Start-up of the week: Sportego

27 Feb 2017

Image: Eugene Onischenko/Shutterstock

Our start-up of the week is Sportego, a Kilkenny-based tech firm that is revolutionising fan engagement and analytics for sports clubs.

“At Sportego, we are fan engagement specialists,” explained Sportego founder Trevor Keane.

“We provide a full range of fan engagement products and services to sports clubs.”

‘Our aim is to be the first and last stop for clubs when it comes to dealing with their fans’

Future Human

The Kilkenny company builds official apps and analyses fan and social data for clients, including the British and Irish Lions, Bournemouth AFC and West Bromwich Albion FC.

“Our club apps are designed not only to entertain fans, but also to gather data on them, their preferences and their behaviours.”

“Sportego then analyses this data so that the club gets a better picture of who their fans are, allowing them to tailor their marketing initiatives accordingly. We also analyse the impact of marketing and social activity, all with the aim of creating a better connection between the club and their fans.”

Keane has also masterminded a new UK and Ireland e-sports arena called the Celtic eSports League, focusing on a lucrative new genre that grew up around video games.

The Celtic eSports League, which has received the blessing of EA Sports, links top gamers with professional clubs from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales for a 14-round league.

E-sports is a huge growth area, and the Celtic eSports League is well positioned to grow and develop in the UK and Irish market.

The market

Keane said that the key focus is sports analytics.

“We are currently targeting professional football clubs in Europe, given that they are usually ahead of the curve in the area of fan engagement. To illustrate the point; five years ago, official club apps were unheard of and analytics departments were non-existent.

“Now, we see that Man City has three apps in the marketplace and has a large in-house analytics department. Having said that, we also see a large opportunity with secondary and minority sports as there is a massive opportunity for them to engage new fans and grow their following.

“The global sports analytics market is expected to grow from $123.7m in 2016 to $616.7m by 2021.

“Figures for the market size of fan engagement services as a whole are not available, but we estimate the serviceable addressable market in Europe to be €500m.”

The founders

Start-up of the week: Sportego

Sportego CEO Trevor Keane. Image: Sportego

Keane’s background is in financial services but the last seven years have seen him gravitate towards sport.

“I wrote for a number of sports websites and authored two books – Gaffers: 50 Years of Irish Football Managers and Running Through Walls: Dave Langan – before focusing on the digital side.

“I studied digital marketing courses as well as sports marketing courses at the Sports Business Institute Barcelona, and travelled to clubs to understand their fan challenges. I saw an opportunity in the fan engagement space and founded Sportego.”

Colm Ó Méalóid, COO of Sportego, has a background in the legal profession, having worked as a corporate solicitor in Dublin. He then enrolled and completed a master’s in sports management run by the International Centre for Sports Studies. Ó Méalóid also spent two and a half years working in the marketing department of the International Olympic Committee based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Donnacha Brennan has 11 years of experience working as financial adviser for Bank of Ireland and has worked with a number of websites in the areas of digital marketing and community management. Brennan has extensive experience in publishing, editorial, and content creation.

James Dickens has 15 years’ experience working in marketing analytics, having worked with media giants such as MediaCom and Group M. Dickens then founded Performalytics and has now agreed to head up Sportego’s analytics division.

The technology

“Our fan engagement products allow sports clubs to connect directly with their fans,” said Keane.

“Our app is a full-service club app with a range of features that can be tailored according to the client’s liking. We offer, among others, live streaming of content, fan quizzes and polls, gaming and even augmented reality features. The key strength of our technology is that it can be tailored according to the needs of the relevant club.

“Our technology then allows the club to easily segment fans and communicate with the various segments in different ways. It also uses geolocation technology to allow communication with fans, not only in specific countries, but in specific locations in those countries. This ensures the all-important tailored approach to fan engagement,” Keane said.

The goals

According to Keane, the ultimate goal is to become the market leader in fan engagement services.

“Our aim is to be the first and last stop for clubs when it comes to dealing with their fans. Some competitors provide technology solutions, others provide data analytics, and still others track marketing and social media initiatives.

“We believe that all three areas should not be looked at in isolation, and that a 360-degree approach should be taken. We are the only agency taking such an approach, allowing us to become a true fan engagement partner for clubs.”

Keane said that sports clubs are placing a large emphasis on fan engagement.

“While other industries have long ago realised the importance of giving back to the customer, sports teams may – in the past – have taken the loyalty of their fans for granted.

“In recent years, however, we have seen this change massively as sports teams are placing a huge focus on fan engagement to ensure that fan loyalty is nurtured. As a result, we have seen a real appetite in this area among sports teams in general.”

He added that Sportego is already working with Bournemouth AFC, where it has created an official fantasy app, and is carrying out social media analytics services for the British and Irish Lions, and Gymnastics Ireland.

“We are currently working on projects with a number of other entities and hope to announce further clients in the coming weeks.

“On the investment side, we hope to close a round of investment.

“Additionally, we are hosting Fan Engagement Conference Kilkenny, which takes place on March 29th and features panels across sports discussing social media, experiences in fan engagement, the fan experience and market trends.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years