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Mit Bande: Wie Stadionwerbung dank neuer virtueller Technologien das Vermarktungspotential vergrößert

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Die gute alte Bandenwerbung hat schon so manchem Werbepartner beste Dienste geleistet. Von den Verkäufen dieses Werbeinventars profitieren Vereine seit jeher; doch während die statische Band längst ausgedient und LED-Anzeigen Platz gemacht hat, wird das Advertising über diesen Kanal revolutioniert. Mit der Virtual LED-Technologie kann die Botschaft der Bande auf die Zuschauergruppen weltweit zugeschnitten werden. Mit diesem Fortschritt, 360-Grad Screens und weiteren Entwicklungen bietet die Stadionwerbung künftig lukrative Möglichkeiten, die mit Digitalisierung und Globalisierung auf dem Werbemarkt Hand in Hand gehen. Und so werden womöglich Stadien weltweit für international ausgerichtete Werbetreibende zu potentiellen Werbeplattformen. Die Bandenwerbung: Traditioneller Kanal mit neuen Optionen Statische Banden wie hier bei den Sportfreunden Lotte in Liga 3 sind bei finanzstarken Clubs passé, Screenshot YouTube, © SG Sonnenhof Großaspach Nun hat besonders die LED-Technologie der Bandenwerbung Auftrieb verschafft. Marks bestätigt, dass Real Madrid im Estadio Santiago Bernabéu zur Saison 1994/95 als erster Club digitale LED-Banden einsetzte. Dank dieser Neuerung konnten die Werbepartner anstelle von statischen Schriftzügen innovative und auf die Markenidentität zugeschnittene Botschaften auf die Banden bringen, die die Aufmerksamkeit der Zuschauer eher gewinnen konnten. LED Banden bei Leeds United, die künftig auch mit Virtual Hybrid-Technologie arbeiten, © Leeds United Die Premier League hatte erst 2006 solche LED-Banden. Auch in der Bundesliga mussten die Werbetreibenden bis zur Saison 2007/08 auf diese Option warten. Stoke City hat die Nutzung der LED-Banden 2012 sogar soweit optimiert, dass man im Britannia Stadium eine zweite Bandenreihe zu den bereits vorhandenen 220 Metern an Werbefläche hinzugefügt hat. Zwei Reihen von Banden in Stokes Britannia Stadium, Screenshot YouTube, © Stoke City Allerdings bieten die LED-Banden in einer global vernetzten Welt künftig noch deutlich weitreichendere Möglichkeiten. Von Digital Billboard Replacement und Virtual Hybrid LED Das Werbeinventar im Stadion wird für die Berichterstattung quasi digitalisiert und auf spezifische Publika zugeschnitten. Der führende Anbieter für die hierzu benötigten Technologien ist Supponor. Das Sports Media und Technologie-Unternehmen aus Großbritannien bietet etwa die virtuelle Innovation Digital Billboard Replacement als Lösung an. Bereits seit vier Jahren wird mit dieser Lösung in La Liga operiert. Dabei können differenzierte Werbebotschaften bereits für neun unterschiedliche Regionen in Feeds der Broadcaster implementiert werden. Hierzu werden die eigentlichen Werbebotschaften, die den Zuschauern innerhalb des Stadions oder bei der nationalen Übertragung erscheinen, in der Übertragung etwa nach Mexiko digital überblendet und durch einen für das spezielle Publikum dieser Übertragung relevante Werbung ersetzt. Diese Methode wird inzwischen auch in vielen anderen Ligen, so beispielsweise der Premier League angewandt. Wie das insgesamt aussehen kann, zeigt das Video von Supponor. Die Digital Billboard Replacement-Technologie bietet zudem Premiumpartnern die Möglichkeit, bei Kernereignissen wie Toren dank Echtzeitdaten auf die Banden in der Übertragung projiziert zu werden. Damit nicht genug: Supponor zeigt in La Liga inzwischen mit dem Virtual 3D Carpet Replacement eine weitere Lösung, die Advertisern wiederum neues Werbeinventar liefert. Mit virtualisierten 3D-Werbeteppichen, auch als Cam Carpets bekannt, geht die Stadionwerbung wahrhaft in die Augmented Reality über. So ist zwar Stihl der nationale Sponsor von La Liga und deren Werbeteppiche im Stadion bleiben für die heimischen Zuschauer am Bildschirm und im Stadion präsent. Doch für ein internationales Publikum kann der neue internationale Partner ManbetX auf den virtuellen 3D-Teppichen eingeblendet werden. Virtualisierte 3D-Werbeteppiche bei der Übertragung in La Liga beim Spiel zwischen Atlético Madrid und dem FC Barcelona am 14. Oktober 2017: in der heimischen und der internationalen Übertragung, © Supponor Supponor gibt selbst an, dass das Unternehmen einer Liga entsprechend der Zahl der potentiellen Werbemärkte virtuelle Ersetzungen bieten kann – und damit neue, ungeahnte Einnahme- und sogar Brandingmöglichkeiten. Das gilt natürlich genauso für die einzelnen Vereine. Supponor, das sich im Februar mit den deutschen LED-Experten von TGI zusammengetan hat, möchte die virtuellen LED-Lösungen für Sportübertragungen weltweit vorantreiben. TGI kann dabei auch deshalb helfen, weil sie bereits Partner der UEFA, von Juventus Turin, Manchester United oder dem FC Barcelona sind. So hat man ebenfalls in der Bundesliga die Virtual Hybrid LED-Technologie getestet. Und die DFL ließ im März verlauten, dass ab der kommenden Saison für die internationale Übertragung von Spielen der Bundesliga und 2. Bundesliga  virtuelle Bandenwerbung zum Einsatz kommen wird. Dazu arbeitet Supponor im deutschen Raum mit Lagardère Sports zusammen. Die Vereine werden von der DFL per Workshop gebrieft, wie sie ihre eigenen LED-Lösungen gestalten müssen, damit diese akzeptiert werden. Für eine solche Lösung wird die LED-Bandentechnologie von Anbieter ADI mit den Augmented Reality-Lösungen von Supponor kombiniert. Der Test der DFL im Signal Iduna Park zeigt die Unterschiede, © DFL
„This feels like a real game changing moment in the way clubs, rights owners, broadcasters, media owners, such as Lagardère Sports and, of course, sponsors can drive value from their commercial rights and we’re excited to be shaping the new commercial landscape“,
meint Supponors Chief Operating Officer, Charlie Marshall, in der eigenen Pressemitteilung. Supponor erklärt in einem Post bei Soccerex explizit, wie ihre Lösungen für die Live Sportevents funktionieren. Weitere Beispiele für die moderne Bandenwerbung Wie weit verbreitet die neue Form der Bandenwerbung inzwischen ist, zeigt ein Blick in Europas Top-Ligen. Die Financial Tribune berichtet von einigen Stadien in England, die mit ADIs und Supponors Technologien und Lösungen arbeiten. Vor der noch laufenden Saison wurden etwa beim FC Everton im Goodison Park oder im Selhurst Park von Crystal Palace Bandensysteme der S-Line digiBOARD-Linie von ADI installiert. Sie unterstützen die hybride Werbeausrichtung dank virtueller Optionen in der Übertragung. Auch in England ist die digiBoard-Lösung vertreten, Quelle: Stadia Magazine Auch Paris Saint-Germain bietet im Parc des Princes nunmehr lokalbasierte Feeds für die LED-Banden an. Davon berichtet Adrien Danjou bei DigitalSport. In einer Kooperation mit AM Sport können auch hier digitale Überblendungen eingesetzt werden, um bei internationalen Übertragungen die differenten Publika unterschiedlich anzusprechen. Beim Heimspiel gegen AS Monaco konnten Partner wie beIN Sports oder Ooredoo ihre Werbebotschaft auf Englisch, aber auch Arabisch und Bahasa (hier: Indonesisch) darstellen. PSG mit Bandenwerbung samt digitaler Überblendung angepasster Sprachen für die originale Übertragung, die nach Indonesien und jene in die MENA-Region, Quelle: DigitalSport, Adrien Danjou Und der Verein sieht viel Potential in dieser Art von Werbung.
„Digital Overlay will revolutionize sport marketing. It’s an answer to the growing internationalization of club’s audience. This technology allows us to improve our visibility, to offer new marketing rights to our global sponsors and to find new opportunities for brands interested in local sponsoring“,
erklärt der Executive Vice President Business Operations bei PSG, Frédéric Longuépée. Für die Marken können sich derlei neue Möglichkeiten aber genauso lohnen; vor allem wenn man bei einem so medienrelevanten Verein wie PSG wirbt. Immerhin werden die Ligaspiele des französischen Serienmeisters in 54 Länder übertragen und generieren über drei Millionen Zuschauer pro Spiel. Da wird die potentielle Sichtbarkeit einer Marke ganz neu definiert, insbesondere wenn sie immer in der richtigen Sprache dargestellt werden kann. Den Vereinen – und Ligen – selbst hilft das sicherlich bei ihren jeweiligen Internationalisierungsstrategien. Andere Möglichkeiten, das digitale Werbeinventar auszuweiten Als kleinen Exkurs weisen wir darauf hin, dass auch andere Optionen offen stehen, um das Werbeinventar innerhalb eines Stadions zu erweitern. Ganz besonders, wenn es im Rahmen eines Neu- oder Umbaus einer Spielstätte geschieht. So hat etwa der russische Verein FC Krasnodar in seinem 2016 eröffneten neuen Stadion einen 360-Grad Screen durch das gesamte Stadionrund einbauen lassen. Auch wenn auf der Leinwand, die laut Vice Sports mehr als 5.000 Quadratmeter groß ist, nur bedingt Werbung gezeigt wird, ist sie doch ein Hinweis darauf, wie Stadionwerbung in Zukunft aussehen kann und wie Vereine noch mehr Werbeinventar schaffen können. Im Übrigen wird das neue Stadion aufgrund zu geringen Fassungsvermögens leider nicht bei der WM als Austragungsort dabei sein. Tendenzen bei bei den Werbepartnern Wenn von (neuen) Werbepartnern die Rede ist, muss erwähnt werden, dass es sich hierbei auf den Fußball bezogen sehr häufig um Wettanbieter handelt. The Drum erläutert in einem Beitrag vom Beginn der laufenden Saison, dass derlei Anbieter in den vier englischen Profi-Ligen inzwischen 40 Prozent der Einkünfte aus dem Verkauf von Bandenwerbung für Vereine und Veranstalter generieren. Dazu kommen dann auch die Trikotsponsoren, die bei fast jedem zweiten Premier League-Club ein Wettanbieter sind. Wettanbieter als Sponsoren: ManbetX als Trikotsponsor bei Crystal Palace, auf den Burnley-Trikots wirbt Dafabet; im Hintergrund auf der Bande findet sich Werbung für 138 Bet, Screenshot YouTube, © Crystal Palace In der Bundesliga läuft nur Hertha BSC, in der 2. Bundesliga nur der MSV Duisburg mit Werbung für einen Wettanbieter auf der Brust aufs Feld. Doch auch der neue internationale Partner für La Liga, ManbetX, unterstreicht die Tendenz, dass diese Branche im Fußball viel wirbt. Es handelt sich bei dieser Ausführung nur um eine Beobachtung, die verschiedentlich interpretiert werden kann. Trotzdem wäre es doch schön, wenn künftig, vor allem in England, wieder mehr Vielfalt beim Sponsoring auftaucht. Die Verknüpfung von Wettmarketing und Fußball ist jedoch historisch und könnte im Zuge der Digitalisierung noch enger werden. Wie teuer sind solche Banden – und wie wird der Erfolg digitaler Werbung gemessen? Die Vermarktung der LED-Bandensystem dürfte gerade bei Erstligavereinen recht schnell die Kosten für eine Anschaffung decken. In der Bundesliga sind seit der Saison 2016/17 alle Vereine mit einem solchen System ausgerüstet. Auch Aufstiegsaspirant Holstein Kiel hat im vergangenen Sommer nachgerüstet. Doch wie teuer sind eigentlich solche System inklusive Aufprallschutz, Transport, Steuerungssoftware usw.? Der Sportstättenrechner gibt auf den Fußball bezogen einen Preis zwischen 650.000 und einer Million Euro an. Andere Schätzungen gehen noch höher. Allerdings müssen die Werbetreibenden für die optimale Platzierung auf den Banden auch besonders viel Geld zahlen. Die Preise variieren je nach Länge der Werbeslots und der Integration in größere Werbepakete. Dennoch müssen für effektive Werbeplätze meist tausende Euro pro Minute gezahlt werden. Beim FC Walsall in der dritten englischen Liga kosten sechs Minuten pro Spiel für eine ganze Saison jedoch nur ab 150 Pfund plus Mehrwertsteuer. Also spielt die mediale Sichtbarkeit, auch international, eine gewichtige Rolle für den Preis, aber eben genauso die Wertigkeit der Stadionwerbung. Wie sich der Erfolg auch digitaler Kampagnen, die mit einem Stadion oder einer Liga in Verbindung stehen, messen lässt, hängt sicher stark mit den abgesteckten Zielen zusammen. Geht es in erster Linie ums Branding oder eindeutig um Conversions? Langfristige Partnerschaften können Werbetreibenden hier womöglich in beiden Bereichen positive Ergebnisse bescheren, vielleicht sogar einen hervorgehobenen Status. Nichtsdestotrotz sollten die KPIs im Vorfeld solch kostspieliger Kampagnen vonseiten der Advertiser feststehen. Im Falle des Brandingziels sind Praktiken wie Social und Visual Listening, gerade im Rahmen der Sportevents, wichtige Optionen, um Erfolg zu ermessen. Im Hinblick auf Conversions braucht es sicherlich konkretere Analysen anhand des Nachvollzugs der Customer Journey und weiterer Metriken, die eine Verbindung zur Werbepräsenz im Stadion oder bei Übertragungen erlauben. Eine Möglichkeit, wie die Performance außerdem geprüft werden kann, bietet die Plattform für die Einschätzung und Analyse von Sponsorships, Hookit, die gerade eine Kooperation mit Kantar Media eingegangen ist, einem Unternehmen, das datengestützt die Medienbeobachtung und -analyse betreibt. SportsSpro berichtet von der Zusammenarbeit und Scott Tilton, Chief Executive bei Hookit, wird dort mit dem Versprechen zitiert:
„Through our partnership, clients can track their sponsorship ROI through social, digital, and traditional media with real intelligence to influence their objectives“.
Durch diese und andere Plattformen ihrer Art können die Erfolgswerte der Werbung im Fußball genauer gemessen werden. Damit wird die Stadionwerbung in ihren modernen und innovativen Ausprägungen zu einem komplexeren, aber auch lukrativeren Geschäftsfeld für Vereine, Veranstalter und Werbetreibende. Darüber hinaus profitieren künftig auch Technologie- und Analyseanbieter von solchen Entwicklungen. Letztlich ist die Stadionwerbung in einem sehr technologiebasierten, digitalen Zeitalter angekommen. Doch bei dem raschen Fortschritt desselben sind noch weiter optimierte Optionen für das Werbeinventar vorstellbar. So sind personalisierte Anzeigen als virtuelle Überblendung für gezielt angesprochene Zuschauer oder Zuschauergruppen ebenfalls vorstellbar; vor allem, sofern die Rezeption über Online Streamingdienste zunimmt. Hier könnten Unternehmen mit begrenzten Angeboten, etwa einem Rabatt nur während der 90 Minuten des Spiels, direkt auf Conversions über digitale Kanäle abzielen. Eine ähnliche Alternative nennt auch Paul Marks in seinem Post, wobei er glaubt, dass gerade bei der mobilen Ansicht von Spielen auch interaktive und klickbare virtuelle Banden bald zum Bild dazugehören könnten. Diese Aussichten mögen auf manche Fans beunruhigend wirken, sind aus wirtschaftlicher Sicht allerdings von größtem Interesse. Sie zeigen ebenfalls, dass digitales Marketing, auch unter Mithilfe von Augmented Reality, immer stärker mit dem Fußball und seiner Darstellung verwoben wird. Wer in diesen Bereichen innovative Lösungen liefern kann, wird im medienwirksamen und finanzstarken Sportsegment Fußball mitverdienen können. Vereine und Werbepartner können gleichermaßen profitieren, wenn die Voraussetzungen für die Weiterentwicklung geschaffen sind. Der Schritt zur virtuellen Bandenwerbung ist nur der nächste. Und bislang zieht der Fußballmarkt bei derlei Entwicklungen immer mit. Im Hinblick auf den übernächsten Schritt aber können Unternehmen, Advertiser und Vereine sich schon heute Wettbewerbsvorteile verschaffen. Denn das Potential der Stadionwerbung und seiner digitalen Ausprägung erschöpft sich kaum in der Globalisierung von Werbebotschaften.  
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Data & Tech

Zone7: Time to Prevent Injuries with AI and Big Data

Injuries or fatigue are factors that can cost clubs a lot, both financially and in terms of reaching their targets on the pitch. Zone7 helps prevent those thanks to data- and AI-driven performance measurement. [Sponsored]

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How often do you see it, a player holding his hamstring, signalling that he just can’t go on? Depending on how severe the injury is, players will miss weeks or maybe even months of action. Ousmane Dembélé couldn’t help his team from Barcelona in the CL semi-final return leg as they were incredibly beaten 4:0 by Liverpool. Or take Newcastle United, who had just made Miguel Almirón their record signing in January, only for him to sustain a hamstring injury in April, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. The fate is shared by Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, who will therefore not only miss a nice send-off before his free transfer to Juve, but also be unable to play in next week’s Europa League final – which might also have an impact on their biggest game of the season. What if you could not only make decisions for injured players during the game, but also prevent them from being sidelined at all, based on tons of data and AI algorithms?

Injury prevention on another level

It may cost clubs a pretty penny, if their star players – or any player – get injured. It may be during the season’s run-in, ahead of the World Cup or in the run-up to pre-marketed friendlies, for which tickets need to be sold. While injuries are bad to clubs and for managers, football teams do have the players to compensate; just not always on the same level. For individuals, though, injuries can be much more of a personal catastrophe. They could miss out on the World Cup or the Champions League final. Furthermore, they could be denied bonuses for goals scored or games started and such existentially important matters like contract extensions or transfers to another club might be jeopardised by injuries. Just think of players, who are known to be “injury-prone“. Even if they perform well, suitors could be looking for alternatives.

There are hundreds of reasons why injury prevention is so important. And its importance grows with the number of games in the modern game and the successively increasing intensity. That’s why Zone7 does immerse into injury prevention. The company takes into account 5 million hours of human performances in sports and operates with AI patterns in order to identify break points or potential problems for the players and athletes. Their evidentially accurate system reduces injury days out by an astonishing 75 per cent, while injury rates themselves drop by 70 per cent.

The advantages of the Zone7 system

Zone7 supports clients, who play in the MLS, La Liga or the Champions League and also keep MLB players from being out of action. As of TechCrunch, the company this year raised 2,5 million US dollars in a seed round.

Their system is based on data and AI-powered recognition, so therefore up to date by default. It’s easy to use, since data can be generated via wearables or video technology. And the analysis of millions of data points enables medicals or even managers to make decisions for their training schedules or on the pitch, too. Moreover, these decision can be tailored for every athlete and thereby offer the chance to prevent injuries and optimise individual training practice.

How Zone7 works in a nutshell, © Zone7

Injury detection and prevention will be high on every club’s medical agenda and is just as important for any and all individual athletes. So, using Zone7 should be considered in order to minimise risks and maximise performance levels – and eventually even the profit. To show you the benefits of the systems in different kinds of situations, we spoke to CEO and Co-founder Tal Brown – founder of Salesforce’s first AI team by the way –, who is just the person to explain and highlight these.

The interview

Spielmacher: Injuries do cost clubs and players playing time and real money, too. Can a more holistic prevention system be a boost for financial resources as well?

Tal Brown: Yes absolutely. The financial benefits of reducing injuries are first and foremost direct in that fewer injuries immediately translate to reduced medical costs. However, many studies show that reduced injuries are strongly correlated with winning and that translates to additional revenue from tickets, endorsements and in some cases – revenues from broadcasting and the league prize money. A good example is Getafe, who are having an extremely successful season (#5 in La Liga, lowest budget, dramatically over-performing vs their budget). One of the financial benefits of such a season is participation in either the UEFA Europa League or the Champions League, estimated to generate a dramatic increase in revenue.

Spielmacher: Fitness coaches, the medical team etc. are there to minimise the injury risks for the club’s players. What’s the unique additional value that Zone7 can offer them in order to do so?

Tal Brown: Zone7 offers two key things: first – we help the medical staff dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on reviewing data. The process of looking at performance, medical and health data every day for 25 players in a squad, and using this data to identify risk and optimal workload is lengthy, so we help complete this much quicker. Also, Zone7 offers accuracy. The mathematical/Artificial Intelligence process we use to estimate risk and identify optimal workload for each player is based on millions of football games and training sessions. This process is statistically quantified to determine accuracy and we ensure this accuracy is continuously improving as we learn from more teams and real-life data.

Spielmacher: The use of AI technology personalised the monitoring to a greater extent. Does that offer the opportunity to react more individually and could reoccurring injury problems be reduced eventually?

Tal Brown: Yes, we believe that the most effective intervention is 100 per cent personalised and must be tailored to each athlete’s performance history, medical profile and any additional attributes. A key part of this is the athlete’s injury history that is taken into consideration with every risk and recommendation, so while we cannot guarantee to eliminate recurring injuries, we are seeing that Zone7’s technology is helping older and more injury-prone players to increase their availability and stay longer at a peak physical condition.

Spielmacher: To what extent can training practices be aligned to data, which give a picture of the players’ health and fitness conditions?

Tal Brown: In training, workload and the effort invested by players can be controlled. This control has always been used to accomplish both tactical goals (e.g. learning/improving in a specific football strategy) and fitness related goals (being better prepared physically for the upcoming game). Rehabilitation is also a good example where the health and physical condition of the player determine the level of effort and the progression of their effort to ensure a safe return from injury into maximum form.

Zone7’s technology allows the technical staff of a football team to break down the player’s current physical condition into fine-grained parameters to understand what kind of medical, biomechanical and workload parameters (sprints, overall distances, accelerations, decelerations, etc.) is currently contributing to risk. The second step is to use Zone7 to define optimal ranges for each workload parameter for each player daily. This approach allows players to train, improve performance levels, but avoid aggravating their current risk factors that will likely lead to injury.

Spielmacher: The AI-powered system of Zone7 works with comparative data. How many matching data sets can be used to develop predictions for a single player for example?

Tal Brown: First, the term prediction should be well-defined: Zone7 does not predict the exact moment physical mechanism of an injury. Instead, Zone7 calculates the Injury Risk Forecast over a period of several days, typically over the days proceeding a match.

Overall, Zone7 has analyzed over 5 million games and training sessions and thousands of injuries. This data is used to create a multi-layered model that is customised for an individual player but can also rely on data from similar players in similar leagues.

Spielmacher: You are able to reduce injury days out by 75, injury rates by 70 percent. Could you give an example of a player or club profiting from that recently?

Tal Brown: Yes, one of our earliest adopters is Getafe CF, currently #5 in La Liga. This team has the 17th highest budget in La Liga, yet in the past two seasons since coming up from the second league have been over-performing dramatically. In addition, Getafe have one of the lowest injury rates in the league.

Interestingly, Getafe has a relatively old squad and yet their injury rates with Zone7 have reduced by 65 per cent. Individual examples should be taken lightly when examining AI products, but such example could be Mathieu Flamini, who, at the age of 35, came into Getafe after playing for top tier European clubs, where he sustained 13 injuries over the previous seasons. This season in Getafe, he has sustained no injuries at Getafe and has had nearly 100 per cent availability.

Spielmacher: Your system works via video or wearables. The latter aren’t common in football, so will video analysis be the main factor there? And could such an analysis prevent players from continuing with a concussion or a hamstring problem rather quickly to prevent further damage?

Tal Brown: Zone7 requires performance data to compute the player workload, injury risk and optimal training levels. The data can be collected through wearables (using GPS, accelerometer, etc.) or through video systems that are becoming more accurate in this respect. Already today, many of our customers provide us with game-day data from video/broadcasting systems instead of GPS.

Until today, Zone7 has helped coaches make unbiased decisions with regards to training load and match load. As more real-time data becomes available (through video as well as the next generation of wearables) then our role can potentially grow into minute-by-minute insights to coaches. Ultimately, the coach is responsible for the team’s results and overall performance and he is the expert for that job. We strive to make health/performance data be available in an easily understood manner so unbiased decisions can be made.

Spielmacher: Could the use of AI technology not only prevent injuries but also improve performance levels in the long term?

Tal Brown: Yes, absolutely. Our strategy is to use AI to help athletes reach their goals. In the professional environment, one key goal is to reduce injuries hence we “teach” our AI platform to provide insights that help achieve this goal. Over time, other goals like reaching specific performance levels can also be a part of the same process. A good example for this is long distance running, where many runners have a specific goal in mind for a race – for example running a marathon in under 3 hours. AI can be used to define the day-to-day training leading to such an event to ensure minimal injury risk while pushing the runner forward to reach his/her goal.

Spielmacher: Do you believe that data driven injury prevention and health care in sports is an essential step towards long term success? Can clubs afford to not take advantage of it at all?

Tal Brown: The club’s ultimate goal is to win more. For some clubs, this means a championship every year, and for others, it means simply over-performing vs their budget. Winning translates to growth in both direct revenues and indirect revenues that further fuel winning in the next year. From a pure data perspective, reduced injury rates are strongly correlated with winning because having the best (and most cohesive) squad available for more days means the team has higher chances of winning more games.

I believe that the medical and performance staff in clubs are going through a major revolution. Today tools are available to visualise and create meaning from data, and so decisions can be more objective through repeatable scientific (and validated) processes/computations. As with other aspects in medicine, coaching and professional sports in general, the expert will always be the one making the decisions, but now there is more science that can support these experts with objective decision-making tools. This will undoubtedly lead to fewer injuries, more availability and more success.

Spielmacher: Is your system rather made for professional sportspersons or equally useful and necessary for semi-pro and other levels?

Tal Brown: Our mission is to help athletes reach their goals while remaining injury free. This is applicable to professional athletes as well as semi-pros and lifestyle athletes. However, Zone7 creates value from data, and so we rely on data to deliver. In professional environments, the data needed (e.g. performance, medical records) is available more consistently and accurately than in other markets. However, over time we are bringing our technology to other environments both in the professional sports (like baseball and basketball) and semi-professional: we are working with hundreds of amateur runners preparing for half and full marathons.

Spielmacher: Has the awareness regarding the need for optimised supervision of the athletes’ health grown in recent years?

Tal Brown: Yes, while supervising the athlete’s health will always remain an internal process driven by medical professionals inside clubs, we see more awareness and more openness to evaluate tools to support the internal decision process. Traditionally these tools have been designed to collect data and visualise data, but are now expanding to tools (like Zone7) that can unveil the valuable meaning within the data or provide an objective and validated calculation for risk and optimised performance levels.

Spielmacher: How can you ensure to keep the sensible data concerning athletes’ health safe? Can data breaches, which could have an impact on players’ developments, be ruled out?

Tal Brown: We use security measures that are equivalent to healthcare standards to ensure the data is safe. These include end to end encryption, advanced authentication methods and of course strict control on data access both for our employees and our users.

Also, as dictated by GDPR, our customers own their data, so they have complete control on what is available and for how long.

While breaches cannot be 100 per cent avoided, we invest heavily to ensure the data security. It’s important to note that already today, many products used by teams (e.g. AMS, wearables) manage sensitive data in the cloud successfully so this is already a common practice in many environments.

Spielmacher: From your personal opinion, will AI only enrich the sports ecosystem or actually take some of its precious unpredictability, too?

Tal Brown: I personally do not think that AI will make the sport more predictable. The human brain, operating in high-speed, reacting to a thousand changing factors in a game that are detected through eyes and ears is and will always remain unpredictable. However, I think the ultimate sport experience will be better because we can eliminate (or at least reduce) some factors that negatively impact the fantastic “drama” that everyone loves to follow. One obvious example is the ability to keep the best players on the stage.


Thanks so much for the interview, Tal. Whoever wants to reduce injury rates or days out to not only save money but strengthen the players’ and athletes’ health sould definitely considers using the very contemporary solutions of Zone7, based on AI and supported by an enormous amount of data.

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Content & Media

Blockchain Collectibles Gather Pace as Real Madrid and BVB Join SWAP

Fantastec’s blockchain-powered solution SWAP offers fans the chance to get digital collectibles like autographs or player cards. Now Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund join Arsenal.

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As fans turn to their mobile devices ever so often, they are always looking for more interactive ways to get in touch with their beloved clubs. Some even like to collect club branded stuff – apart from the kits maybe –, which is why Panini’s sticker albums worked so well for so long. However, in the digital age, such passions are tranferred into digital spheres. And that’s why Fantastec offer their SWAP app to bring supporters exclusive video content, original autographs from their favourite players or collectible cards that can be exachanged. After Arsenal London, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid bank on the blockchain-supported app in order to grow in-app revenue and interactive fan engagement at the same time.

SWAP offers revenue and an interesting prospect for fans

Social Media and digital pioneers Arsenal were the first to sign up with Fantastec to appear in their SWAP app. Now we’ve got Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid following suit – and possibly many more clubs in the future. For this app, based on forward-thinking blockchain technology, does have the fitting mix of traditional football fans’ desires and modern clubs’ demands for both digital and economical growth. Speaking to SportsPro Media, Fantastec’s product development partner Simon Woolard said:

We have good connections and wide-ranging experience which has helped us build solid and valued relationships with clubs and organisations across the world.

More top clubs are joining SWAP, © Fantastec SWAP

For now, Fantastec SWAP only has the licences for these three clubs, albeit European heavyweights. While it’s still starting to grow, the app is quite unique. For it offers fans the chance to own, collect and trade items like player cards with authentic autopgraphs and – maybe more important today – exclusive video content. Possibly, it might bring a reminiscence of collecting physical player cards or stickers, which hasn’t been a thing of the past just yet.

Additionally, the secure blockchain technology behind it is there to make sure that there will be no data breach and no false content or what have you.

Our blockchain technology means complete trust in every swap. No more fake autographs or cards. Fair and fun!

The collectibles could start to offer real value for fans

What’s even more interesting for the fans is the fact that all these rather innovative collectibles could not only turn out to be an amusing pastime alone, but a rather valuable passion, too. Because, from the 2019/20 season on, any trophy you earn in the game, which can be competitive as well, can be turned into points which then again enable a player to redeem them for club store discounts or the opportunity to take part in unique club experiences or special SWAP competitions. Furthermore, these first collectible items from Real, Arsenal or Borussia Dortmund might become quite precious, since the represent the first version of these items and also offer players, who will be somewhere else in the future – which would therefore make their player cards more rare. Fantastec editor Lee Astley even thinks an Aaron Ramsey player card from SWAP could really be a worthwile asset, since he will be going to Juve come the end of the campaign.

Notably, the collectibles are not limited to men’s player cards. When Arsenal just launched their away shirt collection in SWAP, the women’s team also provided their presence.

There are always new features for the young SWAP app. And if Social Media experts like those from Arsenal or Real Madrid believe in the advantages of the app, a lot of other clubs might follow. The whole system of swapping collectibles often to gain more content and more exlusives as well as new player cards and autographs should ensure that there’ll be movement amongst the users everytime.

The SWAP system, © Fantastec SWAP

Right now the app has only over a thousand downloads in the Google Play Store and SWAP only a few hundred followers on Twitter for example. That could change, though, if more teams join the app and if those big clubs advertise the app and integrate it into their Social Media offering for fans. In-app purchases, which range from just over one to more than 30 Euro at the moment, would be another good revenue stream for the app and the licensing clubs. Only, it has to grow more prominent soon to become a success. The concept behind it is compelling, now it needs a nudge in the right direction. And then we’ll see whether one can transfer the collectible culture into a digital universe with blockchain technology. For the MLB, it has worked – the football culture, especially in Europe, is different and it will test the fans’ willingness to embrace football fandom on another level. Thankfully, a good app seems to tease if not all, still a whole lot of those milllions of fans.

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Gaming’s the Next Goldmine – And You Can Measure It

The gaming industry has become central to big brands and football clubs alike. Everyone wants a share of the pie. Yet, the value of eSports sponsorships has to be measured sophisticatedly.

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We’ve heard it before: gaming is the future for brands, in terms of sports, for marketers and what have you. And you can underline that assumption with many statistics. But the sheer acknowledgement of popular gaming stars in today’s media and society is probably the best sign of the changing times. A digital and electronic world was always going to have electronic sports as a treat for people who love to play and to watch it. The importance of gaming for our understanding of sports and sports marketing is there to see, since we can draw on measurement tools and differentiated insights from Media Chain, Twitch and their partners.

Ninja as a marketing maestro: Red Bull can and a million for streaming a new game

One of those popular players is Ninja alias Tyler Blevins. His YouTube channel alone has 21 million subscribers, on Instagram there are another 13,4 million followers. He is amongst the best Fortnite players on the planet and is Twitch’s number one streamer. Thousands of people watch his streams – and that has made brands interested long ago. We take Ninja as an example, because he was paid a staggering million US dollar just to stream EA’s Apex Legends and thereby promote it, as reported by Reuters. Furthermore, he will now be on a limited edition of Red Bull cans, while underwear in cooperation with PSD is also available.

Yet, Red Bull is a major player in the sports world and that collaboration shows again why eSports stars are central to big marketing goals.

While success with Ninja’s face is nearly a given for partner brands, other marketing sections might be more careful. As they want more metrics and assurances, Twitch could provide them with important insights thanks to a partnership with MVPindex from the US. For the company now offers a platform to value branded content and measure engagement data. The value of sponsorships with established leagues, gamers, teams or tournaments shall be exposed on the basis of data.

MVPindex can now measure streams and video-on-demand (VOD) files, as well as value hours watched, concurrent views, and lifetime follower and viewer growth within specific streams.

With the help of AI and speech processing technology, solutions like the Engagement Value Assessment™ (EVA) and new Attributed Valuation Assessment™ (AVA) methodologies are bound to optimise the measurement of the engagement generated in the context of eSports. Stan Woodward, CEO of MVPindex, explains:

Historically, it’s been really tough for brands and agencies to value esports sponsorships because the majority of value is on digital and social, rather than traditional media and on-site activations. That’s why we wanted to bring our proven expertise to the esports industry and offer properties and brands a trusted currency for valuing their sponsorships. The partnership with Twitch is a game-changer for us and for the industry.

And such measurement opportunities like this one on Twitch give brands and marketers something of a safeguard, if they consider tapping into eSports. Drawing up a budget for eSports cooperations – even with lesser known entities – or convincing team members in marketing will be much easier with solutions like these.

Gamers are a good audience for marketing plans

Media Chain has also taken a closer look at the gaming industry. Which means they made a study in the UK, with 1775 people from gaming communities taking part as respondents. The introduction outlines a problem for marketing deciders:

Many brands find it challenging to navigate these audiences due to the cognitive and emotional distance between gaming culture and their marketing teams. Many marketers are guilty of lazily clustering gamers under one banner, creating unsuccessful campaigns built on basic and ineffective insights.

That’s why Media Chain provide us with a few very interesting statistics, based on the UK respondents, though. First of all, they’ve created different kinds of gaming types, like the young, the mature, the hardcore gamer – who spends more than 20 hours gaming per week – or the role-playing and the sports gamer. As they’re all different, they need to be addressed differently, too.

What the study found, for example, is that core gamers, who play like twelve hours a week, are 50 per cent more likely to spend more on quality clothes, food and media compared to the casual gamers, who play less than five hours a week. You can see a pattern there, which might be used for campaigns in advertising. It won’t be a surprise that Gen Z gamers and digital natives prefer digital to physical goods mostly, but it’s certainly interesting that 42 per cent of young gamers (34 years of age or younger) also watch at least ten hours of gaming a week. Thus, the potential to reach them in streams from well-known players is there to see. Especially, if you consider that gamers trust fellow gamers’ opinions. “64 per cent of young gamers and 51 per cent of mature gamers trust other gamers opinions first“. While gamers are unsurprisingly keen on Social Media news and content, they are critical, if brands aren’t authentic with their advertising apporaches. 55 per cent of all gamers stated they have seen ads for products and services that are not relevant to them.

So, better targeting needs to be integrated for the eSports marketing scheme. In the UK, between 2016 and 2018 alone, brands’ total Facebook sponsorship spend with UK gaming page partners has increased by 164 per cent, as per Media Chain. To know the gamer audience is certainly important. From what the study says about the UK, it is rather male (over 80 per cent) and technology-, music- or comics-affine. Fashion for example isn’t too high on the gamers’ agenda.

Knowing your audience, © Media Chain

Half ot the hardcore gamers will pay extra for convenience or ease of delivery concerning products they care about; which could be because they’re so busy playing (and watching streams). That is good to know for potential advertisers as well.

The whole study offers to many answers for the specific gaming industry in the UK: why people tend to play – for example de-stressing or escaping from reality, which might give hints to marketing potentials, too – and what kind of games they play. Shooters, Battle Royale, role-playing and action and fighting are common answers.

Gamers’ favourite eSports in the UK, © Media Chain

First person shooters are also the most watched eSports in that area. There’s a lot to learn for marketers, not only in the UK. Like more data on the rise of Battle Royale or what gamers think about brands. They say that brands don’t care for gamers (38 per cent), don’t understand the gaming culture (33 per cent) or try to speak to gamers in a generic and cool way – which fails (49 per cent). They rather want exclusive offers, USP explanations and so forth. Media Chain’s director of gaming, Tom Sweeney, states:

Brands, if they haven’t already, will need to start shifting their spend away from programmatic, away from traditional media, and into social content – either creating it themselves, or supporting a creator or channel that the audience is already connected with. The games industry has moved in that direction too, and it’s high time that non-endemics followed suit. It’s as cheap as it’ll ever be as supply currently outpaces demand – but that will change as brands realise the value of this audience.

The unfulfilled potential of gaming has been there for a while. Only now brands really try to leverage it and data and marketing solutions are provided with more regularity. Yes, there is a hype around eSports and everyone wants to play a part. But if you play it cleverly and take the many opportunities to help you understand gaming culture and its audience, you could also take your piece of a multi billion Euro industry that is only going to grow now.

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Data & Tech

How Schalke’s Quest App Creates Augmented Reality Sanctuary for Fans

Schalke 04 have releasend an app that lets fans interact by discovering regions, answering questions, competing with fellow followers or even starting virtual fan clubs in Augmented Reality.

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Days are hard for Schalke fans, their team’s performances on the pitch are rather disappointing or, quite frankly, devastating. The club are looking for a new sportive direction. But their development off the field and especially in the digital realm has been innovative and could be considered groundbreaking. Schalke 04 were early adopters considering eSports. Now, they have released an AR app that offers fans so many routes to get closer to their beloved club – and earn themselves rewards like collectible cards. Maybe this is kind of a welcome retreat for some disappointed fans. For the club, it could mean a lot more digital engagment, eventually.

Schalke 04: Forward-looking traditional club gets into AR

Loved and loathed in the Ruhr area, followers around the world and the odd appearance in the Champions League: Schalke 04, despite never winning the Bundesliga to date, are a cult club, a traditional powerhouse in German football – and beyond. Sadly for them, last season’s success wasn’t going to last this campaign. Right now, after they got a hiding from Manchester City in the Champions League, they are somehow fighting relegation domestically. While fans are depressed, they might just have a reason to engage with their club in a positive manner.

The Schalke Quest App, released a few days back, makes fans immerse in Augmented Reality to discover new experiences tied to the club from Gelsenkirchen. Created by Berlin-based ForwardGameAR, the app shall offer supporters around the world new virtual experiences and enhance the stadium experience as well. Alexander Jobst, marketing director at Schalke 04, stated:

We are constantly working on improving our fans’ experiences around the world. Therefore we are now pleased to announce our new app, Schalke Quest. Working with ForwardGameAR has proven to be a great success. We recognised the talent they have in their development team and are happy to have found a partner who is passionate about the project too. The consumer’s behavior is constantly changing in our digital society. In order to react to that, we decided to develop something for our fans with ForwardGameAR. Schalke Quest is a fine example that tradition and innovation are at their strongest when they are working alongside each other

The Schalke 04 AR app Quest, © Schalke 04

The fans are urged to “play“ Schalke 04 in the “real world“, although it’s much more of a virtual, yet augmented reality. As soon as users enter the app, that asks for location data and a bluetooth connection, they can discover virtual boxes that contain questions regarding the club history of The Knappen. Answering correctly to such questions can earn the fans some rewards like digital collectible cards. Schalke are certainly not the first club banking on such content, as Arsenal London also offer collectibles like that.

