Creating ISU’s Digital Platforms

Future Platforms helped ISU's digital evolution, engaging 330M fans & boosting revenue with a tailored fan platform and strategic OTT integration.

Client

International Skating Union

The client

The International Skating Union (ISU) is the international governing body for competitive ice skating disciplines, such as figure skating, synchronised skating and speed skating. 

Founded in 1892, the ISU is the oldest governing international winter sporting federation. It is responsible for organising several international competitions across the multiple skating disciplines it governs.

Our brief 

We were tasked with helping the ISU formulate a strategy to help transform its entire digital experience platform, with the aim of better connecting with its fanbase, attracting new sponsors, and supporting the further growth of the sport.

With around 330 million fans worldwide engaging through digital and social channels, we had to demonstrate to ISU that they were missing an opportunity to capitalise on the rising popularity of their sports. Their individual digital platforms were outdated, disconnected and primarily served only one need: to help administer the sports they represented. 

Despite being a global federation, ISU only had a limited number of people available to actually create content, such as a network of freelance journalists who were working to satisfy a large and varied group of users. Also, as part of the ISU’s charter, they have to treat each of their sports equally (regardless of their popularity) without favouring individual athletes either. 

 

What we delivered

As part of our strategic work with ISU, we conducted a rapid discovery phase, which helped uncover key opportunity areas for the ISU, starting with their fans and their expectations of digital.  

Our research found that fans expect a personalised digital experience platform, bringing them closer to the athletes and skating disciplines they love. This meant making content timely and relevant, with video at the core of how they’d engage both through digital platforms and social channels.

We looked broadly at the global sports and entertainment industry to inspire our thinking, analysing the best-in-class fan engagement through digital platforms. 

Finally, we also worked with ISU stakeholders to understand their pain points and, most importantly, align the organisation around a long-term, shared ambition for the organisation. Key to this ambition was understanding the commercial opportunities and operational constraints that impact how digital can serve the ISU’s mission, not hinder it. 

What became apparent was the ambition of ISU to get closer to their fans, develop new and improved revenue streams, and become ready for the next evolution of their sports. 

What our client says “We really enjoyed the experience of working with Future Platforms. They immediately got to grips with our organisation, fans, and ambition, and helped us unlock the potential of a new digital ecosystem which can better connect with our fans and enhance our ability to attract commercial partners.” Julien Bonjour, Digital Project Manager International Skating Union

Our strategic recommendations

This work drove a series of strategic recommendations. What was clear from the initial research and insights was that ISU needed to take a different approach and evolve its current setup. 

We recommended the creation of a new global fan digital experience platform, in which we allow users to access personalised content and information. The site design we recommended included simplified user journeys and improved search, new functionality including real-time updates on stats, data, live results, biographies, and a number of opportunities for innovation, including OTT. 

Our recommendation was to be hyper localised, basing content on the location that the fan was in. For example, if a fan was in Belgium, we would recommend that the ISU send them updates on athletes from the country, local events and competitions, as well as information on the most popular disciplines of skating in the region.

We recommended a second digital platform to act as the administrative hub of the International Skating Union, which could continue to play its important role in helping to support their sports and participants but in an easier-to-use and more contextually aware way. We reviewed the information architecture and content, simplified it and included enhanced search functionality to make it easier for all relevant stakeholders to find the information they need. 

We found that the ISU were not currently leveraging their library of archive footage to generate revenue. Our approach was recommendations into how they might be able to do this and generate commercial returns. 

In order for the ISU to achieve its commercial goals, we heavily recommended the use of an OTT platform to help move them forward, using technology to personalise the experience to fans’ favourite sports and athletes.

We specifically recommended creating an OTT video destination that could have a mix of free and subscription content, as well as coverage of new events in real-time to capture fan data and drive registrations to an OTT platform, which would be fully integrated into the new website. With this archive database, the ISU could also enable their partners and sponsors to advertise in the new digital real estate they had created.

Finally, we outlined a longer-term innovation approach in which using the new digital platforms would facilitate ISU evolving faster and quicker in future to keep pace with where their audiences are headed.