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Delivering What an Audience Wants Through Data, Insight (and Kicking it Around)

Cardiff Uni - Data Accelerator v2[2]

When three football fanatics formed EatSleep Media after Euro 2016, they did more than bring together a collective passion for the beautiful game.

Dan Harris, Alex Feeney and Laurence Mora joined forces to create “a cracking content-producing production company” built on authentic and human content delivered where, when and how the audience wants it. Working collaboratively with the Data Innovation Accelerator (DIA) at Cardiff University helped them achieve their vision – a point that Dan and Alex were keen to detail when they spoke with Business News Wales

“We’re all big fans of Welsh football and met after the incredible events of Euro 2016, where I’d been videoing that amazing journey with a 360-camera; and Alex and Lawrence had been reporting and podcasting on the whole tournament” explains Dan, who started his career as a Scriptwriter and Filmmaker on the Caerleon campus of Newport Film School.

“Real stories from fans, for fans.”

“Over the years we’ve become accepted by the hard-core of Welsh football fans, travelling with them to far-flung places, interviewing them on Womanby Street with the flares going off and the beer and the tongues in full flow” says Dan “and we realised that we had a special business model: real stories from the fans for the fans. Wales Online started carrying our content, then the Football Association of Wales got in touch and asked us what we could do for them and their engagement strategy. That gave birth to the FC Cymru brand and the numerous channels through which we deliver the engagement goals of the FAW. So if you’re watching any FAW content, be it on promoting women’s football  or a campaign against homophobia, you’ll probably be viewing our work.

“Connecting grass root audiences with The Story in a very natural way”

“Word of mouth started to do its thing and Paul Batcup, Head of Digital at Sport Wales, contacted us  – we knew him from his days where he played for the Welsh Fans team, which we used to film – and we began working with Sport Wales, too, bringing alive what they do in a human and non-corporate way, through Welsh Sport Insider. Commissions kept coming in and new clients such as Swansea University and Velindre NHS Trust started to come onboard, because our approach is pretty unique and engages people at the grass roots, in what feels like a very natural connection, rather than corporate messaging.”

“We didn’t want to guess what people really wanted to see”  

So with all that early success, why did EatSleep Media reach out to the DIA? Alex, who presented the Real Sports Phone-in on Real Radio in south Wales, before going on to work for BBC Radio 5Live and Sky News, takes up the story: “We started our business looking at the world through the eyes of real fans and real people. It’s a much richer and more colourful view, but we were also aware that as three men of a certain age, we couldn’t second guess what people wanted to see – and we didn’t want to do that, either. So we were looking for a way to understand what our audiences wanted on a continual basis.

“We kicked the process around between us – and it’s been enjoyable”

“Women’s Football was the specific project we wanted to work on, as we’ve been closely associated with the Wales Women’s National Football team for a few years – watching it grow a following from 600 people at Rodney Parade to a crowd of more than 6,000 after the team drew away to England – and we wanted to find out what that particular audience preferred in terms of content, for a new product called Ballers, a magazine style show covering women’s football in the UK. Our pilot show for Ballers lacked a real razor edge to capture the imagination of the 16-25 female audience we wanted to target; and that’s why we got in contact with Linda Hellard at the DIA, who came to see us for an initial chat. Rather than being disconcerted about the fact that we didn’t have any hard data or definite end-game in mind, Linda and her team found it a refreshing challenge to work with us. In fact, they welcomed the fact that we had an open mind. Between us we kicked around the right way to progress the project and it’s been an enjoyable process.”

“The DIA welcomed the fact that we had an open mind”

As Commercial Director, Dan led the project and worked constantly with the team at the DIA, recruiting two female researchers aged under 25 to help “do it properly from our end. We invested our own resources and that was important. We knew that we weren’t the audience demographic ourselves and we wanted to do the right thing, to give a predominantly young female audience the content they really wanted”, says Dan. “That meant some pretty mind-blowing conversations with the data scientists at the DIA, but we found common ground to understand each other, to draw some really compelling insights – and the results have been tremendous. We knew there was an audience out there for women’s football and it’s only getting bigger. We wanted to know who they were and what content they were engaging with. We now have that – a product that allows us to give any audience the content they deserve.”

“We now have a product that allows us to give any audience the content they deserve”

What lessons have the team at EatSleep Media learned along the way? “The data mining is only the start and the insights that you interpret are key” reflects Alex. “Audience preferences change all the time; and the dashboard we now have will allow us to analyse and adapt content as tastes change. That means we’re now able to take this unique method to any sector and deliver any story or brand promise in the most engaging and sustainable way – through a data-based formula as well as the magic of ‘real people’. It’s been a big investment for a small business like ours, especially during a pandemic, but it’s certainly been worth it.”

“We can expand our business knowing that we’re not serving a collective blindness”

Dan underlines the value of that investment as EatSleep Media moves forward: “We wanted to broaden our horizons and understand different perspectives. We didn’t want to serve our customers with a collective blindness. This project has given us a method that will allow us to expand our business out of Wales and into many different markets.”

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