Deutschlands wohl bester Spieler wechselt zu Manchester City – allerdings handelt es dabei um den FIFA-Spieler Kai ’deto’ Wollin. Überall auf der Welt verpflichten Vereine und Marken Spieler, die sie bei virtuellen Turnieren vertreten sollen. Selbst ganze Fußball-Ligen setzen auf ein Engagement im eSports-Bereich, um weitere Fans für das eigene Angebot zu begeistern. Doch welchen Mehrwert stellt die Zusammenarbeit mit den FIFA-Profis dar? Und wie sehr konkurrieren die virtuellen Matches tatsächlich mit ihren traditionellen Pendants?
FIFA 18 – Längst mehr als ein Spiel
EA Sports wird seinem Slogan langsam, aber sicher gerecht. „EA Sports: It’s in the game“ leitet seit jeher eines der bekanntesten Spiele überhaupt ein. Und nicht erst seit FIFA 18 integriert sich das virtuelle Spiel in den allzu realen Fußballmarkt.
Die Zeiten, in denen FIFA nur als Zeitvertreib mit dem Lieblingsteam auf dem Screen – vielleicht in der Sommer- oder Länderspielpause – hergehalten hat, sind längst vorbei. Inzwischen füllen Fifa Cups auch schonmal im echten Leben die ein oder andere kleine Arena. Die Begeisterung für das Spiel ist ungebrochen, FIFA 18 hat sich für alle Konsolen und den PC bereits über zehn Millionen Mal verkauft; Tendenz: steigend. Allerdings ist aus dem Hobby und der Leidenschaft der Fußballfans bereits etwas Anderes geworden, etwas Größeres. Das FIFA-Spielen hat sich im Bereich eSports zu einer eigenen Sportart gewandelt, ja zu einer Profession. Wenn die besten FIFA-Spieler der Welt ihre Duelle untereinander austragen, dann geht es mitunter gar in die Westminster Hall, wie beim FIWC (FIFA Interactive World Cup) Finale 2017 in London. Und auch Sport1 überträgt inzwischen Turniere wie den FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) Champions Cup.
Diese Turniere, e-Ligen und die Stars dieser Spiele, die FIFA-Profis, erfreuen sich einer riesigen Gefolgschaft. Daher steckt in dieser Entwicklung auch ein riesiges Potential. Und zwar nicht nur für Electronic Arts oder die Spieler selbst. Auch Fußballclubs verpflichten nunmehr top FIFA-Spieler, um sich bei publikumswirksamen eSports-Events vertreten zu lassen. Während zudem Legenden mit eigenen Teams aufwarten, möchten auch die Liga-Verbände die Anziehungskraft des virtuellen Spielens für sich nutzen.
eSports-Ligen machen Furore
Kai ’deto’ Wollin verlor das FIWC-Finale 2017. Doch als einer der besten FIFA-Spieler überhaupt darf er nun das derzeit auf dem Platz fulminante Manchester City vertreten. Zunächst beim FUT Champions Cup im April. Dabei ist Wollin bereits der vierte eSports-Spieler beim englischen Club
DETO im ManCity-Trikot, Screenshot YouTube, © Manchester City
Nuria Tarre, Chief Marketing Officer der City Football Group, betont auf Citys offizieller Website:
„We’re looking forward to seeing Deto in Manchester City colours in tournaments and fan events around the world … The growth in esports over the past two years has been substantial and our growing presence in this industry has provided another way for us to connect with our global fan base, particularly our younger audience, and bring them closer to the club they love.“
Damit wird deutlich, dass die Vereine mit der Verpflichtung verschiedene Ziele verfolgen. Zum einen möchte man auf den Zug aufspringen und Teil der rasant wachsenden eSports-Community werden. Zum anderen steckt in den FIFA-Profis aber auch Marketingpotential. Als Repräsentanten von Vereinen können sie die Fan-Gemeinschaften weltweit auf einem ganz neuen Level erreichen. Und vielleicht bekennt sich der ein oder andere Gamer am Ende zu einem bestimmten Verein.
Doch allein schon das Interesse an dem eigenen Produkt, der eigenen Liga zu wecken, stellt andernorts einen Anspruch dar. Die australische A-League hat jüngst die erste eigene e-Liga anlaufen lassen, wie ABC News in Australien berichtet. Das Land ist nun weniger für seinen Fußball bekannt und die Sportart ist dort sicher nicht die populärste. Doch daran soll die virtuelle Liga etwas ändern. Zwei professionelle Spieler sollen jedes Team der A-League vertreten. Ein Deal für die Senderechte soll bekannt gegeben werden und ein Preisgeld wird es ebenso geben. Die australische Fußballföderation (FFA) möchte auf diesem Wege das Interesse an der heimischen Liga stärken. Streamingdienste und Broadcaster sind an der Ausstrahlung interessiert; und selbst Profis der A-League möchten im eSports-Bereich teilnehmen.
Solche Ligen finden sich inzwischen in den meisten Ländern, wo der Fußball auch auf dem ganz realen Rasen begeistert. Die e-Ligue 1 in Frankreich etwa oder die Virtuelle Bundesliga in Deutschland.
Die nordamerikanische MLS hat ebenfalls seit Januar 2018 eine e-Liga. Welche Potentiale in solch einer Liga außerdem stecken, erläutert beispielsweise der Senior Vice President der Business und Marketing Operations bei den Portland Timbers, Cory Dolich. Er betont, dass man FIFA-Profi Edgar Guerrero nicht nur wegen seines Rankings in den Top 20 der US-FIFA-Spieler verpflichtet habe, sondern auch, weil er als Mann aus Oregon, der Englisch und Spanisch spricht, eine besonders repräsentative Funktion hat. Das geht aus Clare Duffys Bericht im Portland Business Journal hervor. Dabei wird deutlich, dass die eSportler durchaus genauso für Sponsoren von Interesse sind. Einige haben die Portland Timbers bereits kontaktiert, um mit der eSports-Sektion eine Partnerschaft einzugehen, so Dolich.
eSports und FIFA als Modell mit Zukunft
Allein mit der Verpflichtung eines oder mehrerer FIFA-Profis ist es jedoch für Vereine oder eSports-Abteilungen noch nicht getan. Zwar wird so die Verbindung von traditionellem Fußball auf dem Platz und der virtuellen Variante marketingwirksam schon verstärkt. Doch eSports scheint gekommen, um zu bleiben, weshalb eine langfristige Förderung eine Überlegung wert ist.
Hertha BSC hat, wie der Kicker in seiner eSports-Rubrik berichtet, nicht nur seinen Vertreter für die Virtuelle Bundesliga gefunden. Man plant beim Hauptstadtclub bereits eine eSport-Akademie, zu der die besten Talente von 1.000 gescouteten FIFA-Spielern Zugang erhalten sollen. Sodass der Verein schon frühzeitig den Nachwuchs für die kommenden Aufgaben im Bereich der e-Liga rüsten kann.
Eine Akademie für FIFA-Profis firmiert nun auch unter dem Namen eines weltbekannten ehemaligen Spielers. Das Team Gullit ist seit Januar aktiv und profitiert von fachmännischen Analysen und Coaching für angehende FIFA-Stars. Martyn Herman berichtet bei Reuters über die neue Bestimmung für Ruud Gullit, der vielen Fans wegen seiner einstigen Haarpracht und Titelgewinne noch im Gedächtnis ist. Gullit erkannte das Potential der Sportart nach dem FIWC-Finale 2017.
