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Liverpool Football Club adopts cloud storage to kick-off full digital transformation

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood May 30, 2023
Summary:
Wasabi Technologies’ cloud object storage approach prove a key ‘signing’ of the season for Liverpool Football Club

An image of liverpool football club players on the pitch
(Image sourced via Liverpool Football Club)

The use of cloud storage from Wasabi is at the center of one of the world’s leading soccer clubs’ drive to provide better connected digital experiences and to use technology to create speed, efficiency, and better connectedness across all its media.

According to Senior Vice President of Digital at Liverpool Football Club, Drew Crisp, cloud makes this initiative much easier to do, compared to when the technology was on-premise. 

He says:

This is about not just enabling us to do more from a media point of view, it is genuinely about enabling a better connected fan experience, putting relevant content into the most relevant digital product for the benefit of our fans.

I know cloud is the only way to do it - unless we move from 24 spinning disks to 100 spinning disks. And I don’t want to do that.

Liverpool FC is of one of the world's most successful football clubs with 50 major men's first-team honours and is based in the historic Northwest of England port city. ‘The Reds’ recorded £594 million ($733 million) turnover for its last full financial year and pre-tax profit of £7.5 million ($9.3 million).

The team, whose legacy stretches back to 1892, is also claimed to have the second-biggest global fan base in the sport - 580 million, just behind its traditional biggest rivals Manchester United (660 million).

Crisp signed on four years ago with a remit to unify the brand’s media, marketing, and digital product capabilities, to help satisfy that huge global content demand. 

He says:

My responsibility is everything we do in media - that's all the content that we put across our social platforms, our own OTT (over the top) platform, and all the international distributors from our programming block. I also help oversee all of the content creation, which we do a lot of ourselves.

My job is to make sure that from a digital perspective, we're activating correctly across all of our digital channels: social, owned, ad slots, product integrations and beyond, ensuring we are building all of the fan touch points in a way that makes sense.

And while the core DNA of Liverpool FC as a business is putting players - men, women, under 23, its Academy youngsters - on pitches to play the beautiful game, says Crisp, it is very much also a retail, a marketing and a “very big IP asset-based business” for its commercial partners.

Understanding the fans

Crisp was recruited from a 15-year stint at IBM, after getting to know senior management at the club who had decided to invest more in digital and data.

He says:

They were pushing the need to connect fans globally; we probably touch 300 or 400 million fans weekly, we have over 140-150 million followers across social channels, and we have 80 million profiles of fans that come to our different products and services. 

Understanding all those fans is important so we can better serve them, but in doing so we also create a more powerful marketing capability for our partnerships business. I did some work to start that, and so here I still am—even though I’m actually a Spurs fan; when I joined, we were just beating them in Champions League Final!

But where he started wasn’t initially that promising - which brings us to those 24 ‘spinning disks.’

Specifically, Crisp says he arrived to find what he calls a ‘multi-terabyte’ archive of content locked on a full rack of physical, on-premise, storage.

‘Archive’ is not just classic clashes from the ‘70s or ‘80s, he says, but also clips the team creates from current game highlights that fuel content across its social channels.

He says:

We all knew that was inefficient, costly, not the right approach, not resilient, and that we had move it—then COVID, fortunately, hit and though that was a horrible period of time where no one really knew where they were working or how to work, we took the chance to change.

A driver for that was a clear emerging need to have easier ways to access the archive remotely to create the content needed for the club’s many channels, which includes a live or on-demand subscription TV service, LFCTV.

He says:

COVID highlighted to us that we needed a capability that is remotely accessible, really quick and really easy to use, but also which could enable us to do future things - not just with archived content, but post-production content we could share with partners.

One of the first benefits from adopting cloud: digitization of the archival retrieval process, where content is now fully egressed onto its partner’s cloud.

Highly accessible, high-speed, media storage 

Crisp is comfortable to have the move to cloud described as a digital transformation—with some caveats. He says: 

If I'm brutally honest I'm not a big fan of the term, because I think ‘digital’ suggests that digital is a thing, you've only got to do it once, that it’s a program and then you're finished. It isn’t. You’ve got to live and breathe it, and for four years we’ve been doing that to become more effective, more agile, and always increasing capacity to produce even more content because the more that we can create, the more fan engagement we can create.

Crisp says he chose the cloud storage supplier making all this possible based on it winning a beauty contest of four alternatives back in 2022. He adds: 

What sealed it for me was the simplicity of the offer: this was just easy-to-understand cloud-based, highly accessible, high-speed, media storage with a bunch of workflows around it which made it really, straightforward - and which wasn’t trying to be all things to all people under the banner of ‘cloud.’ I also really appreciate not being charged for egress, which is pretty unique in this market.

Now that his archive and media handling functions are working at cloud speed and scale, he says, next steps for digital enhancement of the Club’s media operations lie in post-production editing as the next step in optimization.

The Club’s digital team is also interested in using its new cloud platform to improve process controls around editing content and easy re-purposing. A short-term focus is making it easier to create short form graphic clips from games and boost its podcast range with heritage audio from major games at the ‘Kop.’

Only a few months in, Crisp estimates a 20-25% saving in his content team’s time in terms of accessing and editing raw content, and is speeding up being able to push more and more of it across the LFC social or TV platforms. He concludes:

Being able to create more content has a big impact as to how much we can push out each week/each month for both our fans and our partners - adding energy into the flywheel.

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