In a more digitised world where entertainment is more important than ever, football clubs are looking to build closer connections with fans through technology, offering different and unique experiences that bring supporters closer to the action.
Real Sociedad has a stated aim to convert its new Anoeta home into a ‘smart stadium’ and already has an impressive technology infrastructure in place. But with the introduction of its new ‘smart scarf,’ it has provided its following with something truly unique.
The San Sebastian club wanted to pay tribute to its 'One Club Man' initiative, which honours the players who have spent their careers with the same team. By purchasing the One Club Man scarf, which comes equipped with NFC technology, followers can access a world of exclusive offers at the touch of a button.
By downloading the club’s Realzale application, then activating the ‘One Club Man Tag', fans can use their phone to scan the NFC chip embedded in the scarf. Through real-time notifications pushed by the club, users of the technology can win prizes, VIP experiences or receive real-time discounts throughout the matchday.
"The smart scarf is one of the eleven initiatives identified within the Sport Thinker Smart Stadium programme, which is carried out with Microsoft,” said Juan Iraola, Head of Digital Transformation at the club. “This initiative offered us a different way of interacting with our fans, uniting the offline and online worlds."
The main objective of the project, Iraola notes, "is to improve the interaction with our fans and provide them with technological tools that enrich their relationship with the club." Beyond real-time notifications, the club plans to incorporate a host of new experiences into the technology over the coming years, starting with the ability to access the stadium and parking facilities.
Developed by the Australian company Solos, together with the Basque club, the application was introduced into the Anoeta for the final game of the 2018/19 season against Real Madrid, receiving a “magnificent” reaction, according to Iraola.
One of the first experiences that fans could win was a VIP seat for a future game, alongside two of the club’s legends and ‘one club men,’ Bixio Górriz and Xabi Prieto.
“It’s not every day that you can experience a game with two of your idols and in a special area of the stadium,” Iraola added. “The most rewarding aspect of these technological innovations, without a doubt, is the positive reaction of the people.”
While the scarf has been the first club garment created with wearable technology, the club does not rule out that more will follow. "We started with a scarf, which is a symbol of the pride that our fans feel when wearing our colours and links to legends of the past,” remarked Iraola.
“But, of course, it can be applied to other products or garmets. There are many possibilities.”
The reform of Anoeta, which continues through this summer, has brought with it a world of opportunities for Real Sociedad in the field of technology. The club will continue working on improving the fan experience but will work in step with fans to bring these changes about.
Iraola adds that there will probably be "more surprises in the short and medium term" but that fans will also need to adjust. “It will take time to build a technology culture among fans and for them to internalise that, through technology, your experience in Anoeta will improve exponentially," he adds.
However, the future of La Real is clearly intertwined with technology and will play a significant role in growth across all areas of the club.
“These projects will provide us with new ways to communicate with fans, control systems for energy consumption, solutions for the maintenance of facilities, management of new hospitality areas, content generation, virtual reality or 360 degree videos”, Iraola concludes.
“A new field has opened up with thousands of opportunities and we will explore them to the fullest.”