Ruud Gullit kann bei FIFA 18 als Legende gespielt werden; und findet oft einen Weg in die Teams der neuen Stars an der Konsole, Screenshot YouTube, © FIFATV
„I realized how serious it was … The players had a manager, a coach, they have everything.“
Nun spielen drei Spieler auf Vollzeitbasis für Team Gullit. In den Niederlanden ist eSports schon stark etabliert.
„In Holland all the Eredivisie teams have an esports player, there is a competition and it is watched by more people on TV than the Dutch second division. The exposure is unbelievable … It’s going to get bigger and bigger“,
so Gullit weiter. Und die Teams der Eredivisie setzen ebenso auf die virtuellen Kicker; auch, um den Altersschnitt in den Stadien langfristig wieder zu senken.
Die Entwicklung einer neuen Branche
Mit der Akzeptanz von eSports als Sportart, und zwar als professionelle und ganz besonders als potentiell gewinnbringende, bildet sich eine Branche neu heraus. Für viele mag die Vorstellung, dass FIFA-Spieler Sportler sind schon Stirnrunzeln hervorrufen. Dass dies ihr Vollzeitjob ist, wirkt dann umso befremdlicher; und ist doch nur eine logische Folge der Digitalisierung im Sport und Sportmarketing. Die besten FIFA-Profis der Welt verdienen laut der International Business Times pro Jahr durchschnittlich knapp 57.000 Pfund an Preisgeldern – das ist mehr als die Spieler der League Two (Vierte und unterste Profi-Liga in England) mit nach Hause bringen. Und nun erhalten die neu verpflichteten Spieler sicher auch ein Festgehalt.
Doch am Aufstieg von eSports hängen, in Bezug auf FIFA, noch mehr „neue“ Jobs und Möglichkeiten. FIFA eSports-Kommentatoren wie Brandon Smith machen sich einen Namen und verdienen ihr Geld mit der Berichterstattung der virtuellen Partien bei den Turnieren.
Auch eSports-Kommentatoren wie Smith (r.) können Karriere machen, Screenshot YouTube, © FIFATV
Marketer und Advertiser dürften sich bei der Anziehungskraft der Events ebenso auf den Bereich spezialisieren, um in deren Rahmen die besten und für die Zuschauer passendsten Produkte zu bewerben. Dass die Welt von FIFA im professionellen eSports-Bereich vor kaum einem Verein, einer Marke oder auch nur einem Unternehmen, das sich auf den Fußball fokussiert, Halt macht, ist anzunehmen. Daher haben etwa die Kollegen von Transfermarkt.de einen Profi verpflichtet. Mario ’MMayo’ Reubold zockt seit Kurzem offiziell für Transfermarkt.
Und dass das Potential von eSports riesengroß ist, lässt sich kaum von der Hand weisen. Daher sollten alle Entscheider, Mitarbeiter, Marketer und Co., die sich mit dem Fußball beruflich beschäftigen, schauen, inwieweit sich diese Welt für das eigene Unternehmen schon geöffnet hat oder wie sie erschlossen werden kann. Denn auch die Fans werden mehr und mehr an diese Parallelsportart herangeführt.
eSports wird die Leidenschaft und Emotionen des Fußballs nicht ersetzen können; allerdings gilt für FIFA im Jahr 2018 mehr denn je: „It’s in the game“.
Asian eSports Market Taking Digital Football to Another Level
Whoever develops a growing interest in esports should take a look at whatever happens in Asia. South Korea, China etc. really are pioneers – and European clubs can benefit from their knowledge.
The look abroad is always needed if football teams want to evolve and get prepared for the adaption of new elements. eSports has indeed started to establish itself as kind of a parallel sports clubs bank on to gain new fans and more income. While the motives should be examined precisely, football brands should have a look at the Asian eSports market to ready themselves for what lies ahead in that very segment. For it holds so many lucrative options; the Wolverhampton Wanderers are one of the teams looking to take advantage of that.
Wolves form Wolves Weibo eSports section for China
In a football context, the concentration on EA Sports’ FIFA is understandable, when it comes to eSports. Most teams in Europe already have their teams in place to represent them at domestic competitions – or the new eChampions League from EA Sports.
Meanwhile, in the ePremier League, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ representative has made it to the finals, which are played later this month.
The English club has really adopted eSports holistically. Now, they form a team to play in China as they partner with the Shanghai Jingzong Culture Media Company which owns Weibo eSports. The Wolves Weibo eSports team will be launched via an event in March and take part in the Chinese FSL (FIFA Online 4 Star League).
The club wants to conquer the market in China. Therefore, the Wolves have taken to Weibo, which has 445 million daily active users and offers a great opportunity to gain new followers and fans for a club re-establishing itself quite impressively in the Premier League right now.
The esports market in China is growing at pace and we wanted to follow-on from the success of our existing esports team with a dedicated China presence. This collaboration is very exciting as it will see us partner with a world class esports club and one of the biggest media platforms in China,
said Russel Jones, head of marketing at Wolves. And Guangzhuo Shi, CEO of Jingzong Culture Media Company, added:
This cooperation is very exciting for Weibo eSports. Wolves are a very well-known and respected football club across the World. Partnering with Wolves, to form Wolves Weibo eSports, will help us reach an entirely new audience and provide powerful additional resources.
The move to China could turn out to be a quite shrewd one as in Asia, and especially in China, eSports is much more of a real economy already.
Asian eSports sets the tone
China have only recently accepted eSports as a real profession. For the country certainly has a big and lucrative eSports industry already, second only to North America. That is relating to a study by Tencent, which is quoted in the ESports Observer. According to that, the Chinese eSports market will grow to 1,5 billion US dollar in 2020, up from around 760 million in 2017. While North America made 258 million US dollar from eSports-related aspects, China’s revenue was estimated at 104 million in 2017 – South Korea followed with about 49 million.
Well, these numbers are one thing. Another is the sheer amount of people clubs and brands can reach in the Asian and Chinese markets. Because in 2020, the global eSports user base is expected to grow to 590 million, yet, 59 per cent or 350 million of those originate from China. Although that means a decline in per cent, China is still extremely important for any club and their internationalisation strategies. And being present on WeChat or Weibo alone will not be enough as eSports’ ever growing popularity can help clubs and brands reach a whole new audience.
The importance is clear to see when you look at the deal between Nike and TJ Sports from Tencent and Riot Games. Dot ESports report about a deal worth about 7,5 million US dollar annually, which sees Nike create the official clothing for the League of Legends Pro League. Furthermore, starting from the mid-season Invitational, fans can purchase sneakers and apparel from Nike and the LPL.
Additionally, Nike will provide players and teams with strength training programs to improve mental and physical health as well as stamina.
eSports potentials need to be assessed accurately
As the Asian eSports market offers a lot of potential, other teams are making their move, too. PSG, who already have teams for DOTA2 or FIFA in China, start with a Mobile Legends team for the Mobile Legends Pro League Season 3 in Indonesia.
Asia is a strategic market for PSG Esports. It’s time for us to move down to Asia Pacific. With 43 millions Mobile Legends players, half of them in Indonesia, getting into this game was obvious for us. PSG Esports is striving for the best and we are glad to make an association with leading Team RRQ,
commented Yassine Jaada, Chief Gaming Officer of PSG eSports. Thus, not only China should be considered, if football clubs want to expand their eSports brand to Asia. According to the ESports Insider, the ESL will bring more DOTA2 tournaments to new markets like Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. And for any club or brand this opens the door to opportunities for reaching new audiences across Asia.
