UX in sport: redefining membership in an international sports club

Torresburriel Estudio
8 min readJan 18, 2024

Imagine a classroom where UX lessons come to life through real-world experience, and a setting where theory and practice merge to unveil the power of a user-centric strategy. This article is just that: a journey through one of our projects with an international sports club, because as we always say: sharing is the best way to learn UX.

At Torresburriel Estudio, we took on the challenge of redesigning their membership program, a task that led us through the intricacies of UX research at several critical stages. This included understanding the Voice of the Business (VoB) and the market (VoM), as well as capturing the Voice of the User (VoU).

This case study is a chance to learn how methodical application of UX can significantly alter how a service is perceived and interacted with. Throughout this article, we break down the processes, challenges, and solutions, providing an educational window into the heart of an effective UX strategy.

Introduction to the membership program project

An international sports club we had previously worked with asked us to assist in redesigning their membership program by conducting UX research in various phases.

This process involved capturing the Voice of the Business (VoB), the market (VoM), and the user (VoU). The projected timeline for launching the redesign was four months, and various departments of the Club were involved.

From our side, Torresburriel Estudio’s team for this project included four UX Researchers throughout all project phases.

Challenge to boost the membership program

The main challenge was to increase the number of members and surpass the already achieved threshold by offering a product that better suited the needs of all types of Club fans.

The Club’s primary goals in this project were to improve understanding of the organization, the digital assets of its ecosystem, the content of the membership program, and the different user typologies.

To conduct the kickoff session with stakeholders, we went to the Club’s main facilities where we conducted a two-phase workshop.

In the first phase, we met with the project team to discuss all objectives, scope, schedule, resources, risks, and roles.

In the second phase, we met with heads of departments involved in the program (ticketing, membership, official store, website, and audiovisual streaming) and gathered the Voice of the Business (VoB) using various techniques, such as brainstorming, where participants noted their vision on post-its about various product-related aspects.

From these kickoff sessions, we classified the findings into four groups:

  • Defining the product and buyer personas to find what motivates fans to subscribe to the membership program.
  • Issues with the program’s diffusion and explanation, and a lack of cross-departmental collaboration affecting all Club areas.
  • Technical problems for registration, onboarding, and using the digital aspect of the membership.
  • Perceptions and future visions of what the ideal program should be.

Research and discovery

Desk research and benchmarking

We started the research phase with desk research prior to the kickoff, learning that in membership and loyalty programs, behavioral and emotional elements are crucial. For designing these programs, it’s essential to consider the priority users, in this case, the Club fans, might give to elements like price, quality, or exclusivity.

We continued with a competitive benchmark analysis of different membership programs, focusing on those from other international clubs of similar profiles. However, we also analyzed other internationally recognized programs from brands and products not directly related to sports, offering applicable advantages to the project.

From the analysis, we highlighted elements like:

  • The importance of clearly identifying subscription access on the club’s homepage with unequivocal naming, including advertising banners throughout the website to reference the membership and connect with users.
  • Including a description of the advantages and benefits of each membership level, allowing for quick visualization and comparison, in addition to initiatives from other clubs that could be interesting.

With the analysis report, we delivered an impact-effort matrix to prioritize and rank the good practices and initiatives observed, assessing the potential incorporation of each.

In summary, we tried to understand the value proposition and user experience that other solutions could offer. This part of the research concluded with the presentation of the results of the comparative evaluation.

Expert usability and accessibility analysis of the product

We conducted an expert analysis of the Club’s website, focusing on the membership and its related products. This involved a thorough review of the platform to assess usability and accessibility, as well as the clarity of information about the different membership levels. We analyzed the presentation of the plans, their costs, and the specific advantages they offered to users.

In addition to evaluating the information and usability, we examined the registration and management process of the membership. This involved identifying potential obstacles or friction in the registration process, verifying its effectiveness and efficiency. The analysis also addressed consistency in communication about the value of membership plans and the presentation of advantages to attract and retain members on the platform.

Ultimately, the goal was to identify areas for improvement and provide recommendations to optimize the user experience and the effectiveness of the international sports club’s membership strategies on its website.

User research

For user research, we opted for an initial qualitative study through interviews, complemented by a second quantitative study through surveys with users.

To recruit participants for the interviews, we conducted prior segmentation focused on the age, gender, and geographical location of Club followers, followed by a screener or selection survey. Once selected, we scheduled remote interviews with the users, informing them of the incentives and the need to sign relevant confidentiality agreements. (See also: How to obtain informed consent for UX research).

