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Arsenal: Innovation Lab

Arsenal Football Club has thrived on a pioneering and innovative spirit since its formation in 1886. The Arsenal Innovation Lab is the latest step in their desire to be at the forefront of the game on and off the pitch.

Arsenal Innovation Lab was launched in 2017 to structure and systematise partnerships between startups and scaling businesses and Arsenal . Teams were given the opportunity to run POCs across industry areas and on Match Days at the Emirates Stadium.  Through the Lab, Arsenal began engaging with smart-thinking businesses to identify ground-breaking ideas to drive them forwards.

Over 250 startups applied to the programme from across world, with 22 invited to compete for a place in the Lab at Pitch Day.  Six companies from London, Manchester, Paris, Tel Aviv and Dallas were selected to work in collaboration with the Arsenal team over the 10-week programme at Emirates Stadium.

“Arsenal Innovation Lab has been a first for us and we are really proud of how well it has gone. We have worked with six fantastic startups to deliver some truly innovative initiatives for our fans and club.

Can I thank all those who have worked on the Arsenal Innovation Lab, from the startups, L Marks, and especially to our Arsenal people who have embraced the Lab so fully. It is a great demonstration of the values we seek to represent everyday.”

Hywel Sloman, Operations Director, Arsenal FC

Being the first London football club to run a startup accelerator programme, Arsenal’s openness to disruption was evident in every interaction between their team and the startups on the Arsenal Innovation Lab. The startups introduced working in a more agile way with a focus on learning fast, testing and iterating to identify ways to add value to Arsenal’s fanbase.

With a particularly international cohort, the startups found a home at the Emirates Stadium in the programme, embraced the opportunity to speak to every level of the club, and worked hard to develop and refine their innovative products and services. Startup engagement levels were very high with excellent presence from some teams in the Lab and with many of the teams meeting and exceeding the OKRs that were set at the start of the programme.

The businesses explored a wide range of fan initiatives ranging from artificial intelligence to augmented reality.  A high-profile programme, the Arsenal Innovation Lab not only generated commercial success for Arsenal and the startups, the Lab also attracted media attention from the local, national, sports, and technology outlets, with estimated coverage views of 468,000.

We have worked with six very exciting startups over the last ten weeks and they have come up with some fascinating ideas which could transform some of the things we do with our supporters.

We are always looking to push the club forwards and the Arsenal Innovation Lab has provided us with the opportunity to work with technologists, startups and entrepreneurs who have brought unique perspectives for us to consider. We would like to thank everyone involved for all the hard work and commitment to date and look forward to developing these pioneering ideas to take the club forward.

Vinai Venkatesham, Chief Executive Officer, Arsenal FC

Results

I Like That

Startups were scouted for five categories, including one focused on Arsenal’s retail business. While the club is a relatively small operator, the number of in-store transactions on Match Days generally exceeds the demand experienced by major retailers. Two startups presented new technologies with the potential to improve the shopping experience for fans on Match Days, as well as those shopping on the club’s platforms.

I Like That offers the effective integration of merchandising stores to esports and streaming platforms. Utilising this solution will allow a seamless storefront pop-up provider to their customers, reducing the clicks required between marketing and purchase. Doing so will drive a higher conversion within the sales funnel.

Entering the lab at concept stage, the use case outlined for the startup within the lab was for the team to develop and pilot with Arsenal. This PoC would allow Arsenal to potentially integrate a storefront within their website and improve advertising campaigns on other platforms. Within the timeline of the Lab, I Like That managed to develop its PoC successfully and demonstrate how this solution would increase conversion/purchase rates for Arsenal.

Following the completion of the Lab, Arsenal invested in I Like That in order to help them scale and build out their solutions capabilities.  I Like That have advanced their offerings with Arsenal, with a consistent increase in customer purchase rates. Furthermore, the team have also engaged in conversations with other football teams in the hope of building similar solutions. I Like That have also developed their offering and are currently going through pilots with streaming sites such as Twitch. The intention with this is that it will allow streamers to generate higher levels of income by reducing sales funnels.  L Marks have also helped I Like That scale their resources through the sourcing and introduction of multiple best practice strategies. L Marks continues to support the startup and are currently helping the team raise their next round of seed funding.

The I Like That platform is now live on the Arsenal website, arsenal.com, enabling sales of kits and accessories from across the site.

 

KonnecTo

KonnecTo is an AI-based data collection and analysis platform that enables brands to analyse customers’ past and present personal interactions at every touch-point and translates that information into actionable insights. KonnecTo Sports platform analyses data that fans from all around the world knowingly share with sports clubs, helping their partnerships teams to measure the value of existing sponsorships and predict the value of prospective sponsorships.

During the collaboration programme, KonnecTo developed a data flow process and set up a mini-site for Arsenal FC’s global fan base. Focused on Nigeria, the trial allowed KonnecTo to use their model to engage with the club’s large fan base in the country. This Proof of Concept sparked an ongoing relationship between Arsenal and KonnecTo, which will both help the startup grow its early-stage revenue and help Arsenal engage with international fans.

The insights which KonnecTo will be able to provide the Partnership Development team about our fan base unequivocally give us a point of distinction against our competitors. Firstly, in enabling us to put a compelling proposition in front of prospective partners in regard to our audiences aligning, and secondly, in identifying new brands we should be targeting.”

Alex Wicks, Head of Partnership Development, Arsenal FC

Peak

Peak is a pioneering data analytics-as-a-service company that allows businesses to grow using data and artificial intelligence. Founded in 2014, it has grown rapidly and, in 2015, won Tech North’s Northern Stars competition as a ‘top tech startup in the UK’. To date, Peak has secured a total of £3.5m in funding to launch its subscription service and invest in machine learning and AI technologies. Based in Manchester and Jaipur, Peak’s clients include Morrisons, AstraZeneca and The Economist.

“Being a part of the Arsenal Innovation Lab has been a fantastic experience for us. It’s especially rewarding to see how our AI-powered service can be used to help such an established football club do great things with data. The programme has presented us with a platform to apply our offering to a different and exciting new sector. We have only scratched the surface of what we can do and we look forward to the prospect of exploring more opportunities together in the future.”
Richard Potter, CEO, Peak

In February 2021, Peak announced the completion of its $21 mllion Series B, led by Oxx, with participation from past investors MMC Ventures and Praetura Ventures,.  To date, they have raised $43 million in funding.

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