interact with us in that area.

Getting first party data from fans is really important when trying to customize experiences for fans, how much effort do you put into getting the data?

As reported, the creation of a state-of-the-art CRM is the basis of the possibility of collecting information and data on our fans. Ticketing, e-commerce and editorial platforms (apps for example) are perfectly integrated into this vision. It also true that to maximize commercial strategy first data are not enough and we need to have a clear presence and strategy on SMs not only to drive fans to our platforms (to collect data) but also to be able to generate revenues through external shops and platforms.

It is also important to create digital offerings that are attractive for sponsors, how do you do that?

Brand association is the key word here. Both sides need to start from the brand values, mutual goals and how a football club can help a sponsor: it could be about brand awareness, product visibility, e-commerce conversion, pure engagement. By working on these elements in a proactive and constructive way, a football club can create “packages” suited for creating value over time for both brands.

AC Milan Interview Meet The Member