For IMD’s MBA innovation module, the school, UEFAECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne and ThinkSport teamed up to create a unique and intensive experience for MBA and Master in Design participants to learn about innovation. The 2019 UEFA Innovation Challenge, powered by IMD, ECAL and ThinkSport, is a hands-on learning journey led by leading experts from the worlds of sports and business, which took place from 29 April – 3 May 2019. 

18 teams pitched their projects to the jury and six teams were chosen for the finals. The teams combined IMD’s MBAs with a student from ECAL’s MA program in Product Design and MAS in Design for Luxury and Craftsmanship to reproduce the mix of business and design expertise to replicate the makeup of multidisciplinary teams in the real world of innovation. Many of the projects focused on improving the football experience for families and people with special needs.

Here is a round up of the 18 team projects that came out of the challenge:

Winner

Team 8 (Challenge 2)

Enhancing the “in-seat” offering to provide an unparalleled experience

Team members: IMD - Anita Lee, Joseph Pineda, Maki Shimizu, Peter Shibaev, Tamil Vardani; ECAL - Benjamin Bichsel.

“It’s human nature to cherish good memories.”

Raising a family creates thousands of magical memories for parents and children alike. UEFA is dedicated to offering a platform for some of those wonderful moments through its football tournaments. However, some parents decide against taking their children to enjoy the unforgettable experience of an international tournament because they may have concerns over child safety, stadium security and the basic logistics of getting to a match.  

Team 8’s winning proposal focused on how best to ease these concerns and to make families feel more welcome and secure at the stadium. Putting families at the center of the tournament experience, Team 8 suggested offering parents and children a technology-enabled fan wristband instead of just a plain, old match ticket.

The UEFA-branded EUROband features an RFID tag, making it secure, unique and traceable in and around the stadium. Children wearing the EUROband are automatically safer in the stadium. If they drift away from their parents, thanks to EUROband, they can be located and brought safely back to their seat.

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The EUROband journey begins at the ticket purchase stage because the band effectively replaces the ticket. Collectable wristbands can be customized online with different flags and colors at the point of sale and charged up with the right currency so that families can enjoy a cash- and card-free experience at the match.

The multipurpose EUROband, manufactured from recycled plastics, is then used to access the venue via a security scanner at the turnstiles.

Team 8’s winning idea not only creates a sense of belonging within the UEFA community and a fun connection between family members, it also offers a platform for various other match day features and functions, social media activation and marketing opportunities.

Emotional Prize

Team 2 (Challenge 1)

Evolving the UEFA festival experience to boost participation

Team members: IMD- Andre Costa, Damianos Kiramarios, Tulio Barcelos, Maisie Borrows, Arjun Dhaul; ECAL - Hugo Paternostre.

“An invitation can change perspectives.”

Football is about connecting people. But, when thousands of football fans pour into a host city at a UEFA EURO tournament, some local residents may struggle to feel part of the festivities. What more can we do to engage the local community effectively during the tournament so that it truly catches EURO fever?

Team 2’s entry - rewarded with the Emotional Prize - offered the perfect solution for travelling football fans to reach out and give something back to communities in tournament host cities.

The idea is simple. When a fan buys a ticket for EURO 2024, he or she has the option to send a complimentary gift – a bespoke box with four special cups – to a resident in the city where that particular match is going to be played.

At the time of the tournament, the resident – selected carefully as someone engaged in sport or perhaps part of the AirBnB network – receives the box and a letter from the football fan. It’s an invitation to meet at the fan zone and share the EURO experience.

With four cups and an included QR code, the resident can invite friends along for the ride and collect a round of drinks for free at the fan zone bar.

This act of giving says thank you in a personal way to residents of host cities, it builds bridges in the spirit of football, offers opportunity for data insights, boost the brand image of the tournament and increases engagement.

And once the final ball has been kicked and a champion crowned, the resident has fond memories and a souvenir – and perhaps some new friendships - to treasure for life.

Challenge #1 How can we evolve the “UEFA Festival” experience to increase engagement and grow fan participation?

