Direct Communication via WhatsApp: Leeds Rhinos in Interview

Last week we sat down with the Norwich City Football Club to talk about how they used messaging apps for fan communication– this week, we’re on to rugby with Leeds Rhinos and their new WhatsApp channel! Matt Adams, their Head of Marketing and Data, provides insight into the advantages of messenger marketing compared to email, how customer engagement is raised via WhatsApp, and how messaging apps can gain more influence in the future.

“Messenger provides a simple addition to our communications mix, has unrivalled open rates, and is cost-effective.”

For direct communication – whether with fans, customers, users, or any other target group – messaging apps are unparalleled. Raising customer engagement via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger is intuitive and cost-effective. There are no algorithms, messages show up directly on the recipient’s lock screen, and they are already the dominating form of communication for all age groups, worldwide. It’s no surprise that messaging apps are growing more popular for sports teams, who want to communicate with their fans as closely as possible and spark engagement! We asked Matt Adams 7 Questions about how Leeds Rugby uses WhatsApp, and gathered a lot of great insider knowledge.

Matt, please introduce yourself and your position.

I’m the Head of Marketing and Data for Leeds Rugby CF&A which looks after Super League club Leeds Rhinos and Championship Rugby Union team Yorkshire Carnegie. As part of the company we also have a separate events arm as well as a hotel and Community Foundation. My role covers all areas of acquisition and retention across the businesses.

Please tell us a little bit about the Leeds Rhinos!

Originally founded as Leeds Rugby in 1870 Leeds Rhinos are a rugby league club based in Yorkshire. We compete in the Super League – the top level European rugby league club competition – and have won the competition a record 8 times since its inception in 1996.

“WhatsApp presented the perfect opportunity to take our direct communications to another level.”

1. Can you tell us a little bit about why you started using WhatsApp as a communication channel?

We’re always looking for new and relevant ways to engage with our fan base, making sure that the latest news from the club is easily accessible. We’d primarily used SMS as a way of sending breaking news, but with limitations on the type of media we could share, restrictions on the number of characters, increasing costs and limited insights available in terms of opening and click rates, WhatsApp presented the perfect opportunity to take our direct communications to another level.

2. What goals did you set for yourself for your WhatsApp channel and how are the results so far?

The focus was to enhance the quality and consistency of our messages to the fan base. To date we’re very happy with the results! The additional features available through MessengerPeople – such as the Quizzes and Messenger Bot – provide new opportunities for engagement and improve customer experience. MessengerPeople has provided a service above our expectations of the product.

3. How is your community developing so far? Does your community like the service via WhatsApp?

With the simple sign-up process our community grew very quickly. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback to the service offered so far with loads of room to develop this further.

4. How and for what kind of content do you use your WhatsApp channel? Is there any exclusive content that increases customer engagement?

We’ve announced new signings, ran quizzes and run regular club updates. We plan to run exclusive Q&A sessions with players in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use messaging apps for professional, direct communication, check out our UK-specific Whitepaper. Inside we have use cases from top UK companies, strategy checklists, and KPI and ROI calculations – and it’s completely free!

Free Whitepaper Download: Professional Messenger Communication

“Messaging apps should be a vital part of any communications mix.”

5. In your opinion: what are the biggest differences between messaging apps on one hand and social media and e-mail on the other hand? Which advantages do you see in messenger marketing?

Just knowing the content is being read and engaged with. With the algorithms that sit behind social media becoming trickier to navigate, paid boosts are becoming the norm for key information. Making sure an email is both noticed in the inbox and opened is also becoming more of an art. Messenger provides a simple addition to our communications mix, has unrivalled open rates, and is also cost-effective.

6. How do you think messenger marketing via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger will affect the UK market? Are some channels going to switch positions regarding their importance?

If messenger systems can become more intuitive and offer a wider CRM integration enabling more specific segmentation and targeting of fans, I can see them gradually replacing the current role of email over the next few years. Regardless of any switches in terms of importance, messaging apps should be a vital part of any communications mix.

7. What kind of features are your favorites and how do you use them? Are there any special requests for features you would like to see?

All current features are great. Would like to be able to send longer videos –  and as previously mentioned, we are eagerly waiting to see how messaging apps develop to work closer with existing CRM systems.


Thank you for the interview, Matt!

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More Information About Professional Messenger Communication:

All the details about the rise of messaging app usage, and the business opportunities: Why E-Mail, Social Media, and Co. Can’t Compete With Messenger Marketing

How to raise customer satisfaction and service efficiency: 7 Tips for Perfect Messaging App Customer Care

An inside look at the fashion companies engaging with customers over WhatsApp: Why Fashion is Choosing Chat Apps

Have a great idea for customer service via messaging apps and want to talk about it? Message us!

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