Making the Waratahs mobile

Although Rugby stays the same, the way its fans access information about games and interact with its players has changed.

Although Rugby stays the same, the way its fans access information about games and interact with its players has changed.

Anese Sosene

Anese Sosene (Credit: Waratahs)

First, it was spectators finding information about games on team websites. But then they went mobile, and wanted information that was suited to their selected device, so that they could get information when they were on the way to a game, or straight after they had watched it.

The Waratahs had watched this phenomenon during a three-year research program into the behaviour of its supporters, and had thought about putting out an iPhone app. One existed, after all, for the Super Rugby brand. But the Waratahs decided not to take that path. Although the team had a lot of 18 to 35 year olds, it also had an older supporter base, according to Waratahs Rugby General Manager Commercial Kym Aust-Howlett.

"They don't all have an iPhone," she said, adding that "a lot of businesses also use BlackBerrys". The Waratahs didn't want to alienate their fan base.

Instead, it was decided to have a meeting with consulting company EcoView Global to talk about putting Waratahs web content onto mobile devices. EcoView Global put the sports organisation onto Blink Mobile.

Blink Mobile is able to scrape data from the team's website and adjust it for mobile devices, meaning that the company didn't have to redesign the web page, or complete a specific mobile site. Since the information is already available online, Blink Mobile doesn't hold any of the information; rather, it simply manipulates what is there for mobile access.

It took some time to get team sponsors on-board with the idea, and for content to be tweaked to be what users on the go would want to access, according to Aust-Howlett, but the technical work required was small. Just considering technical issues, the Blink Mobile-enabled site could have been up and running within a week, she said.

The mobile site covers news; player profiles; game-day information, including times and venue; live scores and results; and membership services. The pages also integrate with a number of third-party services, such as travel and transport links to and from the game venues, and also connects to a ticketing service.

The team now has sees 80 per cent of its audience accessing the site via mobile devices on game days, according to Aust-Howlett. On those days, the site has a traffic surge in general, peaking 250 per cent above usual usage.

Yet the team is still working on mobile ideas, according to Aust-Howlett, who said that the team's plans for mobile devices were still at infant stage. A large expansion of the depth of mobile content is planned for next year's season, such as adding pre-game activities, live scoring and updated injury or team change data.

The team also hopes to make further use of mobile outside of the season, she said, such as saying which members were involved at community programs where and when.