To grow loyalty program membership among 35 million fans, Sport Club Corinthians Paulista needed to modernize its customer experience at and away from its physical stadium.
125 turnstiles and hundreds of surveillance camerasadded to significantly improve stadium security and entry services
Anticipated increase in loyalty program membershipwith faster online ticket purchases and more personalized mobile services
Simplified IT management and maintenanceacross cloud and vendor environments with reduced TCO
Business challenge story
Connecting with spirited soccer fans
What’s a soccer match without the crowds, fiercely reveling in the action and sharing the greatest moments on social media? Nowhere is the fans’ role more evident than at the Arena Corinthians in Itaquera, São Paulo, Brazil, owned and operated by Sport Club Corinthians Paulista. Here, tens of thousands of fans — many wearing the Club’s iconic black-and-white jerseys — fervently cheer on the Corinthians at every home game. Millions of other loyal, passionate fans regularly watch the matches on TVs and other devices.
The Corinthians is one of Brazil’s largest, most successful soccer clubs, with its men’s team having won the Brazilian national title seven times. The Club’s fan base includes approximately 35 million Brazilians plus a large, widespread international following. About 22 million fans engage with the Club and each other through social media.
“All of Corinthians followers are fanatics. It's a fan base that is very attached to the Club, that demands a lot ... on the competition side of things and in all their relationships with the brand and the Club … ,” explains Caio Campos, General Manager of Arena Corinthians and Marketing Director of Sport Club Corinthians Paulista. “In fact, they feel like they’re owners, and they are super passionate about this feeling.”
Maintaining a 35-million-strong fan base is no small feat, and the Club’s community demands nothing short of excellence when it comes to customer experience. To satisfy its existing fan base and help expand it, the Club’s leadership must consistently provide world-class experiences, both at and away from Arena Corinthians.
For instance, at the stadium, the Club still used paper tickets and manual-push turnstiles. This often led to overcrowding just before each match started, as up to 75% of ticket holders tried to enter the 49,205-seat stadium at once after pregame socializing in the parking lots. In addition, the entry areas and turnstiles did not meet Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) standards for people with disabilities. When it came to ticket sales, the existing system could not accommodate discounted pricing for people with disabilities, much less high-volume periods, such as when tickets went on sale and thousands tried to make purchases for seats in the best sections. Other areas the Club targeted for upgrades included the stadium’s security equipment, wifi network, digital signage, and IT infrastructure and management systems.
Beyond venue improvements, the Club’s leadership sought to grow membership in the Club’s Fiel Torcedor (“Loyal Fan”) program and, with it, revenues from new, innovative online products and services. The program’s membership of 117,000 registered fans paled in comparison with the Corinthians’ worldwide following. Expansion required connecting with each fan in more personalized ways, on and off season, across multiple channels, yet the Club lacked the required insights. “We viewed it as a significant obstacle [that the Club] did not know each fan individually and why each person is interacting with us, whether as a consumer or critic,” says Campos.
The Club sought a consulting and technology provider to help it reinvent itself digitally. It needed a company with leading analytics, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile technologies — and expertise in their secure, end-to-end integration and management.
Reinventing the Club on IBM Cloud
The Club leadership teamed with IBM Services to digitally transform its organization over a 10-year period, beginning in early 2019. “With IBM, we can find tailor-made solutions that really [fit] the Club and its needs, both from the infrastructure side … and in coming up with innovative solutions to increase revenue and monetize the Club,” says Campos.
Starting with upgrades at Arena Corinthians, IBM Services is migrating the Club’s ticket purchasing, loyalty program and operations control applications from private cloud and on-premises server infrastructures to IBM Cloud. IBM Cloud provides an agile, security-rich platform for automating and integrating mission-critical applications with each other and multivendor hardware solutions. In addition, the Club can rapidly and cost-effectively scale cloud capabilities during periods of peak activity. IBM is also unifying IT management and maintenance of the stadium’s multivendor solutions with a flexible, open-standards-based approach that includes use of cognitive capabilities from IBM Services Platform with Watson™, built on IBM Cloud.
At the entry points, IBM redesigned the layout and installed disabled access gates to accelerate entry for people with special needs. It also helped install 125 automated, FIFA-compliant turnstiles, integrated with third-party matrix barcode and biometric recognition systems. Now, using e-tickets with the new turnstiles, visitors can quickly enter the stadium in an orderly way in the minutes before a game starts. Employees, media professionals and fans in the VIP boxes also gain faster entry using touchless biometrics. “IBM Cloud allows us to provide a good experience for the fans as well as to keep all of the arena’s operational parts running smoothly, [especially] during the most critical part of the operation, which is the fans’ entrance,” says Campos.
IBM also improved game-day security by installing hundreds of new surveillance cameras and monitoring systems in and around the stadium and connecting them to the operations command center. It further enhanced visitor safety with the IBM Intelligent Video Analytics solution, which uses facial recognition and other video analytics to alert security personnel of potentially dangerous individuals and situations.
Enhancements also include high-density wifi connectivity to support large volumes of social media activity — such as the thrilling moments when players score goals — and new, large digital screens for video replays and sponsor promotions.
Beyond these venue improvements, IBM Services held workshops with the Club’s marketing leaders to help develop a new digital marketing strategy, using IBM Enterprise Design Thinking™ methodology to create a business-focused roadmap. Early-stage projects include redesigning the Fiel Torcedor website with a new look and feel, deploying mobile app support and adding streamlined features, such as registration with Facebook login and simplified ticket purchases.
IBM is also working with the Club to develop a new digital concierge app powered by Watson AI technology. Drawing on social media and other insights into each fan’s needs and preferences, the app will facilitate all aspects of an excellent game-day experience, from paying for parking spots to ordering food to participating in sponsor promotions. IBM and the Club also plan to roll out a new fan loyalty card. “Working alongside IBM, we can better unify, understand and gauge our fan base … and then more effectively communicate with them,” explains Campos.
Boosting fan membership and revenues
With the stadium upgrades well underway, the Club has significantly improved game-day services for all visitors. Thanks to faster entry and tighter security supported by best-in-class digital technologies, the Club anticipates attracting more disabled people and families with children to Corinthians matches. The venue improvements also help ensure that all attendees can more fully enjoy the action on the field.
Quicker ticket purchases and sales of other products and services offered through the Fiel Torcedor website are also helping strengthen connections with fans at home and around the world, anticipated to spur growth in program membership and associated revenues. “The ease with which we allow the fan to buy tickets … already is much more effective,” comments Campos. “Our number of members grows, the way in which we are able to make products available to the fan is much faster and much easier, and this already has generated significant revenue for the Club.”
The Club also anticipates that, once launched, the Watson-powered concierge app will further deepen rapport with registered fans by giving them more individualized, immersive ways to engage with the Club and its sponsors as part of their daily lives.
Finally, by teaming with IBM Services to help drive its digital transformation, the Club can simplify IT management and maintenance across cloud and vendor environments. Benefiting from IBM’s in-depth business and IT expertise, it can reduce TCO and help ensure it has the flexibility to continually support initiatives designed to keep devoted fans entertained for years to come.
Sport Club Corinthians Paulista
Founded in 1910, in São Paulo, Corinthians is one of the most widely supported soccer clubs in the world. The men’s team has won seven national titles, three Copa do Brasil trophies and a record 29 state championships. In the international arena, it has won two FIFA Club World Cup championships, the CONMEBOL Libertadores championship and the CONMEBOL Recopa Sudamericana championship. The women’s team has won two Copa Libertadores Femenina championships, among other titles. Arena Corinthians hosted the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup, 2016 Rio Olympic Games and 2019 Copa America.
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