We drafted the discussion guide, which we validated with the Club, and conducted a pilot interview to test and adjust the methodology, identify technical problems, and evaluate the guide. The interviews were video recorded, with these recordings being another deliverable at the project’s end.

From the interview findings, we extracted primary and secondary insights, focusing on the discovery process about needs, motivations, and behaviors related to the current and future proposals of the membership program.

For example, one of the main insights indicated that while for fans residing near the Club’s facilities, the main preferable advantage was priority access to sporting event tickets, for fans residing in geographically distant areas, they prioritized discounts at associated partners.

From the data obtained, and to validate the resulting hypotheses, we conducted another deeper segmentation that included Club followers; non-members of the program; current members of the program in its various modalities; and former members. The survey included questions about current and future advantages and reasons why they might be more attractive.

After evaluating the results, among other data, the hypotheses posed after the qualitative study regarding the prioritization of preferred advantages were confirmed, and it was established that exclusivity was the main driver for subscribing to the membership program.

To conclude this phase, we shared with the Client a detailed report of insights from each interview, the results of the surveys, and the overall conclusions of these research actions.

Personas: description of the main profiles

Based on all the data obtained in the research process, the next step we took was the construction of three user personas, which are fictional representations of the different types of Club fans, but based on real data. Users were segmented into significant groups according to their demographic characteristics, behaviors, needs, and expectations, allowing us to create detailed profiles that accurately reflect the target users. Each persona corresponded to one of the following profiles:

  • Non-subscriber fan of the membership program
  • Fan subscribed to the basic and free mode of the program
  • Fan subscribed to the premium paid modality

Each user persona was developed through a process that involved identifying patterns and trends in the collected data. We assigned names, photos, and descriptions to each persona to humanize these profiles and facilitate empathy from team members.

Moreover, we highlighted the key challenges and goals of each persona, as well as their preferences and expectations in relation to the Club’s membership program. This information will serve as an essential guide in user-oriented decision-making as the project progresses, ensuring that strategies and improvements are aligned with the real needs and desires of potential and existing Club members.

User journey

As a conclusion of the project and based on all previous findings, we constructed a user journey that covered all the possible steps of the user in their journey. To build the journey, we mapped in detail the user experience from the first point of contact with the sports club to conversion into a member and, ultimately, ongoing participation as a promoter. We identified multiple points of contact, such as entering the website, key interactions like buying tickets online, and associated emotions at each stage of the user’s journey, such as the moment of registering as a member.

We meticulously documented each step of the user journey, highlighting friction points like the moment of paying for the Premium subscription and opportunities to improve the experience, such as additional advantages for subscription referrals. This allowed us to understand the changing needs of users at each stage and design specific solutions to address them. Additionally, we used visual tools like empathy maps and flowcharts to graphically represent the user journey and effectively share it with the Client’s design and development team. With this user-centered approach, we provided a clear guide for making informed decisions and ensuring that the Club’s membership program is highly effective and appealing to fans.

Lessons learned

Throughout the project, there was fluid and constant communication with the Client’s team through email and bi-weekly remote meetings where they gave feedback on each of the resources we were going to use during each phase, for example, validating the discussion guide for interviews or the script for surveys. This way, we were able to adapt them as closely as possible to the reality of their users and the needs they had with this project.

At this point, it’s also especially important to note that each of the resources was based on the data collected in the previous phases. It’s important that the research process is incremental and based on real data. In this way, we can determine as accurately as possible the pain points of the users and the needs they may have that have not yet been met.

The elaboration of the surveys can be an illustrative example of these two lessons, since in the early stages of the project we focused them with a specific segmentation, but after conducting the interviews with users we made the decision, together with the Client, to adapt the script to a segmentation that was better suited to the needs discovered.

On the other hand, and given the nature of this project, as the research process must be continuous, iterative and adapted to the possible new needs of the users, we are planning future tests that will allow us to help the Club to improve and adapt the product once it has been relaunched.

It is crucial to highlight the significance of UX in creating memorable and effective digital experiences. This case study, more than a success narrative, is a testament to the transformative power of well-executed UX research and strategic collaboration. At Torresburriel Estudio, we have seen how integrating the voices of the business, the market and, most importantly, the user, can create a program that not only meets, but exceeds expectations.

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Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance