The stands in Parken are filled with subscribers when FCK and Denmark step onto the field

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Subscription POV

By Morten Suhr Hansen

Sunday, March 10, 2024 F.C. Copenhagen stepped onto the field for the final home game of the Superliga’s regular season. Even in the week leading up to the match, the club’s ticket sellers could report a sold-out Parken stadium. Quite a unique and exciting situation. Sold out at the national stadium for a match against a club that definitely isn’t among the championship contenders (sorry, Lyngby), and all this on a cold March day, with temperatures just creeping above the freezing point.

With the enthusiastic support of the many fans in the stands, F.C. Copenhagen secured a convincing 4-0 victory. Interestingly, the majority of these fans are also subscribers to F.C. Copenhagen. Many consider the introduction of a subscription model and the remarkable increase in subscription sales as significant factors contributing to the impressive attendance at Parken.

But how did one of Denmark’s leading football clubs come up with the idea of a subscription? And what does it mean for other sports clubs, and for that matter, for other entities involved in the experience economy? Let me delve into these questions.

‘Why aren’t there any football clubs in Europe with subscriptions?’

The story of F.C. Copenhagen’s subscription journey began more than 10 years ago. In Randers! There, my colleague, Jonas Juul Jeppesen, was visiting to speak for the local business club, and when the meeting took place at Randers Stadion, he centered his discussion around the world of football. Before that, he and I had spoken with an American football club that had moved away from traditional season tickets and towards subscriptions. However, we couldn’t find a single similar example on this side of the Atlantic. So, Jonas posed the natural question, “Why aren’t there any football clubs in Europe with subscriptions?”

A good question indeed. One that a member of Randers F.C. also seemed to think was relevant, and when he was employed as the Ticket Manager in Copenhagen a couple of years later, he brought the subscription ideas with him to the capital. In 2018, F.C. Copenhagen launched its first subscription, and today, Mikkel Bjerre, who is now the Senior Ticketing and Customer Service Manager and the man from Randers who came to Copenhagen, can celebrate having reached 23,000 fans who now have a subscription or a season ticket for F.C. Copenhagen’s matches. Additionally, there’s a larger number of customers subscribed to the latest addition to the lineup, FCK+. A subscription that doesn’t grant access to Parken itself, but does provide priority access to tickets when they become available.

The entire fascinating story of F.C. Copenhagen’s subscription journey is also elaborated by Mikkel Bjerre in the excellent podcast on Mediano with Peter Brüchmann as host.

The subscription idea has escalated in Danish football

F.C. Copenhagen is no longer alone in supplementing the traditional season ticket with subscriptions. Several other clubs, including Brøndby I.F., have naturally followed suit. And it has certainly contributed to Superligaen this year seemingly breaking all previous attendance records. The stands have truly come alive, much to the delight of all of us football fans.

The Danish national football team has also embraced the subscription path. In 2021, DBU launched the ‘ForDanmark’ subscription, where subscribers pay 100 DKK per year for priority access to tickets and other benefits. But at DBU, you can of course also subscribe to a fixed seat for all national team matches via a Dynamit subscription. This contributes to the Danish national team being sold out for nearly all home matches, whether they are friendly or point-earning matches.

All experiences can be put into subscription

But why does it make sense for football clubs to think in terms of subscriptions? In my opinion, it’s actually a bit of a reversed question. In fact, I think it’s the only solution that makes sense. A fanbase of a football club doesn’t automatically expire! Therefore, the customer relationship shouldn’t either. You’re not just a fan for one season at a time. You’re a fan 365 days a year – even in the winter and summer breaks. So, of course, the subscription idea – or perhaps more accurately, the membership idea – is the right model for any sports club.

But can the subscription idea also be extended to other entities within what we call the experience economy? Absolutely. In Denmark, the leading cultural institution, Tivoli, has also been a pioneer in the subscription field. A few years ago, you bought a season pass to Tivoli, now you buy a subscription.

Let me put it bluntly! If your business today sells season passes in the traditional way, then you’re on the losing end. It is and will remain a wrong business model: to sell a season pass and rely on customers to come back year after year on their own. The season pass businesses I’ve looked at all have had sky-high churn rates and made things difficult for their customers.

So, get started with subscriptions now! Your customers will love you for it.