Like the Gunners supporters the Schalke 04 fans can exchange collectible cards with other app users to complete their own set from Embolo to Rudy. Aditionally, they can create their own virtual fan clubs to engage digitally in the context of this new and attention-getting app. Furthermore, these fan clubs shall become spaces to exchange diverse items in a move to bring fans together on a digital level.

Another feature, though, is the option for two app users to get engaged in a duel to test who has got the best knowledge of the club.

AR apps might just give clubs more ways to express themselves digitally

The new app is available now to Android and iOS users everywhere around the world.

With the announcement of this particular app and its innovative playful features, we can certainly assume that AR is going to provide all those digital-affine fans everywhere new ways to engage with their clubs. Probably, features like Quest’s will boost dwell time inside these very apps. And that is a very important metric for the success of digital media overall. For it enables more marketing opportunities, too.

There are already a number of alluring AR apps from reknowned brands like Snapchat for a main example or IKEA’s feature to place furniture inside your flat via Augmented Reality. So, if big brands use such technology, why shouldn’t the sports business? The MLB and NBA do have AR apps to engage fans. With the MLB app, fans in the stadium can even amplify their experiences with live data brought to their devices. The NBA’s version offers enhanced insights and tempting games.

The NBA AR app engages fans, © NBA

Schalke 04 are a club that have understood how important it is to leverage these opportunities. And maybe, just maybe, this gimmick might distract the crestfallen Royal Blues fans from their team’s woes on the picht. Although, probably no technological solution will ever have that power.

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Data & Tech

How More Data is Getting Fans Involved and Enhancing Club Performances

Ever since digitasation got going, data is the most important currency. For the DFL, ManUnited, publishers etc. it not only helps keeping fans engaged.

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When you’re watching football, the presentation of match data like possession, shots on target and what have you doesn’t occur odd. Yet, as fans experience football in a much more digital way these days, with a mobile device seemingly always on hand, additional information are what keeps people engaged. That’s why the DFL is getting Sportec Solutions on board to provide much more detailed insights while the Manchester United app offers supporters a view at edited stats, which is completely unprecedented. And let’s not forget Opta, a service that always comes up with something to surprise fans. But sometimes, these data don’t just help those supporters.

Data storytelling is a way to reach the people

Sports data are extremely valuable to many a group. For the clubs, coaches and managers will likely be able to benefit from profound information concerning their performances. Especially, since some data might help predict future performances or explain tactical strokes in a game. Apart from the professional players and coaching staff, even commentators bank on data to give listening supporters more insights and understand the game better themselves with updates coming in every minute. Therefore, their jobs are enhanced, which again means that the fans get extra information from them, too.

This importance of match data is one reason why the DFL has cooperated with Sportec Solutions since the start of the 2017/18 season in the Bundesliga. The company collects, stores and delivers official match data. 100 freelance operatores work for Sportec Solutions and have produced over 70 days and 4.45 terabytes of video material already. Because the more data you have, the better the opportunities to compare. Giampiero Rinaudo is co-founder and CEO of deltatre, a global leader in the field of sports data technology, as well as a joint venture partner with the DFL in Sportec Solutions. He says:

As data storytelling and data analytics become increasingly relevant in sport, it is important that a leading sporting body such as the DFL develops these tools in-house while advancing further development and global marketing alongside strong partners.

Part of the collaboration of the DFL and Sportec Solutions is the Commentary Live System for broadcasting.

Live stats for commentary in the Bundesliga, © DFL

Furthermore, Sportec Solutions also offers viewers information when it comes to the use of the video assistant as text updates on the screens explain what is going on in terms of reviewing.

Right now, the data is compiled with the help of a semi-automatic image recognition system. And all these technically gathered data could offer wholly new experiences soon. Such as the virtual recreation of match scenes on a screen or an innovative approach in predicting a player’s future performance based on various match data. Eventually, even an explanation of a game via “Robo texts“ can be achieved without human input as algorithms and software evaluate match data to compile a report. That, though, might well lack the proven contribution of a knowing football fan.

Manchester United app shows player influence based on data

The English record champions always look for ways to keep their huge fan base engaged via various media. Therefore, they’ve integrated a completely new way to experience match data inside their official club app. For example, it not only shows how many shots, passes or chances a team has had, but also manages to determine which team has the momentum – and it notices changes there, too, even inside five minutes.

The data is utilised to show momentum in the game, © Manchester United

This innovative way to use data for another perspective reagarding a match is unique, since it was exclusively tailored for the Manchester United app. No other football club app offers these opportunities. And the fans will probably like the way they can understand performance data. Because the most influential players are also identified, be it in a head to head screen –which also shows „Best Mates“, players who pass to each other most often – …

A look at the head to head screen inside the app, © Manchester United

… or considering every performance metric.

A look at the player influence gives supporters even more insights, © Manchester United

The data shows information about United’s and the opposition’s players. In the miraculous win against PSG in Paris last week, there were a few players on both sides who had quite some influence.

These players were most influential in the game against PSG, © Manchester United

Not surprisingly, due to his two match-defining goals, Romelu Lukaku got an 98 per cent influence voting in the app.

Lukaku has been the most influential player in Paris, © Manchester United

You could argue, though, that Kimpembe, Buffon or Kehrer had a lot of influence, too. Not that any PSG fan would want to be reminded. Even after games United fans can have a look at the statistics in the app an swipe through them like a story in Social Media. Thus, this data driven experience really is something new and keeps fans engaged in their app. Other clubs, leagues etc. should consider utilising the data they can gather more media-effective as well. For it certainly appeals to the fans.

Data tweets are a good way to accentuate games

It’s no surprise that publishers take advantage of tweets to underline the importance, absurdity or developments of games or player performances.

The Daily Mail uses tweets to strengthen it’s live ticker, screenshot Daily Mails Football

And the fans want those statistics. Squawka has nearly 900.000 followers on Twitter, Opta Joe even counts 1,12 million. They always have some history in the locker:

Or stats, that should make managers rethink their next starting line-up.

The fans love these statistics and data as a supplementary treat anyway – and that is just the reason every club or football association should merge their very own brand with fitting, exciting, sometimes provocative data.

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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.

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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.

The app offers various options, © Arsenal London, Fantastec SWAP

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.

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La Liga and Microsoft Create Project to Disrupt Football

Microsoft and La Liga have teamed up to launch an Inspiration Centre for startups, in which those shall present disruptive technologies to revive football.

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The world’s biggest competition for startups on disruptive solutions for the football ecosystem promises to accelerate change, mainly on a technological basis, for football structures in Spain – but worldwide, too, eventually. La Liga, the body for Spanish league football, is collaborating with Microsoft’s Global Sports Innovation Centre (GSIC) to create a platform for startups and innovators that have plans and strategies on hand to revolutionise the sports, media and enterntainment aspects of the industry.

Microsoft and La Liga: A proven partnership

The technology company with its renowned software – and hardware – and La Liga have teamed up before. In 2017 they collaborated in the context of social listening. In order to offer fans more personalised digital content, La Liga gave clubs the opportunity to draw on Microsoft’s solution to track Social Media engagement related to specific players or clubs.

We are the best league in the world, and we want to transform our offer to football fans through digital solutions that enable La Liga’s more than 1.7 billion followers around the world to access digital products and services in a personalized way,

said or rather claimed Silvestre Jos, director of technology services, at the time.

Now, the Spanish football league body wants even more technology-based solutions to find their way into the national football ecosystem. Therefore, they have partnered with the GSIC to call for any startup or innovater to augment fan engagement via modern days’ innovative services or products.

The aim is to empower digital talent developing disruptive solutions in the football, sports and entertainmentindustrywhich can help continue LaLiga’sgrowthin the field of technology and innovation,

reads the official briefing on the matter. The competition itself started on January 29.

Four cornerstones for the competition

Startups that want to help La Liga with its process of digitalisation and disruption of existing structures are still able to apply until March 30. Should they do so, their solutions must be focused on one of the following areas. Otherwise, they won’t be amongst the 25 startups selected by a jury.

  • Media: OTT, broadcasting, social media, digital content, new media, digital marketing, second screens, graphics, analysis, piracy
  • Fan engagement: fan profiles, social media, electronic sports, gamification, social listening, community, commercialisation, VR/AR/MR, digital games
  • Smart venues: security, fan engagement, ticket sales, fan experience, food and beverages, connectivity, cashless payments, access control and guest management
  • Sports performance: analysis, sports training materials, injury prevention, health and lifestyle, research.

