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1. FC Köln’s Digital Strategy: An Inside Look

FBIN recently interviewed Sven von Polheim, Head of Digital, PMO & IT-Infrastructure at 1. FC Köln, diving into the club’s innovative digital strategy. In this article, Sven provided an inside look at the development of 1. FC Köln’s app and website, while also discussing the challenges and key projects planned for the upcoming years.

By Quang T. Pham | Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

Sven, could you describe your role at 1. FC Köln?

I’ve been with 1. FC Köln since January 2023, overseeing digital aspects, project management office, data management & IT infrastructure. We’ve established a new department for all the club’s digital and strategic projects. My teams and I are developing new business models and digital rights to enhance our value proposition.

What are the most crucial digital products at 1. FC Köln?

At present, the cornerstone of our digital product lineup is the new FC platform. This platform is anchored by two recently newly released touchpoints: our website (fc.de) and the club’s mobile application. These digital products are pivotal in engaging our fans and providing them with an immersive 1. FC Köln experience.

How does the club’s USP influence your digital strategy?

Our unique selling proposition (USP) is deeply intertwined with our brand, our rich history, and our approach to fan engagement. These elements significantly influence our digital strategy, guiding us in crafting tailored content, fine-tuning our communication methods, and devising engagement strategies. Our goal is to ensure that these strategies not only align with but also amplify the unique identity of 1. FC Köln.

Do you work with agencies or an in-house team for implementation?

Historically, our approach has been to rely predominantly on external implementation partners. However, this dynamic is evolving. We are gradually shifting towards a model where we aim to be more independent in all our areas of activity, harnessing the strengths of both external expertise and in-house capabilities.

What are your current challenges regarding digital strategies?

Our digital strategy is well-defined and robust; however,; the challenge lies in time constraints and staffing. It’s crucial to maintain focus and not get sidetracked, regardless of our position in the table. Still, the biggest challenge is reorganizing our digital infrastructure, which we’re undertaking with our technology partner, Telekom, to develop and implement a new target architecture.

Is the club exploring technologies like the Metaverse, NFTs, and AI?

Yes and no. We’ve experimented with technologies under these categories, like NFTs, which we almost pursued with a partner but strategically decided against. The Metaverse is on our radar, but we’re adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach. AI, on the other hand, has become an integral part of our daily operations, with various trials underway across different departments.

Could you share some big upcoming digital projects of the club?

Our new app is still currently in its MVP (Minimum Viable Product) phase and requires significant development. The overarching aim of our platform is to create synergies between our partners, sponsors, and their offerings with our fan base. This initiative holds great potential for all parties involved. 

Secondly, we’re in the process of assembling a new team focused on sports data, seeking experts in data engineering and sports technology. 

Last but not least, we’re also introducing a new media asset management tool and archive, which, with the aid of AI, will greatly facilitate our colleagues’ work. Another major milestone on our roadmap is the launch of our new ERP system, scheduled for summer 2024.

Sven von Polheim
Head of Digital, PMO & IT-Infrastructure
1. FC Köln

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