There’s no doubt that over recent years Sky has turned football’s transfer deadline day into an epic television viewing event, creating fascinating and compelling viewing for fans.
Right across the country on deadline day, football reporters are staking out the training grounds of our favourite Premier League clubs hoping to catch a glimpse of a new signing and, crucially, break the news first. But even as they attempt 30-second interviews through half-open car windows, they face increasing competition from the likes of you and me.
Technology continues to develop at rapid speeds, and presents football fans with the opportunity to start conversations and develop and dictate messages with huge influential audiences; irrespective of where and who you are.
Where previously fans would need to wait patiently for the first sighting in their club colours, nowadays players can pose for pictures with fans as they arrive at airports, in hotel receptions or whilst dining in restaurants. They've even been known to participate in unofficial PR through social channels before signing on the dotted line. This serves to pour cold water on surprise announcements but, importantly, gets fans engaged and the debate underway.
The increasing use of digital and social media means that, even before a ball is kicked, judgement can be passed on any new player. As content is shared, damning opinions may be formed - the kind only a last minute winner against your local rivals can offer any sort of redemption from.
It can also drive the communication teams inside football clubs insane. From personal experience, I know what it can be like to try and control the message on transfer deadline day and deal with the havoc outside influences can have on your planning.
But rather than fight it, clubs must embrace this opportunity and be ready to move things on. The fans involved can prove to be some of your strongest influencers and advocates. Through the course of deadline day, whilst fans will be inhaling the latest gossip, they will still also be hitting the refresh button on the official channels who are in a position to confirm the news.
Once confirmed, digital offers clubs the ability to capitalise almost immediately on the huge investment outlay. Email communications should kick in, urging fans to make sure they don't miss their new signings debut. Retail advertising campaigns will also commence and the PR machine will swing into action across both digital and social channels; shaping opinions and allowing more and more fans the opportunity to have their say and influence the debate.
It’s a far cry from those long forgotten days of a club solely open for business every other Saturday afternoon and where the only opportunity to get involved was to be in the crowd.
For me, nothing beats being there, but if you can’t be, then digital engagement is a close second (and in some cases, brings you even closer to the action).
Good luck to everyone who has a stake in today’s deadline dealings. I hope you get all you wish for – unless it’s at the expense of my club!
Mark Rowan is a Sports Consultant at Rippleffect and previously Head of Media and Communications at Everton.