Filmily, a Devon-based fan engagement company, is delivering AI solutions for international sports brands including Hampshire Cricket, Harlequins RFC, The Dallas Cowboys, The San Francisco 49ers and The US Tennis Open. The company has also partnered with US sports agency, Wasserman.
While major sports clubs and music groups are attracting global audiences in ever increasing numbers, establishing and retaining fan loyalty, particularly amongst younger generations, is becoming more challenging.
According to a 2020 ESPN report, the share of US sports fans, aged 12 to 17, who call themselves “avid” has dropped from 42% a decade ago to 34% in 2019.
Filmily’s solution is to ‘engage’ fans and ‘personalise’ events, making them more meaningful for the fan and driving sports clubs’ advertising revenue.
Andy Doyle, Co-Founder of Filmily, describes a typical use case with the Dallas Cowboys: “We integrate with the club’s app which shows a spectacular touchdown and encourages fans to cheer at the camera. Our platform then collects that footage and within 30 seconds, creates mosaics for big screens, pitch-side advertising boards, TV and social media – where viewers can see thousands of fans cheering.”
Filmily’s AI selects content based on fan’s age, race and gender, their emotions, the brands they’re wearing or consuming, their location, how much the camera is moving and even their altitude; to determine whether they’re at pitch level or sitting higher up in the stands.
“If the Dallas Cowboys want to present themselves as a family NFL team, we can create mosaics displaying predominantly women and children from a diverse range of backgrounds – all smiling, wearing the correct merchandise and drinking the sponsor’s soft drink.”
Filmily also creates personalised videos for the individual fan to share on social media. The bespoke films display the fan starring in the middle of the frame before zooming out to show a whole crowd cheering. At the 2020 US Tennis Open, Filmily received 36,000 fan films and created 9,000 unique movies.
By enabling sports clubs to provide a more personal and meaningful experience to their global, remote fan base, Filmily has proved an invaluable resource during the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown rapidly in the past year.
The company is also expanding into the news media sector, enabling the public to record and stream events as they happen, as well as the weddings sector, with partnerships agreed with global hotel brands.
Investment readiness support from Innovate UK EDGE
To fund its platform development, Filmily secured a £235,000 Innovate UK grant in 2019 and joined Pitchfest, Innovate UK EDGE’s investment readiness programme.
Pitchfest participants benefit from fully subsidised 1-2-1 coaching and support from an Innovate UK EDGE finance specialist, before pitching to a panel of investors who provide feedback and offer advice on how best to gain finance.
“The Pitchfest coaching really helped us to structure our pitch and stand out from the competition,” says Andy. “A private investor offered us £30,000 on pitch day and in May 2021, he invested in us again.”
Since Pitchfest, Filmily has gone on to raise $375,000 from Stadia Ventures, based in Missouri, and aims to raise another $340,000 by the end of June 2021. The business is now valued at $7m.
International support from Innovate UK EDGE
In June 2020, Andy began work with Innovate UK EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialist, Carolyn Hooker, who set about identifying new opportunities for Filmily.
“Carolyn is an almost unlimited resource,” says Andy, “I’m a techie guy buried in a screen for most of my day and before I met her, I didn’t know anything about the business support landscape out there.”
Carolyn stepped in to provide internationalisation support, helping Filmily access new markets:
“I was recently concerned about market access into China, and within a few days of speaking to Carolyn, she had set up a meeting with an in-country representative at the Department for International Trade, who introduced me to key organisations including the Chinese Super League.”
“That encouragement and proactiveness has made Filmily more global and resilient – I don’t think we would have expanded into the US without her support.”
Carolyn next arranged for Filmily to receive IP advice from Innovate UK EDGE IP Specialist, Kate Butler, and go on to participate in the UK’s IP Audits Scheme.
Funded by the IPO and by Innovate UK, the scheme provides a grant of up to £2,500 for businesses to appoint an IP Attorney to provide an audit of IP assets and advice on IP strategy.
“The IP audit was great – we now have patents and trademarks registered in the UK, with more following in the US and Europe, enabling us to grow securely.”
Innovate UK EDGE will continue to support as this Devon-based business partners with more iconic sporting, music and hospitality brands, enabling fans to engage like never before.