But before clubs start their journey, there are a lot of questions that need to answered honestly. What do they expect from their involvement in the eSports market? For only an authentic approach will provide ongoing appeal, income and fan engagement. Apart from that, it’s important to know which games should be focused. Yes, FIFA has the closest ties to football. But in Japan, the J1 League collaborate with Konami to form an eSports league in which Pro Evolution Soccer – known as Winning Eleven in Japan – will be played, as SportsPro Media report. And DOTA2, League of Legends or what have you will be of growing importance if new audiences should be made aware of a brand. Yet, football clubs cannot view eSports as an extension of their traditional brand and a mere revenue driver, since it’s a unique universe – which on one hand offers unique opportunities, not least in Asia, but on the other hand demands an approach appreciative of the long existing eSports culture.
MLS Launch New App for Personalised Highlights, Merch and Even Ticketing
The MLS’s new app will be customised in team colours and offer individual feeds and alerts as well as highlights, ticketing, merch and fantasy football.
The MLS seasons just started this weekend. And to keep the growing fanbase engaged, the organisation has provided fans with a quite impressive all-in-one app. The official MLS app got a 2019 update which not only encourages supporters to “Live Your Colors“, but also enables them to manage diverse football content and adminstrative functions regarding the game in a single app. Thus, they can choose their favourite team, buy tickets, watch instant highlights or make last-minute changes to their fantasy team. The personalised entry makes the app valuable to them – and the MLS eventually.
The MLS’s popularity is on the rise
In the United States, there’s a growing interest in football (and no, not American Football). The MLS is gaining more viewers and certainly more engagement in Social Media.
Getting players like Wayne Rooney or Zlatan to play in the US league will have helped growing awareness; but the teams themselves are constantly getting better at promoting themselves as something different not only to the widely beloved US sports such as baseball or basketball, but also a bit different to European football. For the franchise of Atlanta United, for example, is merging traditional football values with updated marketing strategies. Therefore, they’ve created a whole new experience for fans.
Yet, as attendances go up in the MLS, TV viewers seem to vanish still. And that might be a consequence of a shift in the perception of events. People are using their mobile devices to get the latest information or even to watch games. According to Engadget, the MLS has 70 per cent of its digital content perceived via mobile. That’s why an app is indispensable for football clubs, leagues and so forth these days. Hence, the MLS has updated its own app and come up with a great experience for fans. For they can choose their favourite team fist, which will customise the whole interface in the respective team colours. Furthermore, this choice will give fans quick access to everything happening cocerning their club.
But supporters can still get comprehensive information about all the events in the MLS. They can follow other clubs and players as well as popular series or columnists to personalise their own feed and their alerts – just like in proven Social Media.
Fans can also access quite a lot of detailed statistics and don’t have to leave the app to really get all the insights in relation to the Major League Soccer and its developments.
The app is about monetising and marketing as well
What makes the MLS app so special is its holistic approach. Because fans can not merely check results, see highlights or get the latest transfer – or draft – updates, but rather manage their very own supporter experience. They can book themselves tickets for the next match they’re attending via Ticketmaster or SeatGeek inside the mobile product. Aditionally, they’re able to buy merchandise from the various clubs directly from the very app.
As a result, the app is quite a good alternative for any MLS club to monetise fan engagement. And that engagement might grow further since the popular MLS Fantasy is an integral part of the new experience.
The improved version of the app offers a lot for fans and might turn out to be a valuable asset for clubs and the league itself. For it surely shows that the MLS is utilising its nous in terms of media and technology.
Fanst and interested sports enthusiasts can get the app in the Play Store, Apple’s App Store or will get a download link once they’ve entered their mobile number at the MLS app’s homepage. “Evolved“ says the slogan in the YouTube trailer regarding the app. This might be a promise, that the MLS is evolving further in 2019. There’s certainly a lot of potential off the field, let alone on it.
So we will welcome the new MLS season with so much opportunities to keep informed on our smartphones.
The Factory for Idols – Latin America is Banking on Unique Talents for Growth
Latin America is leveraging its culture of developing great players to grow its own market, home and abroad. We spoke to LATAM experts to understand the current ambitions.
From Ronaldo and Carlos Valderrama to Lionel Messi, Neymar and Edinson Cavani: Latin America produces top talent continuously. The most recent exports to European football are Vinícius Júnior, who is thriving at Real Madrid right now, or Rodrygo. In European football, players from the LATAM area have always been an important ingredient, they’ve brought joy to the fans on so many occasions. Yet, the football cultures overseas and in Europe are quite different – and European fans barely take too much interest in Latin American leagues, it seems. But since the LATAM superstars and top talents show time and time again, football is a universal languange. Therefore, and with internationalisation via Social Media or eSports being a multifarious approach, global markets can benefit of each other’s strengths.
A closer look into the LATAM football culture: Letting experts have their say
From our European perspective, football circles around the big leagues – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga – or the European competitions, mainly the Champions League. All these games have a specific appeal for global audiences, too. In terms of monetisation and forward-thinking development for clubs and federations, a more international approach is inevitable. Clubs harness their Social Media reach or their connection to different types of audiences via eSports presence in order to grow in various markets – be it Asia, the US or even Latin America.
But then again, in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and so forth, there are always quite fascinating developments as well. While the marketing coup from Chilean Club Deportivo O’Higgins might not have gone down well with all fans, Brazilian club Corinthians from São Paulo have just teamed up with IBM in a ten-year partnership that will see them modernise their stadium and the fan experience due to AI technologies. Luis Paulo Rosenberg, marketing director of the club, said:
We are convinced of the benefits that a global partner like IBM can bring to Corinthians in general and to the Arena in particular, making the convergence of technologies and Artificial Intelligence key to a new era of possibilities for the fans, improving the experience of each and every Corinthians fan during and after the match day […] Everything will change, and the passion, that’s always the same, will find new ways of expression from today on.
Change is indeed finding its way to LATAM football clubs as digital offerings complement the solutions to make most of the often unrivalled passion of supporters from Columbia to Argentina. Streaming services like Spotify and Deezer start partnerships with big clubs like Boca Juniors or São Paulo FC.
And with fans worldwide experiencing football more and more via OTT services, Social Media or streaming platforms, there are certainly less boundaries for different cultures and markets in a more globalised football ecosystem.
We wanted to know how the very different football world on another continent and with presumably another perspective positions itself to compete with prosperous markets like the European football or burgeoning markets like the MLS. Therefore, we talked to some experts from abroad to understand just how the LATAM football market utilises comparatively small budgets to create unique and sought after talents and solutions. Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui, directors and co-founders of Good Morning Sports and the conference SportBizLatam gave us some quality insights. Their conference offers the sports industry of LATAM a great opportunity to not only connect but to make developments happen – across the world.
It takes place in various contries in Latin Ameica, from Bolivia to Brazil, from Uruguay to Argentina. Next up are Santa Cruz, El Salvador and Bogotá. Good Morning Sports is a sports business agency with a focus on international marketing and best practices for the professionalisation of solutions in sports. Partners are the Hawk-Eye technology, the Johan Cruyff Institute, Genius Sports Stubbub, UFC, Zurich or Santander. So, let’s take a look at their perspective on the growth development of the LATAM football market – and why we can learn a lot from it, as it’s an “idol factory“.
