Where do we get our identity from? Our feeling of self-belonging within ourselves and amongst the environment around us. At Livewire, our identity comes from the community around us. The dedicated connection and communication with our local community are the elements that attracted us to sponsor our local football club, AFC Totton Football Club, five years ago.
Founded in 1886, AFC Totton has always focused on enriching its local community. From the partnership with Team Spirit to supporting local children and charity football matches. AFC Totton’s activities on and off the pitch not only caught our attention, but that of Premier League team Southampton FC. (Who use AFC Totton’s first-class facilities for their women’s and men’s B team matches).
After talking to the club’s board a few years ago; and hearing their plans for growth on and off the pitch. It was clear to us that their digital presence did not reflect the ambition.
Initially, we helped by updating the website as a short-term measure. However, we knew for AFC Totton to reach their desired objectives, what was really needed was a complete brand repositioning.
After discussing how the club has the potential to improve its digital presence. We at Livewire offered to provide the project as sponsorship. Working in community-based projects fits side by side with our strong environmental and ESG beliefs.
Pre-pandemic, the football club was being tipped for promotion, having signed new players and management team. This was our signal to start the new branding. First, we set about bringing consistency across all channels as well as creating a new website.
At any level of football, a vital way to connect with the fans, sponsors and the wider community is through a club website, supported by social channels to increase campaign reach. The website needed to convey the club’s football-related information and the broader range of community, charity-based and commercial activity the football club conducts.
To effectively communicate a wealth of information to their fans; AFC Totton required new branding, a bespoke website, and a new social media strategy. Something we were happy to undertake as part of our support towards the club.
Previously, the site was slow and time-consuming to update. All fixtures, results and table standings data required manual imputing onto the website. Additionally, there was no area to communicate upcoming events and activities happening at the club.
We were all too excited to work on a project with near-total creative freedom to tailor all aspects of the new website to AFC Totton’s fans (As we are one ourselves).
When designing the AFC Totton website, we wanted to expand their connection within the community by providing easily accessible information. We achieved this with bespoke design focused on opening lines of communication specific to Totton AFC's needs. Aspects included a new ‘news’ area with regular, relevant updates across the entire club’s activities.
To improve time management and effectiveness we automated the fixtures, results, and table standings elements. This change has increased efficiency, now the information published on the site allows fans to monitor the club’s standings and, of course, how the competition is doing. Since automating fixtures, more time has been freed up for personnel who originally would be manually updating all of this information one line at a time. Now able to reach football fans' high expectations, Totton can post/update vital information as soon as it is available.
The new website is built on our preferred platform, Concrete CMS. Which is designed for easy training, Totton AFC’s personnel can update and add content themselves. Part of Livewire’s philosophy is to encourage our client’s independence and control over their digital products.
We find that customers who have capability and control over their bespoke products are happier, something we think shows through in their end product. When reading through Totton AFC’s website, you can tangibly feel the pride and dedication through their own written words.
Finally, by improving the website's design and user experience by providing fans quick access to the vital information on the home page and (mainly) above the folder. Fans can easily access the AFC Totton TV YouTube channel, the Twitter feed, next game details, league tables standings, and full results all from the home page. And, of course, the all-important ‘buy tickets now’ button.
The result is a modern, easy to navigate, visually pleasing digital experience that conveys important information effectively. Most football clubs at this level use template websites that do a good job but are not quite like a bespoke built solution. Every client has unique needs and we believe a website should be built to match that.
When researching, we found there was room to improve the social media content to drive engagement. To improve Totton's strategy effectively we focused on branding to build their presence with their online fan base.
The club used Twitter the most to communicate with their fan base. However, this was fairly limiting. The branding and visual assets were disparate and inconsistent. So, we set about carrying the new branding through to this channel and applying it to the already established Facebook page that was being run by a volunteer fan. Football fans consume their media in different ways; like most businesses, the football club must meet these requirements. So, content is produced specifically for each digital channel with assets to complement, so the experience for the fans is optimised. Content has recently extended to Instagram and is set to soon include TikTok.
The key to broadcasting diverse content is to include all things football, fixtures, results, interviews, match reports and much more. Our strategy is to create short content on social that gives the fans the material they want quickly with the option to ‘click’ through to the website for more information. The main aim of the social channels is to provide the correct information to the fans quickly and easily.
Growth in the Community
Since the new website and social channels were launched, a focus on community-based activities has helped drive an increase in followers, fans, sponsors and charity partners. A most recent achievement is local residents, who do not football but now follow the club for the community announcements and activities such as charity events and the various seasonal campaigns. Activities in recent years include Secret Santa for local underprivileged children, free meals for kids following Marcus Rashford’s campaign and most recently, the club was the main COVID vaccine centre for the area.
Though the connection to Southampton FC, their Women’s team play their games at Totton’s stadium, it has introduced the football club to an entirely new audience of women of all ages, who now also engage with AFC Totton’s footballing exploits.
Off the pitch, the club has a range of charity campaigns, all focussed on raising money for local good causes, and in a recent charity match against the Ex-Saints that includes local hero Matthew Le Tissier, the club raised over £10,000 for two local charities. The fans really do come together for the local community as well as the club.
Plans for the future
The club is building a full media team that includes digital, radio, YouTube, local and national media to deliver content to more fans in more ways, and more sponsors, therefore more money that will continue to support the local community and build the club to build a long term, sustainable football club.
AFC Totton has been at the top of the Pitching in Southern League Division One table and are citing promotion to the Premier division for the 2021/22 season.