Team 5 - Finalist

Creating a daytime festival experience for families

Team members: IMD – Alex Berry, Lukasz Kaczynski, Daniel Leutenegger, Mischa Riedo, Cosima Suter; ECAL – Wasan Choosakul.

“Imagine a place where you, as a family, feel safe to experience a football festival.”

With big screens and a range of activities, UEFA fan zones are perfect environments for local residents and travelling football fanatics to connect and enjoy the tournament experience and match day atmosphere away from the stadium. These zones are designed to cater for everyone in the football community but what if, as a family, you wanted something a little more tailored to your needs?

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Team 5 suggested that UEFA should create exclusive kids’ football villages next door to the traditional fan zones. These football villages would allow parents and their children the chance to enjoy the tournament to the maximum in a child-safe and playful environment.

It starts at the entrance, where families sign in and are greeted by mascots. Inside the village, children can choose from a range of activities, including small-sided football matches and sessions with trained coaches, a football storytelling and exploration corner, face painting and playgrounds facilities. As their children enjoy all that the village has to offer, parents can relax and watch the match on a big screen with friends.

Team 5’s idea is designed to recruit and own the fans of the future, reactivate lost fans such as parents, engage local residents, generate data insights and galvanize new UEFA partners.

Team 1

Attracting local fans through intercity competition

Team members: IMD – Philipp Kainz, Purnendu Kushwaha, Javier Linares, Edouard Maupile, Adrian Safciuc; ECAL – Sarah Hossli.

To improve local fan engagement in fan villages and host cities during EURO 2024, Team 1 devised a simple but inspired solution built around the iconic image of the ball.

Through Team 1’s idea, people attending fan villages in host cities would be able to hunt for and discover halves of small, colored balls that encourage them to meet and interact with other fans, engage with activities in the fan village and on social media, and enter their city into an intercity competition to decide which host city has the most active and passionate fans.

Team 1’s concept would target young professionals who may not normally visit a fan village, with scope to boost UEFA app downloads, social media activity, higher attendance across the tournament and the possibility to scale the idea across other UEFA competitions.

Team 3

Disrupting the UEFA festival experience

Team members: IMD – Ezequiel Abachian, Aamir Ahmad, Gianmarco Bonaita, Kerry Hsiao, Kei Takizawa; ECAL – Jawahir Alkhayyal.

To encourage more families to embrace EURO 2024 as fans, Team 3 developed an integrated digital and physical game experience pitting households against each other in a series of fun challenges.

Through a new UEFA app featuring games, guides, trivia and family fun zones in host cities, Team 3’s idea takes families on a customer journey that runs before, during and after the tournament.

Ultimately at stake, via in-app, in-city and family fun zone challenges, is the chance to meet your favorite player, and win special match tickets or signed shirts by competing against other families.

Team 3’s business model leveraged data monetization, a profitable fan zone and new user recruitment to disrupt the way families experience Europe’s premier international tournament.

Team 4

Attracting new football fans aged between 18-28 to EURO festivals

Team members: IMD – Alexander Broe, Angelina Cho, Galiia Dautova, Luca Facchini, Cyan Umbert; ECAL – Luca Gorisse.

To inspire young people who have never been to a football match to connect with the EURO 2024 experience in their city, Team 4 proposed building a network of local colleges, schools and universities in partnership with UEFA.

This network would serve two purposes. First, it would raise awareness of the tournament with the local student population and their wider social circle, helping to boost engagement in and around match days. Second, it would enable new solutions to be created to enhance the tournament as a whole.

For example, by reaching out to design schools, UEFA could work with young local talent to develop new mascots, staff uniforms, souvenirs and branding.

Team 4 argued that creating concrete opportunities for students to work with UEFA in the delivery of the tournament would share the benefits locally and enhance the public’s perception of Europe’s governing body of football.

Team 6

Improving analogue gamification among local fans

Team members: IMD – Stepan Braginskiy, Ankita Majumdar, Sumeet Trehan, Helena Vargas Serrato, Yang Yao; ECAL – Samuel Lodetti.

In an increasingly digital and tech-driven world, the power of analogue can still have a transformative impact. In fact, analogue has its own unique attraction for many young people that can be leveraged at major sporting events such as EURO 2024.

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Team 6 proposed giving out collectable badges to fans who attend fan zones to watch a match during the tournament. These badges could be ironed onto a shirt or added to a collection at home. Just as a video can go viral online, these badges have the potential to light up the imagination as the latest craze during the tournament.

This buzz would encourage more fans to attend as many games as possible in fan zones in order to access the full range of badges.

How can UEFA enhance the “in-seat” offering, providing our ticket holders with an unparalleled experience?

Team 11 - Finalist

Integrating children in the stadium experience as fans of the future

Team members: IMD – Marcelo Cardoso, Jaco Jansen, Sebastiano Pizzinelli, Filipa Vasconcelos, Atsushi Yokota; ECAL – Fabien Roy.

“It is emotion. It is energy. It is engagement.”

Every fan who participates in a UEFA event should expect the very best experience catered to their individual needs. As more families look to engage with big sporting events, it is vital that children are given an experience that will last a lifetime and create passionate fans of the future.

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Team 11 proposed using a digital fan bracelet for children to unlock a range of features, benefits and competitions before, during and after the match.

Pre-match, parents order and customize their child’s fan bracelet. This bracelet is activated via UEFA’s app and acts as a digital ticket.

At the stadium, the bracelet gives families priority access and the chance to enjoy a range of outside activities. And then the bracelet comes to life. During the match, it reacts to the child’s movements and behavior by changing color and vibrating, earning points for a UEFA reward program and the chance to win prizes by competing against other children in the stadium. The most energetic and engaged young fan is notified as the winner by a special bracelet reaction.

The fan bracelet is low cost, offers a platform for sponsorship and additional features, provides insights into fan behavior, and rewards the passionate fan of the future.

Team 7

Enhancing the “in-seat” experience

Team members: IMD – Graham Egan, Armando Goes, Richard Pickering, Camila Scaranelo, Roberto Tavares; ECAL – Timothee Mion.

There is little that compares to watching a top international football match in a state-of-the-art stadium full of passionate fans. But how can we optimize the experience of fans and

enhance the atmosphere during matches at EURO 2024 when they are in their seats?

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Team 7 came up with a simple but inspired and fun idea to give fans what they need to join forces as one in the stadium and make themselves truly heard.

The team suggested distributing a beer cup that can be transformed into a megaphone once the beverage has been consumed. This megaphone would give fans extra volume and help to build an unprecedented level of crowd noise during matches. Thanks to technology, the level of engagement and volume could be measured per team and compared in a tournament-wide competition.

National team chants could be displayed on big screens to encourage participation and to facilitate competition between different sets of fans.

Team 9

Enhancing the “in-seat” experience

Team members: IMD – Swati Dalal, Gavin D’Souza, Uzair Fahmi, Shriekanth Iyer, Isabella Zong; ECAL – Mathilde Lafaille.

Augmented reality is increasingly becoming part of our daily lives, so why not embrace the concept to improve the football fan experience and atmosphere in stadiums?

Team 9 devised the idea of deploying sound recording and amplification devices among fans to boost the volume of crowd noise and drive up excitement levels.

This innovation could be bolstered with video content delivered via the same devices in the crowd, creating an audio-visual feast for fans and transforming their in-seat experience. The simple-to-deploy technology would also pave the way into other areas of benefit for UEFA and fans, such as targeted advertising, valuable insights into fan behavior, competitions and more sophisticated augmented reality experiences.

Team 10

Improving the washroom experience for fans during matches

Team members: IMD - Alexander Burasov, Becky Holst, Jia Song, Shaunak Grover, Takashi Ito; ECAL - Ryo Katayama.

We’ve all been there: desperately waiting in what feels like an eternal queue just to use the washroom at a big event. With thousands of fans, a short window of time for a bathroom break at half time, and a limited number of facilities, it is no surprise that these long lines are a common feature at international football tournaments.

Team 10 envisaged a whole new and more convenient washroom experience at football matches thanks to a simple app that transforms the physical queue into a digital one.