The interview with Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui
Spielmacher: In your opinion, what distinguishes the LATAM football culture most from that in Europe?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Football is a very affordable sport. It can be played everywhere, that is one of the reasons of its popularity in LATAM, being the most adopted, practiced and followed sport. On the positive side I would say one of the main differences is the fan passion. The link between a fan and his/her club is of total loyalty. On the downside, in some countries stadiums are not safe enough to make the transformation from a match to a show possible. And families are not so often in the stadiums yet. There are still some violent behaviours that need to be eradicated to convert the matches into real shows and to grow the fan experience. Clubs in this region are still in a process of becoming more and more professional, hiring experts for each area and starting to act, work and plan as companies, enterprises and institutions do.
Do clubs in LATAM actively look for options to augment their monetisation potential in Europe, the US or Asia? What are they focusing on?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The main foreign income source for LATAM clubs are player transfers. However, the most popular clubs are also working with international license and sponsorships. The key is to create different income sources through new products and fan services. The clubs tend to copy and adapt good practices from abroad (USA, Europe) with a local component and the super challenge of tighter budgets, which sometimes leads to creating amazing strategies with few resources.
La Liga has plans to play league matches abroad. Would the Argentinian Primera División or another league from the continent consider such an option, too?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The last Libertadores final was played in Madrid, unfortunately not for the right reasons (it was due to violent incidents in Buenos Aires), but represented a new business opportunity for showing LATAM football in other continents. We believe this will be the case more and more often. Also in Latam most of the countries have extensive territories, and some competitions (for example ‘La Copa Argentina’) are using different host cities across the country in order to reach fans who don’t have the possibility to travel to the capital to follow their teams.
Facebook has secured free to air rights for the Champions League in LATAM from 2018 to 2021. Will these reception opportunities for fans help make European football and the respective teams more attractive for the audience? And will it impair the relevance of clubs from their home countries?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: European Football in LATAM is already relevant. Now it will be reached, and watched, more easily. Audiences will grow and this will end up affecting local football in terms of volume as people will follow the most attractive competition and show, and that is European football nowadays. We believe local clubs and leagues have a big challenge to retain audiences and sponsors, as they will compete more and more with international clubs. Clubs need to improve their sponsorship strategies, activations and metrics.
From your experience, are broadcasters in LATAM increasingly interested in showing different leagues to offer a broad and international package like Social Media do?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Broadcasters are already including new international content. We believe the challenge is to create an attractive format, especially in the case of leagues or competitions which aren’t as popular yet in the region. For example, in Argentina the Chinese League is not very much followed, but if a broadcaster presents a 2 minute recap, only with the highlights, this will be consumed.
The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A or the Primera División de Argentina aren’t too well known or followed in Germany and probably other European countries, too. With the biggest leagues – the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga – vying for attention already, shouldn’t leagues from LATAM rather try to gain more followers in countries like China, that are adopting the sports more and more?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: For sure, US and Asian audiences are appealing in terms of volume and more unexploited opportunities. Some clubs and federations are already having their first Asian sponsors. And a great opportunity is that Asians love and adore ‘idols’ and LATAM is an idol factory! However, the approach towards new regions and international fans also depends on a solid growth strategy and resources assigned to make it happen.
eSports is becoming a way to leverage fans’ investment and awareness regarding video games. There are eSports sections at FC Santos or Boca Juniors. Has this concept been widely adopted? And do you think it will help the clubs gain international recognition via this sports?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: eSports in LATAM is just starting; it already has followers and early adopters but it hasn’t exploded, yet. Only edgy brands are starting to support this competitions. For example, in Argentina the eSuperLiga is sponsored by RedBull. However, LATAM represents a big interest as a market because of its large audiences. Leagues from abroad are also taking advantage of the early stages and are entering the territory, developing projects that will grow faster because of the experience gained in their origin countries and their best practices. We do think this could be another way for the clubs to gain more international recognition, especially reaching young millennial audiences all over the world.
How important do you think are the LATAM audiences to European clubs? Are they trying to edge into the market over there? And is it just top teams from the Champions League or are smaller clubs also engaged?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: LATAM represents large audiences for European clubs, a way to grow substantially in terms of audience and fans. Football is part of the culture itself; we consume football from everywhere. A key factor is that every latam country has some of their national idols playing abroad. Not only in the biggest European teams, but also in smaller ones, results in those teams being followed by the player compariots. The players have their own fan equity, it helps the clubs in reaching and growing enormously the amount of fans from the player’s country. Then, as a consequence, local brands begin to show interest in becoming sponsors.
How much attention pay LATAM audiences to the Bundesliga, or, in comparison, the Premier League?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The Bundesliga still has a great area of opportunities to grow in LATAM. Their strategy developing content in Spanish is helping in this regard. FC Bayern Munich is the most followed club of the league, and it is related to its LATAM players [like James Rodríguez, editors note].
Finally, what can clubs, associations or brands learn from the LATAM football culture?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Basically the export of talented players is a great deal. All the clubs work in this regard and it is the main contribution from the region to the world sport. Additionally – and not only in football or sports – what characterizes Latam is the capability of developing amazing unique strategies, with low resources and budget, but with high creativity, commitment and determination.
Thanks so much for the interview. We wish you and the whole LATAM football ecosystem continuous success.
Our interview partners Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui manage the agency Good Morning Sports and are the creators of the SportBizLatam. Get in touch, if you want to know more about the conference, their solutions or the LATAM football ecosystem.
Arsenal London Offer Blockchain App for Digital Collectibles
Fans of the London club can now own and trade digital collectibles like autographs or unique video content in an app created by blockchain firm Fantastec.
For a lot of supporters, the matchday just isn’t enough. That’s why they consume so much football content on Social Media, on streaming platforms or in specific apps. Netflix’s Sunderland ’Til I Die or successful fan channels on YouTube are great example for this development. To meet the fans’ desire for more football and branded content at best, Arsenal London have teamed up with the platform Fantastec SWAP which uses blockchain technology in order to provide fans with digital collectibles. Those can not only be attained but be swapped globally by every supporter who accesses the app.
Arsenal make use of the blockchain technology
Arsenal London are certainly amongst the global frontrunners when it comes to digital media development. Their respective Media Group under the guidance of Ben Ladkin keeps fans everywhere engaged.
“The right content, at the right time, on the right platform“, that’s Ladkin’s motto. Fittingly, Arsenal have now partnered with technology innovators Fantastec to create an app which provides fans digital collectibles on the basis of blockchain technology. They’re not the first entity to bank on such content, though. The Belgian Pro League has already created crypto goods such as player cards in collaboration with Sorare.
We are very proud to have signed this world first partnership with the Belgian Pro League, and we thank them for their trust in Sorare. We see this as a game-changing announcement for the crypto-goods and the football industry. We believe that Sorare’s technology and user-friendliness will allow football fans to freely trade and play with their digital goods. Today’s announcement marks the first step of our development, which is guided by our ambition to create a global open gaming ecosystem, where users can live their passion right at the heart of the game and enjoy a truly new way to engage with it,
said Nicolas Julia, CEO of Sorare, at the time. Sorare are a company that embraces blockchain technology – and so are Fantastec. Their SWAP platform offers Arsenal fans a free-to-download football game inside an engaging app. Therein, a user can unlock player profiles from them men’s and women’s teams. Once unlocked, these profiles offer exclusive video content or autograph cards from the players themselves.
