Aberdeen commercial director Rob Wicks has revealed that fan contributions through AberDNA have played a key role in keeping some of the club’s top talent.
The initiative was launched by the Reds in March of last year. It asks fans for a monthly payment in return for certain benefits, with all of the money generated being pooled into the football budget.
The benefits include a discount on tickets, replica shirts and invites to exclusive events.
So far the initiative has proved popular with fans in the north-east and internationally, with just over 6,300 supporters signing up in the first year.
In his role as commercial director at Pittodrie Wicks oversees the AberDNA project and other similar ideas.
One area that sections of the Red Army have been sceptical about is whether all the money generated after costs will be put into the football budget when the club have a £50 million new stadium at Kingsford to finance.
However, Wicks is keen to stress that is the case and with £700,000 added to boss Derek McInnes’ budget over this season he revealed the AberDNA cash helped the Dons sign goalie Joe Lewis on a new contract until 2024.
Midfielder Lewis Ferguson penned an extension to 2024 earlier in the year and winger Niall McGinn returned to the club last season on a deal until 2021.
Wicks says AberDNA money helped make all that possible.
He said: “There have been a lot of questions about where the funds from DNA go but they are exclusively ring-fenced to the football budget and I can’t say that often enough.
“As an example, we wouldn’t have been able to extend Joe Lewis’ contract without a contribution from DNA funding.
“It’s important for fans to understand that this doesn’t come in as one big hit.
“The vast majority of people pay every month by subscription so the bulk of the money comes in every month.
“We’ve had to apply that funding in the right areas and a portion of DNA funding was used with Joe Lewis’ new contract, to make sure we’ve got the best goalkeeper in Scotland playing for Aberdeen. It’s important to let the fans know the impact their contributions have made.
“The same applies with Lewis Ferguson signing until 2024, and Niall McGinn is another on an extended contract until 2021.
“It’s making sure we apply those funds in the best possible way.
“It’s making sure we articulate that and the impact the fans are having.
“It’s an exciting time for the club, with some challenges ahead, but there is a lot for us to build on.”
Wicks has been pleased with the success of AberDNA thus far but hopes it can continue to grow along with other commercial initiatives which aim to increase Aberdeen’s turnover, thus increasing McInnes’ budget.
The South African added: “We’ve been very happy with AberDNA, we’re in the renewal period and renewals seem to be progressing very well.
“We’re at a nearly 90% renewal rate, which is very pleasing to see and we still think there is more scope to grow the total number.
“People have benefited from reduced season tickets and free shirts. We’re going to be doing more DNA events further afield, not just in the central belt. I’m doing one in London later this year.
“We hope this will continue to grow and this was never a membership that we were going to try for two years and it might go away.
“This is something we see as an umbrella membership that will last the lifetime of the club.
“We have that name which is synonymous with the club and only Aberdeen could do a name like that. We’ve had some great endorsements of the project and a number of other clubs have contacted us from outside of Scotland asking how they could do it.
“We’ve had other initiatives, like By Official Appointment, which is engaging the local business community.
“There is lots more we can do with that because there are 15,000 businesses in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. We regularly engage with around 500 so what about the other 14,500?
“We appreciate some of them may not be football fans and some may be one-man bands, but there are a big core of businesses there that we can try to engage with.”