Case Study: The Football Fan - From Passion to Living

John Manny is a devoted Arsenal football supporter. He has held a season ticket for the last ten years. His dream has always been to make a living that enables him to pursue his passion for the club.
After reading a book about setting up a subscription website, he decided that this was the perfect opportunity for him to pursue his dream.
At the time, he had been working as a marketing manager, living near to Highbury, Arsenal’s football ground.
He didn’t know much about the internet but was confident about his ability to write readable and well-informed articles about the club.
As a dedicated fan, he felt that he really knew his audience and what they were interested in.

Getting Started

John quickly decided on a name for the site, Arsenal Insider, and bought the domain name. He put together a business plan that outlined what he wanted to charge members to join (£4.95/month or £49/year) and how many members he hoped to sign up (Year 1 – 750, Year 2 – 1,500, Year 3 - 2,250).
He then listed his costs, which weren’t very high, as he planned to work from home on a desktop computer that he already owned. The real costs were his start-up costs (building the website, buying a new printer, etc.) and then the ongoing marketing expenses.
He set about putting together his website content plan and marketing plan. These are the highlights.

 What the website will cover

1)                  He put together a list of the topic areas that the site will cover. His competitive advantage was that he was completely independent from the club and therefore he could be controversial and outspoken. He also knew a lot of club insiders, including one of the player scouts, the grounds men, the changing room staff and a team chef. This would provide some great insider information. Other content included:
a.       Match reports by the fans
b.      Thoughts on fixtures
c.       Results
d.      Rumour mill (player scandal, new players, players leaving, etc.)
e.       Members Discussion forum to allow fans to exchange views
f.        Guest Writers – Players, commentators, celebrities, journalists, etc.
g.       (Anonymous) Thoughts from inside the club
h.       Interviews (players, manager, directors, fans, etc.)
i.         Cartoons and jokes (particularly about other clubs and teams)
j.        Information about away football grounds (maps, parking, hotels, pubs, etc.)
k.      Feature articles
                                                               i.      The real Club history
                                                             ii.      Interesting stories
                                                            iii.      Etc.
2)                  He wrote a content plan for the next three months
3)                  He talked to potential contributors and got commitment for the first three months' worth of content.
This preparation gave him a good idea about what the site would cover, and just as importantly, what it would not cover. From speaking with fellow fans, he knew there was a demand for a site that was independent and irreverent, a place where they could air their views without club censorship or intervention.

Building the Website

Once he had the content, he planned that he needed to get the website designed and built. He had no interest in technology so he partnered with a company to take care of all the technology, software and hosting issues. They took a share of the revenues in exchange for being his technology partner. So he:
1)      Drew up a list and diagram of what pages he wanted to have on the website.
2)      Found a technology partner to take care of building and running the site.
3)      Created a rough design of what he wanted the site to look like and with the help of his technology partner, found a website designer in India through the website eLance (
4)      He briefed the designer on the design and quickly got a few ideas back
5)      He then decided on what functionality was required:
a.   Easy content updates so he could publish his own articles without technical skills
b.      An events calendar to list fixtures and other events
c.       A discussion forum to encourage fans to interact
d.      Payment processing to automate the taking of membership fees
e.       Password protection to only allow paying members into the premium area

Planning the Marketing

Now that the website build was underway, John could focus his attention on how he would get paying members.
1)      Tactic #1 – Hand out leaflets at the Arsenal ground on match days
2)      Tactic #2 – Search Engine Marketing – both free and paid
3)      Tactic #3 – Advertising in the local Highbury press, which he knew was read by Arsenal fans
4)      Tactic #4 – Do deals with the free Arsenal fan websites to promote his site for a commission payment
5)      Tactic #5 – Court publicity by being controversial and by always making himself available to journalists
Marketing was going to be the key to profitability. His main plan was to hire four students every match day and have them hand out printed marketing leaflets to fans outside the ground. This would be supplemented by a few other online marketing techniques, including listing the site with all the major search engines and setting up a Google pay-per-click advertising campaign.
It took about 12 weeks to get the site built and sufficient articles added to get the early members excited.
The site launch was announced by handing out leaflets at one of the biggest games of the season, Arsenal vs. Man Utd.
That night, the first members started signing up.
By the end of the first weekend, he had 28 members.
His dream was alive!