Arsenal London are the first team announced to get going on this platform, but other clubs from the Bundesliga or the Premier League could follow suit. Simon Woollard, content partner at Fantastec, commented:
Fantastec SWAP is a game-changer for international football fans as well the sports collectibles industry. The majority of sports fans are mobile-first and geographically distanced from their favourite teams. Fantastec has developed a new approach for fans to engage in more valuable relationships with the teams and players they love, rewarding their activity in the app, and empowering them to own a genuine share of a club’s history – timestamped and safely protected on the blockchain.
He emphasises Arsenal’s forward-thinking approach and the safe surroundings the SWAP platform offers due to the blockchain background.
Mobile, gaming, apps: That’s where clubs have potential
Peter Silverstone, Arsenal’s commercial director, said:
As football fans, many of us remember collecting and swapping player cards with friends. This initiative with Fantastec SWAP brings that concept into today’s digital world and gives our fans access to unique Arsenal collectibles and content wherever they are in the world.
Furthermore, beside the digital collectibles, Social Media-like features shall get supporters in contact and farther strengthen the exchange in this quite fascinating digital ecosystem. Arsenal encourage fans to make in-app purchases for player collections – as that will get their revenue in a mobile environment up even more. Still, whoever downloads the app, will be given free packs upon the sign-up. The Fantastec Swap app is available in the Play Store and in Apple’s app store.
While clubs use in-app revenue opportunities like these to monetise the ever-growing desire for mobile-friendly and fan-centred content, technology companies and app developers such as Fantastec or Sorare will start thriving. For fans, collecting club and player items increasingly shifts to the digital space. Will player cards and similar collectibles really take off, though? The MLB has had success with that – and to connect a digital- and gaming-affine generation of fans to purchasable in-app content is a shrewd stroke. At leat, if these apps can offer a sustainable additional value for the fans who crave the extra content piece.
Streaming Services Offer Clubs a Route to Fans’ Ears and Hearts
The BVB have teamed up with Deezer and join the likes of ManUtd or Barça, while Boca Juniors and Co. partner with Spotify. Streaming Services grow in importance for any club, especially with podcasts in mind.
Multi media are a modern standard for any user. And so do football fans not only follow their beloved clubs via one channel, but use various opportunities to get ever more content concerning their club. With this in mind, it is no wonder a lot of clubs are teaming up with streaming services like Spotify and Deezer to create club branded channels and playlists in order to lure the supporters to the respective platforms. That very move also makes for a great foundation if clubs consider embracing the growing podcast market in the future.
Deezer deals aplenty for clubs
Borussia Dortmund just launched their very own Deezer account where not only playlists for the matchday will appear, but also curated ones from selected players like Marco Reus or Jacob Bruun Larsen.
Carsten Cramer, BVB director for sales, marketing & digitalisation, explained that the club could get closer to its fans via such a streaming service:
We’re very happy to partner up with Deezer. Music like football has the power to unite people. With Deezer we have the ideal partner to get closer to our fans thanks with music.
Ralph Pighin, VP Central & Eastern Europe at Deezer said that Deezer would accompany happenings at one of Europe’s biggest clubs with relevant audio content.
Referring to the founding year of the BVB, Deezer offers fans its family service for 19,09 euro in the next three months. This special offer, meant to make individualised listening for all family members – up to six profiles – easier, will be available in the BVB app.
The French streaming service Deezer is also the official music partner for media giants Manchester United or the FC Barcelona.
ManUtd put it nicely by claiming the streaming service offers a passage to clubs’ hidden hearts:
Deezer’s partnership with Manchester United is an exclusive backstage pass for fans to the club’s hidden heart. With football and music content you won’t find anywhere else, from player’s playlists to what’s playing in the stadium at Old Trafford before a match, Deezer is the best place to listen to Manchester United’s Flow.
Clubs are banking on different streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify
Not only Deezer is helping teams around the globe reach their diverse fanbases. Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors for example have recently partnered with Spotify, as SportsPro Media report. As part of the deal the club will create a playlist with a title like Way to the Bombonera. The Swedish streaming giants had already teamed up with the three famous clubs from São Paulo: Corinthians, Palmeiras and São Paulo FC. On São Paulo FC’s Spotify channel there are playlists with hits from the years 1992, 1993 an 2005 – as in each of those years the club won the famed Copa Libertadores. The partnership even saw Spotify give caricature paintings as well as co-branded headphones to the players.
Now, that’s what you call visible branding.
Various clubs from all over the world have their own channel on Spotify by now. Borussia Mönchengladbach or West Ham United are examples for that.
And Spanish La Liga does have its own channel, too.
Apart from Deezer and Spotify, big clubs like Arsenal London or Bayern Munich have partnerships with different streaming services in place. The German record champions have an exclusive deal with Apple Music and are furthermore equipped with Dr. Dre headphones, a division from Apple. Arsenal London, on the other hand, have a started a partnership with streaming platform TIDAL. This rather unique deal emphasises Arsenal’s conviction of developing young talent. Arsenal chief commercial officer Vinai Venkatesham said:
Football and music are great passions of so many of our global supporters. This partnership combines these two passions in a unique way and will give our members access to some fantastic benefits. It is also a celebration of our shared belief in young talent, and will create opportunities to bring together our players with TIDAL’s rising artists.
Here, some Arsenal stars tell you what they listen to before matches.
The big potential in deals with audio streaming platforms
As of January 2019, Deezer had seven million paying subscribers, according to Statista. Spotify have 87 million paying users and 200 monthly unique visitors, though. And Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO and founder, wants to turn the audio market into a success like the video market. For he says that people tend to spend as much time with audio these days as with video content.
With the world focused on trying to reduce screen time, it opens up a massive audio opportunity.
And audio does not just mean music. Podcasts are a content format which has been well adopted in the US. According to the IAB (International Advertising Bureau), ad revenue from podcasts was estimated at 314 million US dollar for 2017. To take it into perspective, that signals an 86 per cent increase year-over-year. And estimations from PwC see it surpass the one billion mark by 2020, growing to 1,6 billion dollar in 2022.
So there’s a whole marketable market there for the taking – and sports clubs should be aware of this potential. Especially, since in Europe the podcast market hasn’t been swamped with too much content, yet. And listeners are even earger to spend a lot of time and are not afraid of native advertising as well.
To partner with streaming services like Spotify, where the users are for a good part anyway, is a shrewd idea. Because Spotify just acquired podcast specialist platforms Anchor and Gimlet Media for nearly 340 million US dollar to strengthen their own podcast department.
St. Pauli, a cult club from Germany with fans everywhere, has already offered its fans the opportunity to listen to podcasts via Deezer. These are only fan podcasts, but clubs could integrate their own content, too. If it is exclusive, it would surely lure even more people. And that would also be great for the streaming service. The FC St. Pauli also promote songs from their remarkable FC St. Pauli Music School by Levi’s® via Deezer, an insitution at the Millerntor stadium for everyone who can’t afford music lessons. Branding and fan generating go hand in hand for them with the help of the streaming service. Those are great marketing prospects for any club in the world, since audio and football have long been closely related – and a revival, albeit way more digital and immersive, seems to be on the cards.
UEFA to Launch Own OTT Platform
The disruption of traditional football coverage takes another step. European football’s administrative body, the UEFA, will launch an own OTT streaming service over the next six months. That was confirmed by Aleksander Čeferin, rigth after his re-election as the body’s president. But the development won’t stop there. Partnerships with big companies are in the pipeline, yet, the European football shall stand for unity.
UEFA has big plans: An OTT platform to start with
There’s always something to talk about with the UEFA involved. A few days back, Aleksander Čeferin has been unanimously re-elected UEFA president until 2023. The body’s strategy circles around four pillars:
- keeping football first
- building trust
- ensuring competitiveness
- increasing prosperity
Another, yet rather dubios, person involved in the UEFA’s fate is Nasser Al-Khelaifi, debatable president of PSG. He is now the ECA representative of the UEFA Executive Committee.
I look forward to working alongside members of the UEFA Executive Committee to enhance and develop European football, whilst ensuring that the interests of clubs, are represented in the decision making process,
he said. Some will surely doubt that he is going to support really every club’s desires.
However, the UEFA wants to make European football more accessible via digital platforms to anyone – and is therefore planning to launch their own OTT service.
This is why I am pleased to announce that UEFA will be launching its OTT platform in the next six months. We are fully aware that a revolution is under way, and are in the process of agreeing historic partnerships with the world’s leading companies in this field. We have already started to move in this direction thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Alibaba Group. This partnership is more than a simple sponsorship deal. It’s a first agreement that opens up new horizons, such as the creation of a centre of excellence in new football technologies or joint e-commerce projects,
said Čeferin following his re-election. While the OTT platform will start showing women’s and youth games first – since rights for the European competitions like the Champions League are allocated for another few years –, partnerships with big companies like Alibaba will only help grow the brand UEFA. How that helps a “society racked with doubt“, as Čeferin calls it, remains to be seen. There might surely be hope, that the UEFA will make it easier to access games under their patronage and provide fans with a great and holistic digital experience in the future. Yet, the UEFA earn more money every single season – and deals with the likes of Alibaba will surely accelerate the process. That money mainly returns to those participating in the Champions League and Europa League: clubs, that are quite rich anyway. And with Čeferin and Al-Khelaifi on the board, the thought of a more economic growth management is never far away. Maybe, beside all this talk of development in the football ecosystem, the UEFA should harden their stance on the Financial Fairplay first.
OTT Darling DAZN – What’s Next After Multi Screen and Ads?
DAZN is turning into the most appealing option to stream football. While ads might not be appreciated that much, the new multi screen feature certainly is.
DAZN has come into the market knowing just what fans needed: an easy way to stream their favourite sports from wherever they are. The OTT service now offers several top leagues concerning football – Champions League and Premier League included – and also makes sure the supporters can watch NFL or MLB action. Some fans could have been upset, when they heard about the service’s advertising plans. But since DAZN offers good value and is more convenient than other options, it shouldn’t deter many viewers. Especially not now that one can watch several streams at once via multi screen.
DAZN tells people about advertising partners
Well, DAZN just informed people in Germany about their advertsing partners, meaning there will be ads integrated into the streaming experience. Yet, there was no backlash. People seem to be happy to consume a bit of advertising, as long as it’s suitable, if that means the service isn’t up for a price hike.
DAZN even confirmed that no fan would miss a second of live sports during streaming. What the update means, though, is that quite a few brands could reach even more possible customers, now they might cooperate with DAZN. Some viewers would rather pay more in order to get away from ads they have to endure on Social Media and TV. But probably the majority will vote against a pricier service, even if that goes hand in hand with more adverts.
Anyway, DAZN, which belongs to the Perform Group, is on its way to the top. The numbers speak for itself. Only starting in 2016, the service has millions of subscribers already. It launches in Brazil and Spain this year to make it available in nine markets now. The most important market expansion might have been that to the USA in 2018. Astonishingly, the OTT service is aiming to be available in 20 markets by 2020. Important for the growth of DAZN were announcements made concerning the opportunity for US fans to watch MLB games live from 2019 on, or the deal with Golden Boy Promotions, a boxing promoter, which will see eleven fights from Saul “Canelo” Alvarez being streamed on the platform.
DAZN’s growth is aided by development structures
The will to grow is obvious everywhere. For example, a new office in Leeds has just been moved into. It shall help the service grow in the UK and worldwide, surely.
Apart from that, Ben King was appointed SVP Global Distribution and Business Development in January. He joined from tech giants Apple, and was warmly welcomed:
His global experience and insight-driven approach will enable DAZN to grow faster and stronger as we extend our business deeper into both existing and new markets. We are delighted to get him onboard.
King himself was sure to make DAZN an even more interesting alternative in our evolving digitalised world:
Live sport may be the last holdout of the digital media revolution, but I have no doubt about the benefits of bringing fans closer to their favourite teams and sport stars through a more user-friendly, convenient and affordable service. The potential is staggering, and I could not be more excited about joining DAZN to help realise it.
A great example for the exploitation of such potential is the new multi screen available to first users.
A multi screen makes for individual viewing close to today’s habits
DAZN is often referred to as the Netflix of sports. That’s mainly due to their rapid growth in an on demand digital media environment – but also closely connected to their rather cheap offering. Chief Product Officer Ben Lavender even mentioned Netflix himself:
Netflix has set the bar in that people expect to consume content online. We’ve got great rights, we’ve got to make sure the content is easy to consume.
He as well states that DAZN wants to be available on every device possible; they’re on 95 per cent now. You can watch it on your smartphone, tablet, PC or PlayStation 4 and on an Apple TV, too. Now, on that Apple TV, users can even experience a multi screen viewing. Multi view is only available to Apple TV users right now, but should be coming to other devices soon. User Matthias Gindorf liked it a lot.
Fans can watch several games at a time. Furthermore, they can decide which games to see, not like it was a scheduled conference. And they could even tune in to different sports, such as baseball, football or boxing – simultaneously. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an update from DAZN in terms of when the feature will come to other devices. It shouldn’t take too long, though, if it turns out to be a hit among users. Which it shoul, because it certainly has the right makings, for it strikes the viewers’ interest in absorbing as much content as possible in a digital space. That very aspect correlates with the development of second and third screen (or even tab) usage these days.
What else is in the pipeline?
Therefore, DAZN is cementing its place as the modern users’ go-to platform for sports streaming. As they open up for advertising, brands should consider a suitable and lasting partnership with the service. For it could be a more than valuable investment. That is to say, if DAZN is sports’ Netflix, there’s much more to come from it. We can assume it is going to become a much more global brand. And that’s inevitably good news for any advertiser, league or association banking on the streaming opportunities provided by the service.
Consequently, there will be new features and new deals. And they should all make for a better viewing and generate more fans. So a transition from even more fans, mostly younger ones, to DAZN looks more than just an assumption. We’ll see, but multi screen options and adverts are a good start to merge sports coverage and technology with on demand requirements and global brands’ interests. Most importantly these steps establish the service as possibly the future main source for live streamed football.
No More TV – Next Generation of Fans is Social
Two-thirds of fans prefer Social Media to TV coverage of football and check Instagram daily for sports content. Fan channels are particularly popular.
The days of gathering in front of a TV to watch football might be over sooner rather than later. Gone are the times, when you had to buy football magazines or the newspapers to finally get the content you crave concerning football teams in other countries or even on other continents. In a digitalised world, reception standards are changing rapidly. Younger fans consume football in another way: they aren’t dependant on TV, check social platforms for the most recent content. To reach them it needs exclusivity but ever more important is to provide news, stories and certainly highlights as soon as possible. The next generations of fans are Digital Natives – and used to nothing but a rich digital experience.
