Re-defining the value of merchandise in the football industry



Fans are an intrinsic aspect of any football team, often described as ‘the twelfth man’; they are as essential to the success of a team as the players and coaching staff. As documented by the Social Issues Research Centre, ‘to be a true fan…is not about being a mere spectator - it is about being a participant…There is also a duty to engage emotionally in the life of the team in order to impact positively on a team’s performance’. Football fans also embody a strong sense of community, all united in their support for their respective teams, and the will for them to succeed. 

That being said, disparity remains in regards to how fans decide to engage with and voice their support for their teams (and vice versa), particularly in the digital realm. For example, by football teams relying on fan engagement across multiple social media channels, it can leave fans feeling somewhat fragmented.

The aforementioned themes of social togetherness, cohesion, and community are what ultimately fuelled Connected Fanatics’ quest to design a holistic and centralised digital platform in which football fans could engage with their respective club and others. I had the privilege of leading the design team responsible for making this happen, with staff including Design Researchers, UX / UI Designers and Software Developers from around the world.


Any solution I would present needed to take into consideration the nature of the football fan experience, whilst also fulfilling the requirements of any stakeholders of the business. During my research I learnt a great deal about what it means to be a true football fan, as well as the different ways and levels through which they show their affinity. The complexity of such findings I was able to summarise by developing a matrix of football fan archetypes / personas, which would then inform the digital product’s key user journeys. The archetypes were as follows (and were developed using data from our survey of 100 global football fans and five user interviews):

  • Digital Fanatic;
  • Fantasy Fan;
  • Football Hipster;
  • Old School Fan, and;
  • Generational Fan.

‍As already alluded to, key features of each persona were used to inform a significant feature within the subsequent proposed digital platform, which we subsequently named LOCKEROOM.


The Connected Fanatics Platform and App

LOCKEROOM is a B2B CMS platform solution for football clubs of all league sizes that enables fans to engage with their club in a centralised manner. It uses NFC technology to unlock exclusive fan experiences and save a user’s real-life memories in their jersey’s digital twin. The platform informs all of the content in the user app as well as managing the NFC-enabled products. Within the app there are four key features:

  • Clubhouse: An aggregated feed that collects content from multiple squad channels (e.g. a club’s male, female and junior teams);
  • Community Feed: A safe space where fans can discuss trending topics within their community;
  • Match Day: Live stream updates of team fixtures and player activity pre and post match. This is a gated experience that can only be unlocked through the user tapping their NFC-integrated football jersey, and;
  • My Locker: Where all of the user's digital assets are stored. The driving force for this particular feature was the environmental footprint currently posed by the manufacture of physical jerseys. 

By using LOCKEROOM, fans can subscribe to a lifetime of exclusive club experiences through a single NFC-enabled jersey. This drastically reduces their environmental consumption, and also saves clubs millions in manufacturing costs through the platform’s incorporation of a subscription-based business model.

“Throughout our long-term relationship with Brandborne, Suraj has always delivered high quality, user centered, and market leading products for Connected Fanatics. Within a matter of weeks, his design and research team became experts in our industry."
Matthew Hymers - CEO & Founder of Connected Fanatics

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Connected Fanatics

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