Thanks to Jack Gillibrand from Soccer5s for sharing his insights into the social sport world of 5-a-side.
If you missed the conversations on the #ama channel, you can read the transcription here including the followup questions from other members.
Q. seancallanan: I'll kick things off how do you market Soccer5s to potential players? How does it fit in the football ecosystem?
A. Jack GIllibrand: Hi everyone! Thanks for the invitation to join this weeks AMA @seancallanan
I was definitely expecting that first question!
1. Well as you can imagine, 5-a-side & social soccer can be targeted at a huge audience, as anyone can play it and we register players from the lowest to the highest ability as well as age groups from juniors through to over 55s. Therefore we have to deliver our marketing across multiple platforms which isn't always the easiest. In saying that, our biggest participation comes from the 18-34 year old age groups and these are usually targeted through social media primarily on Facebook and Instagram. Soccer5s has been built very much so on Facebook. However we need to be constantly creating content in order to keep our audience engaged. Videos have been super successful so storytelling and highlights are our definitely what we want to deliver to our audience
When we target the other age groups we've found the most success has come from partnerships with football associations, community clubs, groups or businesses.
We also still use a few traditional methods, whether that be a flyer drop on an annual basis to local residents, posters in community hubs or even activating at local events, festivals and schools. We've attracted alot of juniors to our facilities through our coaching programs & kids parties which in turn gets parents involved and back playing too!
2. In the football ecosystem in Australia we exist as a social enterprise catering for the all year round soccer player offering multiple grades but offering a professional experience for the social player. We want them to feel like a pro, playing on the best 5-a-side facility, as close to the real game with their mates!
All our leagues primarily play in the evenings mid week so the convenience & less commitment factors vs traditional 11-a-side soccer is becoming more and more popular. The demand is telling us people want the “same time, same place” which is great for venues like us as we can offer that, which traditional soccer cannot. Plus there is no mud and it's never called off, even in the rain!
Hope that helps answer your questions Sean and gives everyone a bit of insight.
Q. James Newman: Hi @Jack Gillibrand what motivated you to start a sports management platform? Did you find existing member and competition management systems didn’t meet your needs?
A. Jack GIllibrand: Hi James
There were a number of reasons for starting the platform. I first started playing 5-a-side at the age of 12 at school and was obsessed! Then heading into management which is nearly a decade within the industry now, I feel I know from both sides what it takes and what it needs, as a player & as a business.
I have the day to day frustrations from a management perspective, and i've absolutely no doubt other venues across the world have this, finding the ALL-IN-ONE system which can do “everything” and I mean, do everything. Which in the real world is a monster of a system, and doesn't exist…yet.
We've looked at various systems, and to be fair Australia does provide a fantastic range but not the monster I was looking for, so breaking it down – it needs to be ticking the boxes for all the stakeholders involved. Along with my co-founder we've scoped out what we think the social sport industry needs, here's a brief;
1.The business itself to run day to day operations clean & effectively including comp management, client management, marketing, staff & player communication, storage, document management, online registration and so on
2. A Referee app – have a real time scoring app which allows refs to enter scores as the games happen which talks to the competition management platform and the players
3. A Player app – increase player experience at the venue by having an app to manage player profiles, manage teams, register teams, track real time player stats and player history, player rating, team communication, team payments
Some existing platforms offer components we've been looking for, so we've looked into how we can partner and tap into like minded existing apps to “plug-in” with their api.
Let me know if that answers those questions James, thanks for the question
Q. andrewwaltonx: Hello @Jack Gillibrand and thanks for being available here.
1. There seemed to be a burst of growth for a few years in outdoor small sided football centres in Australia. What is your view or knowledge of the current landscape and how does Soccer5's see their growth strategy please?
2. What is the gap that Matchday fills?
3. How would you estimate the market size in Australia (as many sports have attempted to grow in the social space with differing traction) and who is serving it (and best)?
4. How progressed is Matchday as a digital tool, is it used internally at this stage?
A. Jack GIllibrand: fantastic to hear from you. Good questions!
1. The current landscape isn't exactly booming in terms of growth of new outdoor ssf centres similar to Soccer5s. Soccer5s for example costs $4m so that would explain why many wouldn't be popping up. There are 6 centres of our size in the country, Soccer5s has 2 of them (other location on Central Coast, NSW) which is the biggest centre in the world for # of team per week at 450.