TV as football’s main channel is only hanging on
DAZN, YouTube or Facebook, digital offers from broadcasters: they are the go-to services for a good part of fans, mostly younger ones, these days. As big digital players are overpowering traditional media outlets in terms of income and eventually relevance, football will probably never be experienced like it was in the days before the internet took over. A look at Britain’s society certainly underlines that. The BBC reported last year, that for the first time children aged five to 16 would rather consume programmes and videos on devices such as laptops, smartphones or tablets than on TV, according to the annual Childwise report.
Related to football, a new and extensive study from Media Chain shows how strongly the fans in football’s homeland are tied to digital services. Out of 1.600 fans that have been surveyed, 52 percent said sports news on Social Media is more engaging than traditional TV. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) do prefer Social Media sports coverage over any traditional channel – like TV or newspapers. It shows, when you look at YouTube usage stats. 86 percent check the video platform at least a few times a week for sports content. Especially highlights are of great interest. That’s why DAZN shows game highlights there quickly and club’s and fan channels come up with content like behind-the-scenes material, great goals, talks or press conferences. The Emirates FA Cup does it, too.
49 percent check YouTube even more than once a day. And if you just take people under 24 years of age into account, 72 percent go to the platform at least daily and look for new content.
Interestingly, three-quarters of younger fans (77 percent) follow fan channels on YouTube, such as The Football Republic.
But what are the most important other platforms for clubs, players, partners and brands to get to the user’s attention?
Second screen: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter offer a broader experience
Whilst watching football, most fans have their tablet or smartphone at hand. And quite a lot of them are on Social Media during the coverage to get even more information and sports content. 41 percent are on Instagram during games, while 25 percent go to Twitter and 23 percent use Facebook. Notably, fans aged 24 years or younger are 151 percent more likely to be scrolling through stories or their feed on Instagram on a second screen.
Instagram is indeed the new darling amongst the Social Media. 29 percent use it as their main source of football news, and 64 percent check the platform for just that at least once a day. Just 44 percent check Twitter at least once a day for sports news, although the service is much more made for up to the minute highlights and updates. Stories are the most important feature for fans on Social Media these days; 28 percent watch them before even scrolling down their feed.
After all, 58 percent of fans go to Facebook everyday as well to consume sports content. And they’d rather watch live football there than on Twitter or Instagram. 90 percent of the younger fan group (up to 24 years) are on Facebook regularly to get some sports content as they are mostly interested in highlights (77 percent), sports news (68 percent) but also in memes or funny content (61 percent).
The club’s media teams should be aware of that and provide popular content on these platforms. But they have to supply it rather quickly or the fans will look elsewhere. 57 percent of them prefer to be able to see goals and highlights immediately and not wait for them to appear in broadcast quality later. So promptness even beats quality demands there. If you can offer both, you have a good chance of keeping the fans tied to your channels. And the younger the fans, the more they demand swiftness from media outlets. Apart from that, anything has to be responsive or mobile friendly; apps are a part of the jigsaw as well.
Clubs could learn a thing or two from fan channels
Fan channels do have more followers and views than official club channels on YouTube. SPORF, AFTV, Full Time Devils or The Football Republic are very successful on the platform. And clubs are only starting to catch up now. In direct comparison, the top 20 creators from both sections differ strongly in typical month views. Club channels generate 30,3 million, while they have 7,4 million fans. By contrast, the fan channels have 15,8 million followers and generate 91,1 million views in a typical month.
Should the clubs augment their channels, though, and continue to offer a lot of content by the hour nearly, they will surely outpace the fan channels soon as they have the greater appeal eventually. Manchester United have done well there, updating their channel on YouTube very often; and they have assembled 1,4 million followers already. To offer a lot, mainly around matchdays, and provide it quickly is one important factor for keeping the young Social Media-loving audience engaged. But they are always looking for content they can’t get elsewhere. And that’s an important learning for brands and sponsors, too.
How can brands leverage Social Media reception of sports?
For partners and brands Social Media are a great environment to get fans interested. The WWE for example, who own the world’s biggest sports channel on YouTube (39 million followers), are great at partnering with other clubs and gaining exposure on Instagram or Facebook.
This example from Arsenal’s story could be regarded as content you can’t get elsewhere – or maybe it makes people laugh or at least smile. Fans want just that from any brand. 66 percent expect exlusive content to engage with a brand, while 65 percent want relevant sports offers or benefits.
Interestingly, eight out of ten fans would be open to more sponsorships – and there’s certainly a lot of inventory still to be used in Social Media. But the thought is married to proper offers. Because 44 percent of fans said that brands send them irrelevant offers, 35 percent feel misunderstood and 25 percent think brands are unauthentic. So brands really have to come up with a good performance on Social Media, as fans of the Gen Z and Millenials are 61 percent more likely to share poor experiences with them online.
For clubs, this means they should try to integrate partners that fit the club. Hertha BSC from Berlin have had problems with main sponsor TEDI, a discounter without the best image, because people didn’t like the look on the shirt, there were no or relatively few merchandising articles in TEDI stores and the connection seems rather odd.
Finally, the report from Media Chain offers many more statistics concerning fans in the UK. But these habits are surely not too different in other countries like Germany or even the US. The steps brands and clubs should take are also part of the study, which in full might be an interesting read for anyone in the footbal ecosystem. For this ecosystem will have to acknowledge Social Media as the most important environment for its public image. That offers challenges and opportunities alike. And the more the fans can benefit and still their hunger for content, the more the companies – be it a football club or a main sponsor – can capitalise on it.
Watching football on TV is already declining. The next generation(s) of fans are social and definitely demanding.
These Clubs Own Instagram
Being a leading football club means having a great social following today. We look at the top 7 sides, when it comes to Instagram. And it’s the Champions League, really.
Instagram has become the go-to platform for users these days. And football fans will show their digital support there – or on Facebook or Twitter. But Instagram really gives the clubs the opportunity to let fans immerse in the world that their favorite club means to them. Various formats, especially stories, and features make that platform an experience to spend a good amount of time on. That strengthens not only social support worldwide, but should be worth while eventually. Here are the teams that really own Instagram and we recognise: nothing succeeds like success.
The top 3 clubs on Instagram: Made of titles, stars and marketing
Instagram is the place to be for any brand or marketer. Especially since stories started their rise. If clubs are doing well in Social Media, that’s a good way to keep existing fans engaged and gain new followers also. To be amongst the top clubs on Instagram, you need people who work on strategies for the numerous channels everyday. Ben Ladkin, general manager of the Arsenal London Media Group, explained on last year’s Spielmacher Conference that clubs need to be diverse and global in terms of Social Media. Not just Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are important, Sina Weibo or Tencent in China, VKontakte in Russia or GIPHY are also quite relevant these days, that are so digitalised.
The right content, on the right platform, at the right moment,
thats Ladkin’s motto. Instagram is the right platform for football clubs right now – people are just consuming so much there. More than a billion users seem to accentuate that, 400 million of them use stories daily. The platform could be used as a retail driver since it offers so many marketing options like shopping in stories. Stories are great anyway, because they offer the chance to show galleries of goals, saves, training pictures or what have you. As fans from all over the world go to Instagram to watch their favourite teams or the ones they like, those media sections of clubs mustn’t be complacent. Updates are expected daily, rather by the hour.
We have a look at the top three football clubs on Instagram measured by the number of followers. It’s probably little surprise that those are teams who remain in the Champions League knock-out stages and have won countless titles. Real Madrid, the Champions League holders and record winners, not only of that competition, have most fans, an astonishing 67,7 million. Their former superstar Cristiano Ronaldo – who has a staggering 151! million followers – may have helped them as much as their recent success in the European competition or their very legendary status. Their account isn’t too extravagant, though – surprisingly. Yet, he post that followed Luka Modric’s win of the Ballon d’Or was class.
