CRM and Social Media: Will Companies in Other Industries Go as Far and Offer Their Customers “To Pick the Team”?


Share on LinkedIn

As companies are adopting strategies and initiatives that enable increased customer feedback to ensure that customer expectations are met – or exceeded – it appears that one initiative is taking customer interaction and impact of customers’ opinions on a company’s strategy one level further. – an online initiative with a £35 ($70) membership fee – was launched in April 2007 with the intention of purchasing a football (soccer) club in England and have members directly impact the running of the club through online voting and discussions. Early 2008 had raised enough money and decided to purchase Ebbsfleet United FC, a team in the fifth league in England. The goal is to make Ebbsfleet United FC more successful and move it upwards in the rankings and leagues of English football.

Considering that the core of this initiative is the strong relationships between a sports club and its customers, this initiative falls under the umbrella of CRM – but it is extending the definition of CRM as it enables customers to directly impact the running of day-to-day business for a sports club. The initiative also differs from traditional fan ownership initiatives and shareholder situations by the fact that customers will invest in the football club with no chance nor any expectations of any financial return (nor any loss liability).

Another recent trend, crowd sourcing, has some similarities to the initiative as it allows for a large base of voices to impact a company’s strategy but significantly differs from crowd sourcing by for example directly short term effects on the running of the business. In essence is a big step towards truly democratizing decisions a company takes. Members of will be able to vote on player sales and purchases, they will be able to vote for the starting line up (and hence take that responsibility away from the team coach/manager) and they will even get to decide if money in the club should be spend on facility improvements or for example buying a strong new player?

The interesting question is if we will see similar initiatives in other industries? There are many signs of increased interaction between customers and companies and a new type of companies are even built upon principles of strong collaboration with customers, where customers more or less replace R&D or marketing departments (e.g. Although customers in other industries might want to get more in return than just knowing they partly own a company, would a small or medium sized company in another industry be able to adopt a similar strategy to that which Ebbsfleet United FC has done? Will we in the future see a company offer its customers to vote on product offerings, pricing levels and other initiatives – and having management be obligated to follow the “voice of the crowd”. Would companies be willing to go this far in order to develop stronger ties or unique partnerships with their customers as a competitive move? There are signs of it out there and trends like crowd sourcing are heading in a similar direction but would, could or should other industries go as far as to follow what is currently happening within the world of sports?

Kristian Gotsch
Kristian Gotsch has more than 15 years experience within the world of CRM. As CRM Manager at the Eredivisie (Dutch Premier League), Kristian has a great interest in sports and CRM and is the founder of Loyalsticity. Prior to his current role Kristian held various CRM positions at T-Mobile, PwC and Microsoft. This is a personal rather than a corporate blog. My opinions reflect my own views rather than necessarily those of my employer.


  1. Kristian states that ‘Members of will be able to vote on player sales and purchases, they will be able to vote for the starting line up’

    Well, unfortunately no members have been allowed to do this.

    The power rests with a few – primarilly those who set the project up.

    The members cannot do very much, apart from being asked to contribute money to the company’s coffers.

    The private forum that the members use are awash with bitterness concerning the broken promises.

  2. Ricky, the intention behind the original post was to make a link between what we see in regards to crowdsourcing, CRM 2.0 and social networking with customers accross industries. It is definitely true , as you also point out, that has had challenges (and the reasons vary based on who you talk to) in particular around the pick the team (PTT) element. When that has been said, and similar initiatives are still interesting examples of the shift away from one-way communication from club (company) to fans (customers) towards collaboration. Certain elements of this has already been implemented (e.g. decision on weekly playing budget) and others are to come…even hear that PTT will be implemented.

    There are other examples out there of sports clubs enhancing the collaboration with fans, in particular as sports clubs increase their usage of forums and other social networking tools. For companies in other industries it will be interesting, however, to see who can manage to get to the same level of participation from customers that sports clubs have……


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here