FC Internazionale Milano

Thanks to Salesforce, we have improved fan experience and increased the opportunities for them to interact with the club.”

Massimo Venneri, Head of Innovation Projects & CRM, FC Internazionale Milano
 

Inter improves its business and relationship with fans thanks to Salesforce

Digital transformation is helping FC Internazionale Milano, known locally as “Inter”, become one of the most innovative soccer clubs in Europe – and making it even more competitive. Not only are the fans of Nerazzurri (named after the colors of the team’s iconic black-and-blue striped jerseys) happier, but the sponsors who support the club are more satisfied too. Today, world-renowned clubs like Inter face global competition in countries where interest in soccer is becoming increasingly significant, and they need to provide efficient communication channels to compete. While fans in Italy will never be persuaded to join the “competition”, their loyalty is an asset that can be fostered with attentive, personalized service.

Since Salesforce was introduced three seasons ago, Inter has increased the value of its brand by 48% (2015–2018 CAGR). Revenue from sponsorship and hospitality services increased by 10.8% (2016–2019 CAGR). The number of calls from fans to the club’s contact center grew by 37% too. This greater level of loyalty and engagement has resulted in an 81% increase in revenue from this channel. Finally, season ticket sales increased by 21.5%, selling the entire allocation for the 2018/2019 season. 

“Adopting the Salesforce platform has significantly increased the effectiveness and efficiency of our digital campaigns and our resources. The platform has lowered workloads, all while improving the fan experience and providing more opportunities for fans to interact with the club,” said Massimo Venneri, Head of Innovation Projects & CRM at FC Internazionale Milano.

 

Inter is a mentality: We inspire passion and emotion through soccer. We always try to attract and engage new supporters, wherever they may be. We want to grab their attention and engage them in exciting, ongoing conversation.”

Luca Danovaro, Chief Marketing Officer, FC Internazionale Milano

Inter is a Trailblazer in digital transformation in the world of soccer

Inter first used the Salesforce platform a number of years ago, but in 2016, the evolution of the world of soccer and the Chinese takeover of the club paved the way for a vast digital transformation project aimed at maximizing the brand’s activities and fan experience, and monetizing all content produced by the club’s Media House. For this project, Venneri again chose Salesforce over two competing solutions, abandoning the old CRM solution and re-engineering a pre-existing relational database.

“I was already familiar with Salesforce from my previous professional experience. Back then, they convinced me of the power of a cloud-based solution and the usability of the front and back end. I chose Salesforce again here at Inter for those same reasons, as well as for the flexibility that the platform offers, which was important for adapting the solution to the particularities of the world of soccer,” Venneri said.

Communications straight to the hearts of Nerazzurri fans

The project began in 2016 with the adoption of Marketing Cloud to automate sending emails and push notifications to fans. Integration with the CRM platform, where fans are segmented automatically, combined with the power of Marketing Cloud allowed the club to change its contact strategy, which improved deliverability statistics, open rate, click rate, and direct conversions. Automation is used with both proximity dynamics for marketing linked to events and match days, and with behavioral dynamics for sending messages that are increasingly appreciated, consistent and relevant.

All these measures increase both upselling and cross-selling potential. The results were quickly apparent: In addition to the aforementioned revenue figures, the average number of spectators at the San Siro stadium has grown by 23%, match and season ticket sales have skyrocketed, and fan retention rate stands at around 82%.

The first part of this project has lived up to the expectations of the club, which places great emphasis on its relationship with fans. “Inter is a mentality,” said Luca Danovaro, the club’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We inspire passion and emotion through soccer, through our city and through our unique values, entertaining our fans and our audience. We always try to attract and engage new supporters, wherever they may be. We want to grab their attention and engage them in exciting, ongoing conversation.”

A more effective contact center to “man-mark” each and every fan

Inter has also implemented Service Cloud, which is now used by the club’s seven-person contact center to manage over-the-phone relationships with its many fans — over 4 million in Italy and more than 14 million globally.

“Our fans are special. They love our club and support it always. They show great affection and engagement in everything we do. Thanks to our Media House and cutting-edge digital ecosystem, we have moved the engagement bar toward a world where proximity is becoming less relevant every day. Today, we can say that the San Siro and our colors are everywhere,” Venneri said.

The key to engagement is personalized service, and this is where Service Cloud really makes all the difference, as Venneri said: “Now, we can access a detailed history of each fan’s interactions with the Inter universe. This will enable us not only to further improve customer support and services, but also to continue increasing direct revenue from this channel.”

Finding new sponsors is easier with the right assist

The other aspect of the project concerns sponsorship and hospitality services. The entire B2B sales process is now managed through Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, which provide Inter with a unified view of each sponsor, even on the go. What’s more, thanks to an app available in AppExchange that features a parameter-based search, the club’s marketers are now directed toward more promising businesses when searching for new sponsors and hospitality customers. The fully customized Sales Cloud platform is also used for generating sales forecasts, editing draft contracts, and performing and optimizing contractual asset activations.

Marketing Cloud also enables Inter to automate sending emails to customers – as it does for fans – that contribute to increasing the conversion rate. As for its sponsors, Inter has also created a community based on Community Cloud. This community has allowed Inter to speed up the authorization process for individual sponsorship projects developed within the framework of a contract. Previously, this process required an intense exchange of emails.

“The Salesforce platform’s flexibility has been invaluable in implementing our solution. For example, it has enabled us to adapt the data model to the specifics of our B2B market,” Venneri said.

New projects for greater fan engagement are warming up on the touchline

Inter is currently evaluating further project developments based on the Salesforce platform. Among them are new fan-based initiatives that will use Community Cloud and Identity. The goal is to take advantage of the value represented by the club’s 19.9 million followers on various social media platforms (13 million on Facebook alone). The powerful single sign-on capabilities offered by Identity will facilitate fan interactions with Inter’s digital contact points. Thanks to progressive profiling and social login, the club will be able to identify individual fans more easily, thus providing them with a more personalized service.

“Our digital and social strategy has been successful, and we take great pride in this fact, even though this is just the beginning. We now face the challenge of developing a more sophisticated fan experience that favors the conversion of followers to leads using our digital environment,” Venneri said. “The Identity project only started a few months ago, but it is destined to become the beating heart at the center of our digital touchpoints.”

Digital transformation and the heavy involvement of Salesforce solutions are providing Inter with positive results on both fan relationship and sponsorship fronts. “When we began our journey, we were already clear in our objective of positioning ourselves as a cutting-edge club with a strong desire for innovation. In this context, being a Trailblazer means always being hungry for knowledge and keeping an eye on the future in order to overcome the challenges posed by the evolution of our market,” Venneri said. 

 
 

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