Il Giornale di Vicenza is building a home for Vicenza football fans

In September 2022, toward the end of their Table Stakes Europe participation, the team from Italian newspaper Il Giornale de Vicenza launched a Design/Do sprint exploring a new offer aimed at the fans of their local football team, L.R. Vicenza. They wanted to create a space that would bring people together around a club to which they have remained incredibly loyal, even if its history has not spared their emotions.

Publisher bio: Gruppo Editoriale Athesis is based in northern Italy. The group owns daily newspapers, magazines, websites, TV channels and radio stations, and is also a major event organiser. Athesis’s integrated offer reaches a total of 7 million people living between Verona, Vicenza, Brescia and Mantova, one of the richest regions in Italy. They participated in Table Stakes Europe with two of their daily newspapers, L’Arena (based in Verona) and Il Giornale di Vicenza (based in Vicenza).

L.R. Vicenza football team currently plays in the Italian Serie C, having been relegated from the B series at the end of the 2022 season. However, L.R. Vicenza isn’t just any club. It spent most of the 1960s and 1970s and much of the 1990s in Serie A. Vicenza won the 1996-97 Coppa Italia and reached the semi-finals of the Winners’ Cup the following season, losing to eventual winners Chelsea. In Italy, as in many countries where football is strong, media coverage is focused on the top divisions. But for many fans, local clubs are also a strong interest and there was a coverage gap to be filled according to the journalists of Il Giornale di Vicenza.

Challenge: Convert Vicenza fans into regulars users of their digital platform

Digital Editor Nicola Negrin and his deputy Nicola Gobbo witnessed the atmosphere in the packed stadium (sold out with 12,000 spectators) on that terrible day when their team lost the match that sent them to the third series of the Italian championship. As Nicola Negrin puts it: “Vicenza Calcio fans are passionate, not to say ‘sick,’ audience. Even after this defeat, 5,300 people paid a subscription of 180 euros to secure their seats for the next season at the stadium.”

Their first assumption was that these fans could become regular users and register to Il Giornale de Vicenza. Eventually, some of them might become subscribers if the newsroom was able to offer them great content and drive them to become heavy users. Their second assumption was that to reach this special audience and become their favourite gathering point, they needed to think beyond writing reports on the games. They needed to propose a variety of formats, including video and audio, a mix of information, entertainment, and interactivity and reach out to the fans on all possible platforms in order to bring them back to their own media.

Decisions: ‘È Solo Calcio,’ the house of the ‘Tifosi’

“We decided that this project should not be a single action, but a series of operations that would allow us to create a large, complete package,” explains Negrin. “From the point of view of subscriptions or advertising, we had to promote a complete offer. But for that we needed to bring order to all the contents we already did and create a cohesive offer.”

In two weeks they created and launched this new offer:

  • A live video show that airs on Mondays at 6 pm (on the website and on Facebook) and remains available for users to replay whenever they want. The live broadcast is a discussion between Luca Ancetti, the historical face and voice of Vicenza’s affairs, and football experts.
  • A live broadcast of the coach’s conference, visible on the website and Facebook.
  • A weekly podcast (every Thursday) with a lighter tone than the video show. It’s entertaining, with a place for humour, debates, and guests …the podcast is available on their digital platforms but also on other audio platforms such as Spotify.
  • A weekly newsletter is published every Friday with a selection of articles, a reminder of the audio and video products … The aim is to form a habit and remind the audience of all the content around their passion.
  • New content on the history of the club and more stories on the Serie C division.
  • A WhatsApp number where readers can send in their questions, which will be reviewed/answered by the sports journalists.
  • Best players’ cards (from the fans): Alongside the editorial staff’s players’ cards will be those of the fans. Voting on digital is easy but in order to include the print readers the teams thought about adding QR codes to the print paper.

Outcome: Early wins and expectations

This new initiative was two months old at the time of writing so it is still too early to have results. However, a big win for the editors was the speed between the design and deployment of the new offering (design/do in Table Stakes terminology).

This new coverage was set up in two weeks, during which Negrin and Gobbo were responsible for producing these new formats, finding technical solutions and persuading several journalists from the sports desk to join them in the adventure.

The initiators of “È Solo Calcio” have set themselves the goal of obtaining 2,000 subscribers to their newsletter by the end of the season in 2023 and converting 600 regular users to a paying subscription. They also wanted to obtain at least two advertising partnerships around their video and podcast shows. One is already secured!