Ahead of the 2016/17 SPFL season starting, Sports Marketing Scotland spoke to Dunfermline Athletic’s newly appointed General Manager, Michael Mlotkiewicz.

Dunfermline's Michael Mlotkiewicz

We wanted to get the lowdown on what’s made Dunfermline so successful off the park since becoming a fan owned club, what the plans are ahead of their return to the Scottish Championship, and how Michael’s made the move from being a fan, to becoming the General Manager of the club he’s supported all his life.

Hi Michael, could you take a moment to introduce yourself?

My name is Mikey Mlotkiewicz, I’m 29 and from Dunfermline. My current position is General Manager at Dunfermline Athletic Football Club. This role was specifically created for me, based on work I’d voluntarily been doing for the club in my own time for a number of years. I was honoured to accept this position in May 2016.

l worked in Digital Communications at Fife College, Dunfermline for six years previous to this.

Congratulations on the new role! Could you give us an outline of what it’ll involve and perhaps an exclusive insight into some of your plans going forward?

My role as General Manager involves various duties. Some of these include; ensuring the smooth operation of all aspects of the day-to-day activities at the club, developing and improving the match day experience for supporters, increasing revenue and profits from sourcing new sponsorships to increasing retail sales and general promotion of the club, continuing the success of the media, PR and marketing side of the club.

Everyday is different, which is great. There’s always something happening at the club. It’s a club on the up, so it’s an exciting time to be involved.

When did you initially get involved at Dunfermline, and what was your role?

My involvement in Dunfermline Athletic Football Club started in April 2013; coming on board voluntarily to help with Pars United, the fan groups who were trying to take over Dunfermline Athletic. My role included establishing branding for the club, including a new club badge, and devising a strategy to improve engagement and communications between the football club and the supporters.

Roles have also included: improving club branding/graphic design, marketing campaigns e.g. Season Tickets, New Kits, #SPIRIT, public relations, improving the corporate culture around East End Park. l was also Vice-Chairman of the Centenary Club Lifeline among many other roles.

You’ve completely overhauled Dunfermline’s digital output in your time at the club so far, is there an overarching digital strategy you’re following?

This was one of the first moves we made when becoming a fan owned club. I quickly realised, that in order to be successful, it was vital we communicated with our fans – they simply had to be part of their football club once again and bring back the camaraderie that the club had thrived on previously. Sadly, this was something that had deteriorated previously. It was also fundamentally important that if we were to achieve that success that we reconnected with the local community and businesses. We conducted research in what the top rated club’s around the world were offering and created a usage policy, based on these findings. This resulted in us establishing the content we wanted to display, formats of posts, branding etc.

The social media content is shared with club photographer, Craig Brown, who we are very fortunate to have available at the club. He works relentlessly covering matches, training, events, new signings and also helping develop our video content recently. l actually think he has a bed at East End Park, he is there that often! He introduced Go-Pro’s back in 2014 and we became the first club or one of the first in Scotland to use a 360-degree camera back in early January 2016, which has been extremely beneficial in terms of making our marketing practices visually more professional.

We have demonstrated through our digital offering that we are listening and responding to our fanbase once again.

As we highlighted recently, you’re one of the few clubs in the country using Snapchat. What’s the reasoning behind that, along with being active on all social channels?

I’m pretty sure we were one of the first in Scotland to actively use it and will continue to utilise and develop this feature next season. We have an array of new ideas for new content but due to the lack of staff resources at League One level we were unable to execute them properly this season. Going forward we’ll be offering the fans more coverage ‘when the floodlights fade’ at East End Park so to speak. The main reason behind using this app is to target our fanbase. Social media is used by millions and a lot of our target audience is the younger generation of fans. We use Snapchat so that we can target them from such a young age and establish ourselves as a club and as a brand that values them and their views.

Most clubs focus their content around matchdays, but we, as a community club, have a lot going on Monday to Friday as well as match days so it’s vital we start to showcase that to the fans and wider audiences.

What’s the most effective channel for you to communicate with the fans, and how do you measure that effectiveness across your social channels?

Our social focus at the moment is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.

Facebook and Twitter tend to work best for us at the moment in terms of engagement and reaching our fanbase. Our Twitter feed hits over 1 million views each month, whilst our Facebook reaches 100-200k per week! In the week that we picked up the League One trophy we hit over 250,000 reach. Fans like the interaction with fellow fans as well as with the club. Sites like these allow us to respond to any queries and share memories pretty much 24/7.

