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Expanding AberDNA membership provides strong foundations for AFC

July 10, 2018 8:28 pm Author: Aberdeen FC Media Team

In just 3 months, more than 5,800 Dons fans from around the globe have signed up to Aberdeen Football Club’s AberDNA programme – each of whom make an invaluable contribution to the club’s football operation and future success.

We spoke to the club’s Commercial Director, Rob Wicks, about his initial impressions, how the funds are being spent and what plans there are for expanding the programme in the future.

Can you provide a reminder about the initial reasons for the initiative?

Membership programmes are more and more common in football and clubs are increasingly having to look at innovative new ways of growing revenue. It made perfect sense for Aberdeen FC to diversify into a new, sustainable initiative that would allow its 100,000-strong global supporter base to feel a closer affinity with the club they love and at the same time enable the club to close the financial gap on its major rivals.

Funds raised from AberDNA are directed to one of three key areas: to the first team, directly supporting the football management team’s budget, to the youth academy, enhancing the ability to identify, recruit and inspire local young talent and towards helping to create a high-performance environment with a best-in-class football medicine, sports science and performance analysis support structure at the club.

In return for their support of the football operation fans join one of four different membership categories and receive a number of benefits, including a replica shirt, discounts on season tickets and club merchandise and the opportunity to help shape the future of the club.

Have you been pleased with the uptake so far?

We’ve been really pleased with the response and membership numbers have exceeded our initial expectations – this was an untried initiative and despite the significant amount of work that went in to develop it, it was only once we launched that we could begin to assess the real results. We have been particularly encouraged by the number of people who have taken up the Premium membership option which currently accounts for around 70% of the total membership base.

Why do you think AberDNA has been a success?

I would put it down to four key reasons:

  1. Being transparent that funds raised would be used exclusively for the football operation and improving performance on the pitch was certainly a motivating factor.
  2. The football club benefits from an extensive global fan base, much of which is linked to the city’s role in the global oil and gas industry. Fans from around the world have been able to become members and the concept has captured the imagination of those who cannot always make it to see the team play but feel like they want to make a contribution. I met a fan at the supermarket earlier this week who had signed up to AberDNA. He explained to me that he plays football on a Saturday and has a young son, which makes it difficult to be a season ticketholder, but signing up to AberDNA was his way of contributing which was great to hear.
  3. The range of benefits on offer is compelling and this was demonstrated recently by the huge queues outside the club shop when AberDNA founding members lined up to collect their new home strip. We’ve started to provide some amazing prizes – like a trip for two AberDNA members to see Atlanta United play in the MLS and there will also be a number of exclusive events throughout the season like the Q&A with the management team that took place last Friday.
  4. Last, but not least, having invested in a dedicated Supporter Engagement Team (SET) making regular contact with supporters has certainly spread the word and their presence has also helped to significantly raise our wider levels of engagement, something that we are ramping up in the coming months.

How much money has been raised so far?

Out of the funds raised, the club obviously has an obligation to account for VAT, the costs of running the SET Team and the delivery of benefits such as a discount on season tickets which 3,500 members have taken advantage of and provision of replica shirts to more than 4,500 Premium & International members.

This leaves net proceeds of just over £600,000 that will come in over the course of 12 months to be used by the football operation. Although some people paid up front for their membership, the vast majority of members pay it as a subscription on a monthly basis, so it’s important for fans to appreciate that the bulk of the money will come in over a 12-month period.

How is the money being spent?

Firstly, I think it’s important to reiterate that the funds raised through AberDNA have been ringfenced solely for football operations and will not be used for the new stadium, community and training facilities.

Having the SET in place enabled the club to take the view from members as they signed up by asking them how they would like to see the funds spent. Around half of the membership wanted to see monies allocated to the manager’s budget, with the balance split evenly across the club’s Youth Academy and Sports Science / Performance-related activities.

So far, the net proceeds raised will enable circa £50,000 each month and although we acknowledge what the fans are suggesting, because of strengthening competition in the league, and the importance of keeping our momentum going, we have decided this year to commit around 80% towards the first team, with the balance on youth development and continuing to build a high-performance environment.

A good example of the latter is the acquisition of additional GPS Performance Tracker Vests which allows a player’s performance in training and in matches to be monitored in terms of energy expended, distance covered, heart rate and average speed. This vital information is analysed by the club’s sports science department which develops individual training programmes for each player dependent on the results. Previously it was only the first team squad who each had a vest but now the club’s three full-time teams, including the reserve and development squads, can now glean the huge benefits from these vital accessories.

When will the Founder Member and Ambassador names appear in the tunnel at Pittodrie?

We’ve identified the perfect location in the tunnel and anticipate having this in place at the start of the SPFL season in August. We will obviously publish images of the wall, but we’re also looking at ways of making it possible for AberDNA members to come by the stadium to see it for themselves. 

When will Founding Members be receiving their Souvenir Packages?

The packs are currently in production and look terrific. We’re expecting to have them distributed out by the end of July. If the samples we’ve seen to date are anything to go by, the contents and pack are going to be amazing. 

What are your plans for the future of the membership programme?

AberDNA is here to stay and has been designed to be a long-term, sustainable umbrella membership for the club. We will review the various benefits on a regular basis as we constantly receive feedback about what members like and how AberDNA might be further developed.

Can people still sign up and what are the benefits?

Absolutely – we’re encouraging as many fans as possible to become AberDNA members and there are couple of great incentives in place at the moment:

For a start, we’re offering a final opportunity for fans to get their names in the tunnel before the new season kicks off. The extension will enable supporters who become members before 31 July the chance to be included in the tunnel artwork which will be launched before the start of the domestic season. The display will also be replicated at the new stadium when the club moves from Pittodrie. The decision to extend the deadline comes after unprecedented demand from supporters who missed the opportunity to join the initiative before the Founding Member window closed. All supporters who have signed up since the Founding Member deadline will automatically have their names put up in the tunnel unless they have requested not to be included.

Fans can sign up now online at afc.co.uk/eTickets, by calling 01224 63 1903 or by visiting the Pittodrie Ticket Office. Find out more afc.co.uk/AberDNA

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