Their fierce rivals from Spain, FC Barcelona are a close second with 64,4 million. The catalans have become a marketing powerhouse, reporting an income of 914 million euro last year and were the first football club to pass the billion dollar mark with that. They may have lost Neymar, but still have Lionel Messi as an engagement driver. Both of them have over a hundred million followers, too. And they have shown their Instagram credentials by referring to the new most-liked post of an egg, when they celebrated Messi’s 400th LaLiga goal.
They do post a bit more often than Real and with a bit more wit, it seems. So they might just overtake their rivals here – as they have done in LaLiga this season.
Third on this list is Manchester United. This club epitomises marketing and Social Media. Not only because they have players under contract who are real Instagram kings, like Paul Pogba or Jesse Lingard. United also, like most top clubs, have players from various nations and continents, they post with high frequency, were the first club with their own branded YouTube channel as well and have been renowned for stardom ever since the days of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. 25,7 million people follow them on Instagram. A good mix of videos, stories and behind-the-scenes pictures keep interest levels high. They have participated in the recent #10yearchallenge and shown Pogba back then in the youth team and as the top player he is today.
But there are a few clubs hot on the heels of United right now.
Another 4 clubs that surge on Instagram: Signing top players certainly helps
As mentioned before, Cristiano Ronaldo is a Social Media phenomenon. He certainly breathes Instagram, mixing his social with his professional life there.
His new club Juventus may have benfitted from his arrival in terms of shirts sold and goals scored, but his impact on Instagram is big, too. Juve have 21,2 million followers now. And they had about 14 to 15 million in the summer. Showing their trophies, very recently the Supercoppa Italiana, seems to work as well as their flasback videos that generate millions of views.
Not far behind The Old Lady is a club, which has only risen to the top in the last decade or so. PSG have 18,5 million followers and probably have Zlatan and Beckham to thank for their popularity everywhere, like they now bank on the world’s darlings Mbappé and Neymar. Edinson Cavani has 6 million followers himself, but Mbappé has nearly 26 and Neymar has a breathtaking 109 million followers. He even eclipsed Messi lately.
Should they be able to keep hold of their prized assets and maybe go on a winning run in the Champions League, they might overtake Manchester United rather sooner than later. How fitting that they meet on the pitch soon. That’s where it counts first of all.
The nex club in line has 15 million followers: FC Bayern Munich. The name stands for success. Record champions and cup winners in Germany, a squad with stars and a lot of German internationals, big wins in Europe’s elite competition and remembered for names like Müller (Gerd and Thomas), Beckenbauer, Matthäus, Kahn. They don’t come across as glittering as Real or PSG on their social channels, but have more than twice the amount of followers than rivals Borussia Dortmund and have an eye for the fancy post.
The top seven are completed by London club FC Chelsea. 14,6 million followers are counted there. Winning league and cup titles aplenty as well as the Europa League and the Champions League a few years back will have helped their cause on the social network. But they always had some proper fans and as a club representing one of the most famous cities, they do themselves justice whenever they come to Wembley and win.
Honourable mentions: AS Roma are social crazy
Teams that have not made our list, but are worth mentioning are Arsenal London or AS Roma for different reasons. As mentioned above, Arsenal have really set the tone when it comes to Social Media presence all around. Their Media Group has more than 30 employees. The Gunners’ Instagram account has 13,2 million followers. And what better than a derby win for the fans to feast their eyes on.
Arsenal and Chelsea are the only teams here that don’t play in the Champions League this season, but that is an exception. Another side that is still in the competition is AS Roma. And boy, are they good in terms of Social Media. Yes, their Instagram account is somewhat lagging behind. It only has 2,2 million followers. But still they know what their fans want.
We’ve seen some top clubs here that just own Instagram, at least when it comes to football. Success might be the platform to be great in Social Media, too. As there’s always room for creative content, though, one could certainly use Instagram and its stories to promote special clubs which may not be amongst the most successful on the pitch. Just be up to date with recent trends and take the best as an example. If an egg can defeat Kylie Jenner, so a small club could gain unexpected awareness there. All that’s needed is a unique approach. And that can be be valuable in a variety of ways. Remember, Instagram is good for reach; the more you reach, the more you monetise.
Free Streaming to Promise Market Growth? Now Fans Worldwide Benefit
La Liga Segunda will be streamed for free in various markets, while DAZN offers free streams for the Ligue 1 and Coppa Italia in South America. Will it pay off?
You’ll take what you can get for free. With growing opportunities for football fans around the globe to access any game or follow any league or competition they like, there are certainly some kind of openings for football associations and streaming services to generate broader interest in specific competitions. Trying to get more global reach, the Spanish second division as well as games from the Coppa Italia or Ligue 1 will be available for free on YouTube or DAZN’s social channels.
DAZN wants more customers – and offer Brazilians a taste of free streaming
OTT service DAZN has really established itself as a go-to option for viewing football anywhere. Since the company is going to stream games from Italy and France in Brazil for the next few years, it wants to build up its audience in certain markets. That’s why it offered free streams via their social channels for fans in Brazil. Those supporters could therefore follow Coppa Italia clashes or Ligue 1 encounters featuring PSG or Thierry Henry’s AS Monaco, as SporsPro report. Facebook and YouTube were the platforms to provide those games.
But Facebook itself is trying to gain or at least keep users by offering free coverage of Champions League matches in Latin America. From 2018 to 2021 they have free-to-air rights to 32 live matches every season, including the final and UEFA Super Cup. Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA Events SA Director of Marketing, commented:
We look forward to the launch of this new partnership that will ensure the large community of local football fans is reached in a highly innovative and accessible manner.
This very innovative and accessible manner is also a springboard for augmenting the global reach for leagues of arguably less interest; especially if they can be watched for free.
YouTube provides free coverage of second Spanish divison in over 155 countries
The Spanish LaLiga has just announced that nearly everyone in the world will from now on be able to view any game from the second Spanish tier, LaLiga Segunda, live and for free on YouTube. In more than 155 countries fans can follow teams like former champions Deportivo La Coruña or the
FC Málaga. While fans in Spain will have to turn to the official broadcasters and pay, those in Germany, the UK, France, India, New Zealand, Australia and so many others can get free access. The option to follow the games is even more inviting as commentary is in English.
Apart from the live matches, the official LaLiga 1|2|3 YouTube account will also stream highlight shows. Melcior Soler, director of the LaLiga Audiovisual department, said:
The way we consume live sports is being changed by a new generation of online broadcasters, and we are committed to using such channels to extend the appeal of our competitions. This move will strengthen the LaLiga 1|2|3 by bringing it to an entirely new global audience, in a format that we think will really appeal to the viewer.
To consume football on a big screen, or even in a stadium, is probably still the most intriguing prospect for fans. But we’re in the age of mobile devices and people get their news and information on their smartphones or tablets, via apps mainly. That very aspect of modern day media usage favours DAZN for example, which has also been strengthened by Japanese marketing giants Dentsu, that have bought stakes at the Perform Group and have given some notable financing.
When everyone is on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, the football associations will need to present their competitions there as well. And free streaming is the best way to get into the fans’ heads and on their phones. Fans who might be convinced to become paying customers sooner rather than later.
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