Innovators in the field of big data, AI, machine learning etc. are also considered. The ten finalist startup companies will have the chance to join the GSIC and become part of a 200 plus strong company network. Furthermore, together with mentors they will be able to launch a pilot project with La Liga, said Iris Cordoba, the general manager of GSIC. Meanwhile Minerva Santana, LaLiga’s innovation director, emphasises:

[A]t LaLiga we are committed to the development of the best technological innovations that help to improve the experience of our fans and the technological growth of our clubs. What’s more, with this kind of initiative, we reassert our commitment to empowering talent in the football industry.

Advantages for startups that aid La Liga, too

As soon as the ten finalists are selected, there will be an immersion week and a special event at the world football summit in 2019.

The process of the competition, © GSIC

From then on, La Liga will work closely with the startups, which have a six-month membership with the GSIC, that will offer them magnificent opportunities. For example, they will get mentorship and training by La Liga executives, they can use Microsoft for Startups, get access to La Liga assets or valuable B2B contacts and will be given a digital transformation certificate. All of that can only help their very own visibility and prominence in the tech, sports and media scene.

Finalists’ benefits in the GSIC competition, © GSIC

Eventually, their collaboration with La Liga will lead to the possible implementation of their solutions in the different areas of Spanish professional football. Apart from that, a cash prize might also have the tech inventors for the football ecosystem keen-eared by now.

Whoever is interested or believes to have a solution on hand to aid La Liga’s technological disruption strategy, is welcome to apply for the promising competition in cooperation with tech experts Microsoft. And while the competition might augment the Spanish league body’s repertoire of technological solutions – that will certainly be needed for further growth, especially in international markets –, other leagues and associations should take the initiative as a good example. Giving young players a chance is the club manager’s task – giving young startups with great ideas the possibility to develop and shine is down to the various bodies in control.

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Data & Tech

Intel’s Multi-Angle Cameras Change the Way to Watch Premier League

The True View feature allows fans of Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal to relive action from the players’ or an aerial perspective and in a 360-degree mode.

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Have you ever wanted to experience the moment Mo Salah buries a penalty in the net from his very own perspective or relive a wonderful crossfield pass from Kevin De Bruyne from a bird’s-eye view? Technology company Intel is offering supporters that opportunity now. In a cooperation with Arsenal London, Manchester City and Liverpool FC they will give viewers the chance to watch the action on the pitch in a fully immersive and innovative way. All the new camera angles will have the fans feeling as close to their beloved clubs as never before.

Intel’s True View starts in the Premier League next month

The imagination of experiencing defining moments in a match from not only various but the most close-to-the-pitch angles is certainly exciting for any supporter. Just think of watching Gareth Bale’s overhead kick in the Champions League final, which you could possibly perceive from his perspective up there in the air. Or what about studying England’s clever freekick variations at the World Cup from an areal view?

From March 10 on, fans in the Premier League can start watching football in a whole new way. Because Intel have struck a partnership with three of the league’s absolute top clubs: league leaders Liverpool, champions and chasers Manchester City and always attractive Arsenal London.

As a result of the deal, Intel’s True View technology will allow viewers to really immerse in the game. For now it’s only those three clubs using True View, but more shall follow. Hence, only games at Anfield, the Etihad or the Emirates will offer the viewing from such different angles.

These are the fascinating new options

As Intel do explain, one will have the opportunity to make use of three features, which will be available live and for all the post-match action and analysis on the clubs’ websites or in their respective apps. First of all, there’s the multi-angle view. It allows fans to recreate goals, tackles or saves in a 360-degree video via the innovative volumetric video process. Therefore, the viewer can see the very scenes from any possible angle and very sharply, too, as Intel uses 38 5K ultra-high-definition cameras.

Another – and probably the most fascinating – option is the be the player-view. For a moment in the match can be frozen and then the fans see it all from the eyes of a player. That’s immersive football viewing at its best. Furthermore, it could offer pundits or commentators completely new insights into how and possibly why a player makes a decision. Analysing mistakes or great bits of play will be much more revealing like this.

Finally, there’s a so-called laser wall. It enables a view from a virtual plane that provides a different perspective concerning the players’ positioning and tactical measures during a game.

How the system works

Intel is one of many companies investing more heavily in technology designed to strengthen sports experiences, especially in digital realms. In 2018, nearly one billion pound were spent in this area. Ever since the Hawk-Eye and VAR, football is becoming more and more of a technology-based experience.

With True View, Intel have created a great viewing alternative. The volumetric capture method has the 38 5K ultra-high-definition cameras recording footage including height, width and depth of data. Then, all these aspects are used to produce so-called voxels, which are basically pixels with volume. After that, modern Intel processors porecess the data and finally the viewpoints of a fully volumetric 3D person or object are created. The virtual environment is a powerful example of how digital realms merge with the development of football viewing.

Immersive media experiences continue to create more opportunities for sports teams and leagues to put the fan experience first,

comments James Carwana, vice president and general manager of Intel Sports.

Big clubs need to be embrancing technology

Watching football might be at some kind of turning point. OTT services like DAZN are taking over from traditional broadcasters, as they offer multi-screen viewing opportunities for example. Apart from that, the younger generations of fans are really Social Media-affine. For they are using Instagram, Twitter etc. while watching games, they go to YouTube for highlights and are used to expecting quick and cutting-edge content. That’s why big clubs, or actually any football club, should really anticipate and embrace the potential of different technological developments. Be it iBeacon technology like in TSG Hoffenheim’s stadium, Instagram as a medium for growth or AI solutions to generate and provide individualised real-time highlights.

Intel’s new solution has been adopted by three top clubs now – and more will probably follow. Because these clubs know about the importance of offering their millions of fans new entertainment options. Peter Silverstone, commercial director of Arsenal FC, says:

We are always looking to find new ways to bring our 780 million fans and followers around the world closer to the action and this partnership will give our fans a whole new view of the game. The technology effectively allows a supporter to step into the boots of players and see the game from their perspective. We have seen the impact this Intel technology has had in other sports leagues across the world and are excited that it will be installed at Emirates Stadium. At Arsenal we are committed to innovating and keeping at the forefront of developments on and off the pitch so it’s fitting that Emirates Stadium will be the first stadium to bring Intel’s immersive and transformational True View technology to the Premier League.

Meanhwile, Billy Hogan, managing director and chief commercial officer of Liverpool FC, is sure that True View “can significantly improve the supporter experience“ and will “add a new dynamic to how people interact with the game and create different conversations with our fans around the world“.

Jonathan Levene of Intel Sports
Jonathan Levene, managing director business development EMEA of Intel Sports, introduces True View for Premier League clubs, © Intel

Ultimately, Damian Willoughby, senior vice president of partnerships at City Football Group, outlined what is most important for the clubs:

We are sure City fans, and football fans around the world, will love watching beautiful football from every angle.

And more angles and perspectives will undoubtedly lead to not only more engagement and view time but also to more excitement for the fans, eventually. Besides, with more angles covered, advertisers will surely like the thought of engaged and fully immersed fans, who can see it all.

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Data & Tech

TSG Hoffenheim Revolutionise the Matchday with Beacon Technology

Hoffenheim have seen an astonishing rise in German football. Their technological development off the pitch has them prepared for a bright future, too.

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The club from Sinsheim had only established itself in the Bundesliga in 2008, but never looked back since. This season was their first in the Champions League under the guidance of manager Julian Nagelsmann. The TSG play attractive, forward-thinking football. Yet, even off the pitch they are similarly forward-looking as the they can be regarded as early adopters of technological and sustainable developments. Cooperating with a waste management company or introducing a Research Lab with the Mannheim Business School is impressive work – but their installation of roughly 700 iBeacons really changes the way fans experience football at their arena now. Expectedly, there’s more to come from such an innovative club.

Our DNA is to go where the future things are going to be – not where they have been,

comments Ralf Pressler, TSG’s Head of Digital Performance & Marketing. We interviewed him to understand how the club use beacon technology to merge the raw live football experience with the supporters’ digital demands nowadays.