We tend not to just measure how many people a post or tweet reached; it’s important to measure the engagement levels (how many comments, likes, retweets, shares etc). We want to put content out there that fans react to and make them feel part of DAFC.

The growth of our Facebook page has been phenomenal. In 2013 it had 3,500 likes, today it sits at 37,000! This illustrates that we are clearly doing something right.

As you’ve mentioned, Dunfermline are one of a few fan owned clubs in the UK, how does this affect your role at the club?

Being a supporter myself has its advantages in my role at the Football Club. I’m fairly established within the club, plus I’m the first contact through social media for many people.

Being a fan-owned club means everybody feels involved, which is vital. We have fans in carrying out domestic duties, selling merchandise, tickets etc. We have a clear vision at the club, ‘Together we are DAFC’ and try to promote this value. We are in all this together, not for glory just for the love of our football club and to get it back to where it belongs.

Fan engagement has been one of the buzzwords in the sports industry over the last few years, and it’s something you’ve mentioned is at the heart of what Dunfermline Athletic are doing. What’s next for the club to keep on engaging with the fans?

Various ideas are in the pipeline at the moment ahead of the new season. l’d personally like to introduce the whole ‘live’ experience for fans. Streaming live footage via our feeds, whether it’s the players in training, new signings, press conferences, youth matches etc.

We are also looking into the use of Spotify, Vine and Audioboom.

2015/16 was a fine season for the club, and you’ll be playing in the Scottish Championship next season after promotion from League 1. What planning goes into preparing for the next campaign? Can you reveal any upcoming plans for next season?

Planning for the season ticket campaign is well underway, our 2016/17 campaign will be ‘Movin’ on Up’, details for that have just been released across local press/media, social, club website etc. Following on from that we’ll have the kit launch promotion, so it’s all go! Not to mention any new signings, re-signings, on going improvements at the club etc.

Dunfermline are now on a much stronger footing than in previous years, and in my opinion, can be held up as an example of how a club should be run. What advice would you give other clubs at a similar level that maybe don’t believe they’ve got the resources to dedicate towards digital, and engaging with fans on a regular basis?

The best advice l could offer would be to look into your fanbase, there are talented people out there who know social media, graphic design, PR and marketing and clubs should look at utilising their skills. This is exactly what happened to me and it has driven my career in an exciting new direction. Fans are one up on others too, they know the target market 100%. Being a supporter of Dunfermline and being involved in one of the club’s biggest supporters clubs, ‘The Elizabethan Pars’ l knew what the fans wanted to see, wanted to buy and wanted to hear. I had a huge advantage from day one.

Social media is a free resource, clubs are crazy not to use it!

Is there another club, at home or abroad, that you look at and admire for what they’re doing right now?

In Scotland, Motherwell are professional, their consistent branding and social content is far superior to other clubs. Hibs and Rangers more recently are also producing some very good work, especially in their video content and campaigns.

In England, Southampton and Manchester City produce some good content and are always ahead of the game with exploring new platforms. Southampton were one of the first football clubs in the country to use Snapchat.

What do you see as ‘the next big thing’ that the football industry will pick up and adopt?

There’s certainly movement just now in the whole ‘live experience’ options via social media. Fans now more than ever want to feel involved in their football clubs and have that ‘Access all Areas pass’. They are keen to see what goes on behind the scenes and social media has made this easier for clubs.

We are looking at introducing YouTube Live, Facebook Live and Periscope next season, giving fans even further behind-the-scenes access at East End Park and on the training ground, perhaps even board meetings or in the dug out!

Video content is something we are hoping to progress with and that’s another area we want to develop further. By doing so we are giving fans the experience they all want, especially if they can’t come along to the matches, live abroad etc.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a career in the sports or football business industry?

If you’re a fan of sport or football then take every opportunity. To me there is no better job satisfaction than doing what you love everyday. It’s an honour and privilege for me to say l work for Dunfermline Athletic Football Club. You must work hard, show a passion and determination to succeed in what you do. Being able to develop my own skills in an industry that is very competitive has been a huge motivating factor.

Pele sums it up for me: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”

Dunfermline's Michael Mlotkiewicz

It’s been brilliant keeping a close eye on what Dunfermline have been doing during Michael’s time at the club so far from a marketing perspective. It was a pleasure to speak to him for the interview, and I really appreciate him taking time out of his, no doubt, now even more busy than before schedule to speak to Sports Marketing Scotland. He doesn’t need it, but good luck in the new role and I’m looking forward to visiting East End Park over the coming season.