Fans scan their ticket to register to use the washroom and then simply wait in their seats for their slot. The app provides directions to the nearest facility, and even offers the chance to upgrade and jump the queue. Once away from their seats, fans do not have to miss a minute of the action because the app allows them to watch the match via their smartphones and even order a drink from the bar.

According to Team 10, this fresh idea could be monetized through sponsorship, fast pass upgrades and promotions.

Team 12

Making first-time fans feel engaged in the stadium

Team members: IMD - Georgii Chargeishvili, Sidrit Hafizi, Hameed Ibrahim, Satoshi Tanaka, Junyi Wang; ECAL – Leonardo Vianello.

Technology offers so many new possibilities for an enhanced and unique fan experience at football matches. The broadcast production of matches is already embracing innovations in augmented reality, so why not give fans in the stadium access to the same technology?

Team 12’s idea to reimagine the way that new fans can feel truly engaged and inspired during EURO 2024 imagined a future where each fan has their own personalized 3D virtual reality headset in the stadium.

Through this headset, fans could enjoy similar graphics to those shown on broadcast productions, such as team formations superimposed on the pitch prior to the match, replays, analysis, and statistics during the action.

The device could also be used to show exciting light shows and entertainment before and after the game, and during half time.

The concept would mean that a fan who normally only watches football on a TV or smart device could come to a EURO 2024 game and enjoy the electric, live atmosphere while also receiving all of the “live broadcast” production add-ons that they are used to.

How can UEFA make its tournaments even more inclusive and open to all and offer spectators with additional needs an exceptional tournament experience?

Team 13 - Finalist

Enhancing the experience of wheelchair users

Team members: IMD – Alexis Fissore, Priscilla Lellis, Vivekanand Pandey, Surbhi Puri, Leo Suvorov; ECAL - Viktor Rhodin.

“I want to be part of the crowd.”

The emotional needs of the football fan are the same no matter where you are from or who you are. Football is about inclusion, team spirit, passion and community. UEFA is focused on breaking down barriers and putting measures in place so that all fans can experience the best atmosphere and customer journey during their tournaments.

To help improve access and the overall tournament experience for fans that need to use wheelchairs, Team 13 proposed a solution that builds on UEFA’s existing event app for EURO 2024.

As part of the app’s existing ticketing process, fans would be able to volunteer to assist anyone using a wheelchair in their part of the stadium. The app would offer fans access to limited personal information of the people in proximity to each other in the stadium, alongside a chat function designed to encourage interaction. 

The app would integrate Wheelmap, the online global map for locating wheelchair accessible places, to make it easier to plan journeys and activities on match day. It would offer geolocation services so that users could find out where fellow fans are congregating before and after the match. And it would enable fans to plot the best route to washrooms and facilities in the stadium.

In Team 13’s innovative solution, anyone that signs up as a volunteer to help would be offered exclusive fan experiences or UEFA rewards.

Team 15 - Finalist

Raising awareness of the visible and invisible needs of fans

Team members: IMD – Perwez Akhtar, James Chien, Olivier De Liedekerke, Carl Huang, Da Eun Sung; ECAL – Jeffrey Lambert.

“We all share the same equal right to have the same enjoyment in the stadium.”

It is not always immediately obvious what specific needs a fan might have in order to fully enjoy the EURO 2024 experience and atmosphere. One fan may be pregnant, another might have chronic back pain. In such cases, the behavior and awareness of fellow fans in and around the stadium can play a huge part in an individual’s overall enjoyment of the event.

Team 15 suggested launching a public awareness campaign – “Football For All” – to help fans identify and support people with specific needs.

The campaign, built around values such as care, positivity, equality, respect and inclusivity, would distribute UEFA-branded “Football for All” badges to all fans. With additional momentum on social media, #footballforall would start a simple but powerful movement and set the tone for the tournament.

Pregnant women could wear a “Fan on Board” armband, ensuring that other fans are aware and able to provide support when needed. Branded cushions could be provided to those who need extra comfort in the stadium. Trained volunteers could wear “Captain of Change” scarves so that fans know whom they can reach out to for help at any time.

