Robins back the board to the tune of £60,000
Cheltenham Town have become the first EFL club to turn to Crowdfunder and raise the money to install a ADI digital scoreboard at their LCI Rail Stadium.
The League Two club have raised over £60,000 in 11 days to complete a project that has been two years in the making with a bold, innovative and eye-catching campaign.
Installing a scoreboard was a pet project of long-serving vice chairman Colin Farmer, who started the wheels in motion in 2014.
But his untimely death in August meant the project stalled so the club looked for an alternative and creative way of raising the money required for the screen from stadium technology specialists ADI.
The campaign was a fitting tribute, but it also had one eye firmly on the future and the £600,000 of potential advertising revenue that could be unlocked over the next decade.
It was also a chance to re-engage with the local business community as well as the supporters in the town.
"It's probably the most brilliant marketing campaign and strategy the club has ever done and the fantastic people we have supporting us have bought into it,” said club chairman Paul Baker.
"We have achieved lots of things over the years at Cheltenham Town, but I have to say that this is simply awesome," he added.
"I didn't really believe we would do it, let alone do it in less than two weeks. It's an absolutely staggering achievement.”
In the end local businesses, former players and supporters worked brilliantly together to create a real buzz around the club and hit their ambitious target.
The local newspaper, the Gloucestershire Echo, and supporters group Robins Trust backed the campaign from the outset as did the British Heart Foundation.
The charity was keenly supported by Farmer and was named the scoreboard’s first ‘Charity of the Year’.
First to respond to the launch were the supporters, who snapped up the exclusive rewards on offer.
They were invited to pledge £25 to be part of the Wall of Fame, which meant their names were permanently added to The Colin Farmer Stand and into a draw to win a pair of 2017-18 season tickets. There is also a squad number for next season up for grabs as the campaign moves into an overfunding phase.
Two games against Cheltenham Town legends have to be organised after supporters snapped up the £40 offer to play against members of Steve Cotterill's all-conquering side.
There was a chance to have a curry with Robins boss Gary Johnson and to go on a bike ride around Gloucestershire with assistant manager Russell Milton, all of which saw them hit the 50%-mark inside three days.
The buzz created inevietably drew in the local businesses, who took up advertising opportunities on the board as well as offering rewards to join the campaign.
In the end over 20 companies came forward to be part of it.
Next came the former players and managers who flocked to take part, volunteering to take part in legends games and donating over 30 match-worn shirts from their time at the club.
Ex-captain and now the club’s commercial manager John Finnigan handed over his two winners medals from the 2002 and 2006 play-off wins, which the Robins Trust bought to put on permanent display at the club.
Former boss Mark Yates handed over his England shirt and cap, which was used to incentivise a sponsorship opportunity, while fans’ favourite Grant McCann used his shirt and the match ball from the 2006 play-off win at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to lay down the gauntlet.
The ex-Northern Ireland international and current Peterborough United manager challenged 250 supporters to join the Wall of Fame in return for a chance to win the valuable keepsake.
As the target drew closer the club hosted ‘Retro Shirt Day’ for the visit of Portsmouth, inviting supporters to squeeze into their old kits for the match and building excitement around the former players's shirts they had given for the cause.
All of them were then sold in a fire sale on the Crowdfunder, sparking a final flurry of supporter and local business pledges to hit their target inside 11 days.
Following the huge success of the campaign, fans had glimpse of what the new scoreboard will look like once it’s installed at Whaddon Road, as ADI provided a demonstration with one of their fleet of mobile LED screens, to show the town what to expect as a result of their hard work.’
“Supporters are always shelling out for tickets and travel so it was important to get the pitch right,” said Murry Toms, Senior Digital Producer at Crowdfunder and a fan who helped to pull together the campaign.
“We wanted local businesses and former players to work closely with the fans on this and that’s exactly how it panned out. The hard work paid off.
“In order to achieve what we set out to do we had to make sure we were offering real value for money and I think the funding total speaks for itself.
“We made sure we kept the momentum running through the campaign with regular stories, new rewards and high-profile supporters as we had them.
“As a result we’ve secured a significant income stream for the club over the next decade which is vital for its survival and we’ve created a real legacy to remember Colin, a smashing bloke who got the ball rolling a few years ago."
Finnigan was just as pleased as the chairman to see the target smashed.
The captain of the 2006 promotion winning side said he was proud to have played a part in steering the campaign to a successful conclusion.
"The support we’ve had has been astonishing," he said.
"At the outset we thought it was an ambitious target and have been really overwhelmed by everyone's generosity.
The supporters have dug deep, so have local businesses and sponsors. We really cannot thank everyone enough.
"Ex-players and managers, current players, the manager and backroom team have thrown themselves into this which shows how much Cheltenham Town means to us all.”
The club are now closing in on their 'stretch target' to buy an even bigger scoreboard for the ground with a little under a week to run on the campaign.
Cheltenham Town may be the first EFL club to turn to Crowdfunder, but clubs such as Bath City, Grimsby Town, FC United of Manchester and Chester City have raised over £500,000 for facilities in recent times.
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