However, we've seen much smaller versions of centres (1-4 pitches) pop up across Australia which is positive. For Soccer5s, we are actively looking at new areas more so in Melbourne currently to build centres using a 4-6 pitch system and bar, having our current Dandenong centre as the flagship. In the next 10 year we would like to think we have a couple of centres in Melbourne, growth into 2 states being QLD & WA.
2. As I mentioned to James previous, Matchday fills the void of the “all in one” system. Managing the operations of centre i'm using multiple platforms everyday which isn't good enough and those frustrations are carried over to how Captains manage teams, how they make payments, how a ref manages scores, how a spectator views live scores, how the bar can provide notifications about specials & offers.
Matchday is coming to a point shortly where we're looking to raise to bring an MVP to pilot at Soccer5s. We've spent a lot of hours around our FT jobs in recent years scoping and designing the platform. Hopefully by this Summer we can show you what all them hours have gone into.
3. In terms of market size, it's so hard to gage as the social player doesn't always register with an association typically, only the private business, who as you say are generally just 1 centre or hire multiple local facilities like schools, colleges etc to run leagues across the week. But there are plenty of venues across the country with NSW & VIC in particular catering for social sport demand. We definitely think growth is similar to that ok the UK where there are around 80-90 purpose built facilities like Soccer5s. We feel the trend will see more people playing socially rather than organised sport clubs.
Basketball Associations (offering both social and club) in particular year round we know are absolutely smashing it in terms of registered players and teams so we're looking at them for sure.
Indoor Cricket & Indoor Netball isn't far if not on par with Basketball either from what we are aware, franchises like Indoor Sports/Action Indoor Sports (I believe has around 30 centres on their portfolio which is HUGE) are still at capacity year round but also offering multi -sport like volleyball (even with indoor beaches) which is great to see.
For us, within the 5-a-side market, we are the biggest provider in Australia. In 2018/19 Summer across just 2 locations we had just under 700 teams registered and playing weekly which from my knowledge isn't matched by a singular business.
In terms of who is doing best, I couldn't comment if I'm honest as I haven't spent enough time in them all. However for me, whoever is doing it best usually has the player journey and player experience down to a tee, to ensure everyone gets not only the best experience but a consistent one week in week out.
Thanks a lot Andrew for the questions, hope provides some insight, had to take a bit of time out to get these ones to you!
Q. liambednarski: What are some of the biggest ‘pain points’ for your customers? How are you using technology to manage these currently?
A. Jack GIllibrand: Great to hear from you @liambednarski, thank you for the question.
Biggest pain points
1. Registering a team – if your a returning customer
2. Payment for team – dealing with multiple payments from individuals
3. Live scoring & timers
5. Team communications
6. Videos & Highlights of games and players
How are we dealing with them
1. We try and manage that in the back end if a captain wants to re-register – due to having T&C in our contracts when you sign up a team we need a digital signature or written agreement as a simple verbal agreement is no longer enough. Therefore we provide direct links (using bit.ly) to register a team which has simplified the process and eliminated steps however its still not the most streamlined.
2. Team & Individuals are still trying to organise themselves right to the last second for payments. Just having an ATM on site and being able to accept all forms of card/apple pay/payments through apps makes it easier for people for sure.
3. Live Scoring & Timers – we haven't got a complete solution just yet and it's something we're hoping to solve soon. We've looked at scoreboards but they do bring their problems as we require 20 of them to upkeep across our 2 venues…all or nothing. There are some great apps which we get our refs to use such as RefLive. We get our scores uploaded as soon as the ref finishes their schedule so our teams can view asap.
4. Stats – we've used old school methods on paper and excel spreadsheets and transferred to artwork to publish however being time poor this isn't a long term fix. It's an unsolved pain point.
5. Team Communications – from us to the team we use email, text and whatsapp which work well. We've looked at brands of apps but with the quick turnaround of leagues it's quite tough for us to set it up constantly. Teams however as what apps and how to organise themselves better and we let them know what's out there from what we know
6. We've looked into a couple of systems to record and publish games but cost wise has proved too expensive install so we've used Facebook & Instagram to go live on featured games. Plus we've used Drones and OSMO to record highlights for marketing and featured games as well as special events.
I'm sure there are a lot more pain points but that's a bit of insight for you, thanks for the questions.
Learn more about Soccer5s at soccer5s.com
Thanks also to all who participated in the discussions and asked their questions. Watch out for the next Sports Geek Nation AMA.