Liiga is a pioneer in digital services for ice hockey – even on a global scale. Liiga’s mobile apps are the very model of innovation. An app developed by Digia is taking the fan experience to the next level by creating a brand-new kind of platform for clubs and their partners to reach audiences and sell services. Various versions of the app are being used exceptionally widely and innovatively.
Liiga (the Elite League) is by far the most popular sports league in Finland. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it used to attract a total of about two million spectators per year at ice rinks and over three million via various other channels.
Liiga is also a pioneer in harnessing technology. Some of the digital solutions used in Finland aren’t to be found even in the world’s major sports leagues.
One good example of this is what happens when a goal is scored. Interesting things happen in the background while the team and supporters are celebrating. The puck contains a transmitter that is continuously monitored by the ice rink’s positioning system. When the spectators take their seats, many dig out the club app so they can study the game statistics in almost real time. For example, the app will soon show where the scoring shot started from.
“Our goal is to be a global pioneer in digital services for ice hockey. In some respects, we’re already quite a way towards achieving this,” says Antti-Jussi Aro, Liiga’s Chief Digital Officer.
Liiga and its teams also took a slightly new take on things when developing the mobile app.
What we used
- native app development
The app works well and is easy to use. It may therefore appear simple. But there’s a complex package working in the background – one that includes many systems and their integrations.
Antti-Jussi Aro, CDO, Liiga
Dozens of mobile apps from a single template
Several years ago, Liiga decided to expand strongly into the mobile world. Aro says that sports clubs often offer one common app that focuses on the league itself. In Finland, however, the idea was to focus on what’s most important to the fans – the teams. Liiga decided to create a common app platform on which clubs could build their own mobile apps as desired.
Liiga ‘smobile app was released in collaboration with Digia in March 2019. Since then, ten Liiga clubs have already released their own team-specific apps on the same platform.
“The platform was deliberately designed to be as flexible as possible, so as to leave room for creativity and enable the seamless provision of the club’s own or third-party services,” says Aro. This goal was achieved, and the app is being used in a broad spectrum of ways.
Some of the most popular functions include a variety of statistics, real-time match updates, compilations, and news. Aro says that their vision has been clear from the outset: to create a “second screen” to support the ice hockey experience, no matter where you’re watching the match.
“We want the mobile app to improve fans’ customer experience on both the bleachers and their sofas,” he says.
The app also plays another important role for Liiga’s clubs. It opens up a new, direct channel between the club and its supporters. The app can send push notifications that provide information about the team or its matches. Aro says that the mobile app is a strategically important communication channel for both Liiga and its clubs.
Mobile app improves finances – and unleashes creativity
The mobile app is also becoming increasingly important as a means of bolstering club finances. It can, for example, be used to boost product sales. Bonus coupons can be offered for the club’s products or those of its partners, and the app can also highlight partners in other ways. This brings new dimensions to sponsorship and benefits the entire League community’s business.
“You can also use the app to buy tickets for matches,” says Aro. The app has a direct link to the ticket operator’s webstore, and some clubs are also making use of the mobile season ticket developed by Digia.
Imagination seems to be the only limit when it comes to new uses for the app. A jersey draw could be arranged during a break in the match, and almost half of the spectators in the rink may take part. When they raise their phone screens during the draw, they create a spectacular light show that illuminates the entire rink. Soon the results of the draw are displayed on both phone screens and the rink’s media cubes.
Some apps send an automatic greeting to spectators when they arrive at the ice rink. One of the Liiga’s clubs sells parking tickets for the arena via the app. At some matches, users can also take photos of themselves watching the game, and these photos are then shown on the rink’s media cubes during the match.
Easy-to-use app hides a complex system
The development of Liiga’s mobile app began with two pilot projects. The pilots ensured that the whole system worked seamlessly and that the app would be easy to develop with Liiga’s various ice hockey clubs. Achieving this goal required profound expertise, as the app had to be fully integrated into Liiga’s other extensive and advanced digital infrastructure.
“The app works well and is easy to use. It may therefore appear simple. But there’s a complex package working in the background – one that includes many systems and their integrations,” says Aro.
The platform created by Digia and Liiga hides this complexity, making the app both easy to use and easy to adapt into different versions for different clubs.
“All of the participating clubs have been satisfied, and feedback from consumers has also almost invariably been really positive,” says Aro.
This has also been reflected in the app’s popularity. Aro says that, at the beginning of the autumn 2020 season, the number of people using Liiga app had almost doubled in comparison to the previous season. People who download the app also use it actively – on average up to ten times per week. Aro says this is really good compared to many other apps.
“We’ve reached a good point. We have high-quality digital services and an excellent and very popular mobile app in the field of Finnish sport. But development will not, of course, stop here. We have many new ideas for the coming years,” says Aro.
Liiga will continue to enhance its customer experience and digital services, thereby benefiting the entire Finnish ice hockey ecosystem. Aro believes that, when it comes to future development, this is just the beginning.