Through this cost-effective campaign, Team 15 proposed using the power of football to promote social change, not just a fantastic UEFA tournament experience for all.

Team 14

Ensuring that all fans in the stadium can enjoy all of the action

Team members: IMD – Mirko Deckler, Kirill Nagorskiy, Atsushi Shichitani, Yizhe Xu, Yang Zhu; ECAL – Lorenz Noelle.

There are times at a football match when emotion takes control of football fans. They leap to their feet as one as their team builds an attack or heroically defends its goal. But not everyone can jump up to follow the action, and not everyone wants to.

How do we make sure that all the fans in a stadium are still able to follow all of the gameplay throughout the match, even when emotions take over?

Team 14 created the idea of YourTube – an innovative product that acts as a fan-friendly periscope.

YourTube gives anyone whose view is restricted during a match – for whatever reason – the ability to see the pitch and enjoy all the action.

The product, featuring periscope mirrors, is inflatable and portable for ease of use, lightweight and made of recyclable plastic.

Whether a fan uses a wheelchair, is elderly or a small child, YourTube ensures that every fan can enjoy every moment of the EURO 2024 experience in the stadium.

Team 16

Empowering the visually-impaired to enjoy more of the match experience

Team members: IMD – Anna Barskaya, Pedro de Mello, Peter Kalet, Matteo Verlato, Fred Wallenberg; ECAL – Marta Arocena.

There are 43.4 million visually-impaired football fans in the world. One in five of those fans would like to go experience a match in a stadium, but half of that number don’t because of the difficulties they experience.

Football should be open and accessible to all, so how can we improve the experience for visually-impaired fans and ensure that more to engage with EURO 2024?

Team 16 pinpointed a key problem for this set of passionate football fans: mobility and navigation inside the stadium. The team worked together to propose the EuroSight app for smartphones that would boost the inclusivity of UEFA’s competitions for fans, increase engagement and, crucially, enhance safety.

The app and optional walking stick device, which vibrates to help navigate the way inside the stadium, would support visually impaired fans by guiding them through their entire match journey – from the concession stand to their seat, from their seat to the washroom.

Team 17

Welcoming families with children and creating the fans of the future

Team members: Kamal Aissa, Kristina Mityaeva, Jillian Xu, Ashley Yeh, Chaoyi Zhou; ECAL – Jingxiang Zhang.

Taking children to a big sporting event can prove a challenge for families: the large crowds and stadium, the need to sit in one place for a long time. If we are to recruit the football fans of the future, we must ensure that matches are not just family friendly, but a memorable experience for children.

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Team 17 tackled the hurdle of safety concerns for families by putting the customer at the heart of the journey, from offering family tickets and add-on options to enhancing the in-seat experience for young fans and providing a fun souvenir of the event.

For example, families could purchase and design their own customizable “family card” for a match at EURO 2024, which comes with a fan experience package in the post. The card, featuring RFID technology, is full traceable to reduce safety concerns.

In addition, UEFA could provide a “little fan’s stand” that could be fully integrated into stadium seating to enhance a young child’s match day and viewing experience.

Team 18

Offering visually-impaired fans an exceptional experience

Team members: IMD – Jaime Charad, Diego Scolaro, Jesaud Silva, Andrea Teja, Tiziano Vigano; ECAL – Yu-Ying Wu.

Research shows that more visually-impaired football fans would attend matches if the overall in-stadium experience was better and more tailored for their needs. While these fans enjoy some support – such as headsets offering live commentary – more needs to be done to immerse them in the action and to attract more visually-impaired people to big football tournaments such as EURO 2024.

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With live commentary, fans can follow the direction of the players and the flow of the game, but what about the precise location of the ball?

Team 18 devised a simple device called “Touch Pitch” to help visually-impaired fans enjoy more of the game. With “Touch Pitch”, each fan is given a small football pitch board with a moveable ball embedded in it. Using state-of-the-art tracking technology, the position and movements of the match ball are replicated perfectly on the “Touch Pitch”, allowing the fan to follow the ball as it glides across the pitch by using his or her fingers.

Find out more about IMD’s MBA | UEFA | ECAL | ThinkSports Innovation Challenge