In 2019, the EHF began a process to transform its digital landscape. A revamped website was launched alongside a mobile app and a new streaming platform, all built on a new SSO – or single sign-on interface – in order to unify customer logins across all platforms.

At the heart of the strategy is data and the EHF’s ambition, as set out in the EHF Master Plan, not only to grow the handball community but also to strengthen the federation’s relationship with those following the sport.

Already in the first year of the project, more than 200,000 contacts were added to the database, with a focus in the initial phase purely on reaching handball fans. By the end of 2023, this figure had risen to over 650,000, and by 2027 the EHF has set itself the target of getting in contact with 3.5 million fans around the world.

Data collection, within the legal framework defined by GDPR data regulations, is only the first stage on the digital journey. In order to engage with the sport’s fans, the EHF has also initiated new business processes, using email marketing campaigns (e.g. ‘Home of Handball’ newsletter, ticket alert, and competition-specific emails) in order to provide fans with personalised communications tailored to their interests. Further developments are ongoing with automated app and website notifications being introduced alongside automated marketing processes.

Acting as a hub within this digital environment is a technology stack comprising marketing tools that allow the EHF to collect and process the data received from its owned channels as well as additional data sets coming from its ticketing and merchandising partners. A CDP (Customer Data Platform) stores the data of fans and stakeholders, who have either transacted or communicated in some way with the EHF, and other tools in the systems are used to track customer interactions within the digital landscape. These digital tools allow for audiences to be identified and segmented, which aids in creating personalised and automated campaigns.

In a second phase, implemented from the beginning of 2023, the scope of the project has been expanded to the sport’s stakeholder community, including clubs, federations, coaches, referees, managers, and officials. A new newsletter ‘Inside the EHF’ has been launched and a programme of webinars covering coaching, teaching, and technical topics as well as sports business has been developed to cater for the needs of a community that has already grown to more than 15,000 worldwide.

As the EHF looks to the next stages of its data strategy, the federation is taking account not only of the rapidly changing demands of the sports market, but also the ever-stricter rules around the collection and processing of personal data. Sponsors are increasingly looking beyond advertising and brand awareness and want to reach and engage with their potential customers directly through personalised digital campaigns. Also, at the same time, the move to further protect personal data on an EU-level makes the direct relationship with fans and stakeholders and the collection of first-party data via the EHF’s owned channels ever more important.