The new digital platform was custom-made for SA Rugby by its official digital partner, Accenture South Africa, and includes a raft of new features to put the union at the cutting edge of best digital practice.

“This is a start of a new digital journey for us; one that is overdue but one that we excited to be embarking upon,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.

“Rugby fans in South Africa are the heartbeat of the game and in this ever-evolving digital world, where connectivity to brands, teams and people is more prevalent than ever before, we needed to overhaul the way we communicate and what we communicate.

“We’ve managed to keep up with the social media revolution, but we’d fallen behind in the absence of a mobile-friendly website. But that has now been addressed and we’re confident our supporters and partners will feel the difference.”

Apart from a brand-new mobile friendly and interactive website, which works hand-in-hand with SA Rugby’s already established social media channels, Accenture has also provided a custom-made CRM (customer relationship management) solution.

Microsoft South Africa, a global organisation that enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge, is also partnering with SA Rugby in the project as the official cloud partner.

“We saw last year with the ticket sales for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens how effective it is to speak directly with your customers and we can now improve our offering to our supporters,” said Roux.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams. To maintain our relevance in this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we've acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, Managing Director at Accenture Digital Africa and Accenture’s Executive lead for the partnership, said: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.

“It's a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise their ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve.”

Accenture's development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

To know what fans want, Fjord Design first needed to understand the fans themselves, and as such their team mined research data and identified multiple fan 'personas', which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture leveraged leading digital experience software. The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby's content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.

“At the heart of this experience lies content - we know our supporters are passionate and always eager to learn more about the game, tournaments and the players,” said Roux.

“As the custodians of the game in South Africa, we are the pre-eminent source of that information. The new platform will now serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights.”

As a result, the platform's content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement the long-form thought leadership and insight pieces for which SA Rugby is renowned.

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to unique player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to pro-actively track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby's e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system's functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby's fan experience and engagement strategy.

The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture has successfully re-imagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.