TSG Hoffenheim the first Bundesliga club to embrace iBeacons

Not too long ago, they were a quite small club, certainly not on football fans’ minds in Germany, let alone known in Europe: the TSG Hoffenheim. But things have changed. Continuous success in the Bundesliga has led to European football and to acceptance and respect. At first, some were reluctant to like what the club were doing as Dietmar Hopp – Co-founder of SAP which remains main sponsor for the TSG – played his part by investing heavily in the club. Yet, Hoffenheim’s story is not one of sudden investment hoping to reap rewards straight away. Rather, the club has been developed for a long-lasting presence in the football ecosystem – and it seems to work. A main reason may be the great work on the pitch, but off it there’s so much happening that’s worth mentioning.

For example, the former Rhein-Necker Arena has recently been renamed PreZero Arena. That’s because their new parter, which is specialised in recycling management, will help the club become more sustainable. TSG Managing Director Dr. Peter Görlich said:

We want to work together to make our stadium a forward-looking arena which sets an example for sustainability and resource efficiency. As a successful team in one of Europe’s top leagues, we are conscious of the way people look up to us as role models beyond the football pitch. Along with our partners at PreZero, we are aiming to save resources and take a firm stance in favour of sustainable development.

PreZero Arena from TSG Hoffenheim in Sinsheim
The TSG now play in the PreZero Arena, © TSG Hoffenheim

In addition, TSG Hoffenheim do know about the importance of technological realms. As one can see on their onlince presence, they have implemented a helpful digital wall for all visitors of their website.

TSG Hoffenheim’s social wall on their website
TSG Hoffenheim’s social wall on their website, © TSG Hoffenheim

Furthermore, the club has partnerships in place to leverage posts on Social Media such as Twitter. Substitutions, goals etc. are presented by MediaMarkt on that very platform, for example.

Meanwhile, there has been a first-of-its-kind development at the now called PreZero Arena. For together with Favendo, the TSG Hoffenheim have realised the biggest installation of iBeacons in German sports – and the first of that kind in the Bundesliga.

With partners Favendo, the club can use their „Commander“ Software Development Kit in order to track positioning, help fans with navigation and notifications based on beacon and zone proximity and gain insights on devices and analytics. The SDK is integrated in the club app. TSG Managing Director Frank Briel promised to make „the stadium experience an extraordinary one for our visitors“.

However, we wanted to learn more about such an innovative approach. For beacons certainly have their place at the Levi’s Stadium in San Fracisco and Tottenham Hotspurs’ new arena, but are relatively novel to German stadiums; and not yet established in the football ecosystem either. Although that might change sooner rather than later, as Ralf Pressler explains. Here are his exciting insights concerning the project. Additionally, he gave us a hint to what else can be expected at the PreZero Arena in the future.

The interview with Ralf Pressler

Spielmacher: The TSG Hoffenheim have teamed up with Favendo to install hundreds of beacons in the PreZero Arena. Is this technology going to find its way to all stadiums eventually?

Ralf Pressler: We installed round about 700 iBeacons in our stadium, which is outstanding in the German Bundesliga. In my opinion the technology will become more and more important in the next 5 years in all stadiums because of its added value.

Ralf Pressler, Chief of Digital Performance & Marketing, TSG Hoffenheim
Ralf Pressler, Head of Digital Performance & Marketing, TSG Hoffenheim, © Ralf Pressler

The TSG have been early adopters. Have there been positive examples that have been followed, like the Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco? What was the main motivator for the club?

Ralf Pressler: We had some good talks with our partner Favendo and were fully convinced to implement the technology. Our main target is to provide people with data/notifications in the right moment, at the right place and the best message.

Fans can already enjoy interactive communication and navigation inside the stadium. What are the next steps enabled by the technology?

Ralf Pressler: The next big steps will be a “Perfect Trip“ implementation. With the help of this feature the visitors will receive a notification on matchday which tells them when they should leave for the stadium, to arrive on time without any traffic problems.

Are push notifications planned? Will they rather consist of offers or even contain highlight clips or statistics from the game?

Ralf Pressler: This is something that we are already using! We send push notifications whenever a guest enters the stadium as well as different messages in the business area. After a game we also send push notifications to all leaving guests.

Talking of push notifications, have there been tests to underline the potential of these to grow matchday revenue?

Ralf Pressler: After 2 months of fully integrated systems, we are collecting data to determine all the effects they could have in the future. We analyse heatmaps around the stadium to get better insights of what is the need of our fans.

Will push notifications enable visitors to order drinks or food from underway or from their places?

Ralf Pressler: It is definitely something interesting to implement in the future. There are many needs to put in an overall strategy with much people to involve.

Do you see any contradiction in the explicit focus on digital experiences and the traditional football reception in the stadium itself?

Ralf Pressler: We should focus on the advantages that come with an improving digital experience. It will be much easier in the future to buy and receive a drink at halftime, to see free parking slot available on your mobile phone or to receive advices to leave home for the best arrival time.

With beacons all around, will all fans be happy to share their data? How are GDPR rules secured, via the app guidelines?

Ralf Pressler: The beacon technology is not taking personal data. We only “collect“ the location and the device (iPhone X for example). For sure, we are not going contrary to the GDPR.

Could the collected data be re-used for further marketing operations?

Ralf Pressler: As I answered in the question before, we do not collect demographic data or something like that with our loacation based services. But for sure after analysing all the data we should be wiser to decide where and if we need more food & beverage along the stadium or maybe more fanshops or toilets.

With so much digital implementation, will the PreZero Arena be cashless soon?

Ralf Pressler: We already started this process as we accept all creditcards in the stadium. In addition to that we have a cooperation with the Sparkasse to pay wireless! For the future we also think about different possibilities to pay with your phone through our app.

Could there be additional marketing inventory in push notifications?

Ralf Pressler: We are already sending push notifications with special merchandising offers to our visitors in order to get customer in our local fanshop on matchday.

With TSG Hoffenheim being pioneers in the digitalisation of sports venues in Germany, are there clues what can be expected next from the club?

Ralf Pressler: Stay tuned! More is about to come. Our DNA is to go where the future things are going to be – not where they have been. We are always in motion trying to find the best solutions for our fans on matchday.

Finally, is it easier to realise such developments if your main sponsor is a tech company like SAP?

Ralf Pressler: For sure, it is such a pleasure to have a partner with us, who is a leading technology company in the world and can provide us with interesting insights.

Thanks so much for the interview, Ralf. We are certainly better informed about the interesting developments at TSG Hoffenheim now. Eventually, any club could model themselves on this progressive approach – which should pay off even more in the long term.

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Data & Tech

FC Santos Use AI to Integrate Fans’ Opinions in Marketing Strategy

The research initiative X-ray Alvinegro helps FC Santos to detect their fans’ reaction to club operations by creating an individual interaction profile.

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FC Santos fans

The supporters’ perception of a club is growing in importance in terms of marketing goals and market growth ever since Social Media gave every user more freedom to interact with his favourite club. Moreover, a personal involvement in interactions is expected from people in today’s digitalised world. So, knowing your fans’ individual opinions is a good platform for prospective marketing strategies. These might concern partnerships, sponsoring or innovative ways of media coverage. Brazilian top club FC Santos bank on X-ray Alvinegro, a research tool based on Artificial Intelligence, that shall compile individualised user profiles of fans which mirror their reactions and opinions to happenings at the club.

What do FC Santos fans think about partnerships or signings?

Knowledge is power. And in marketing, data and knowledge make a promising partnership. That’s why FC Santos from Brazil, a team known for bringing through great players like Neymar, Robinho, Pelé and very recently Rodrygo, who will join Real Madrdid in the summer, are collaborating with Israeli startup KonnecTo and integrate the research initiative X-ray Alvinegro into their marketing strategy. As reported by Soccerex, this system is based on AI and its implementation is a first of its kind in the Brazilian football ecosystem.

Clubs need to make their fan profiles more knowledgeable in order to improve services, communication and products for them. In addition to having such data, it can develop its commercial platform more precisely,

commented Marcelo Frazão, marketing and communications executive at Santos. These data, that the system gathers, will be used to gain insights into fans’ attidutes towards operations at the club. It will determine how the supporters react to certain results, what they explicitly think of signings or hires and whether they think sponsors or partners are a good fit. And all these aspects will be considered individually.

Éverson signed for FC Santos – now the club can measure fan reactions AI-based.

If the club creates a dataset for their supporters online, they will be able to take that as a foundation for general and individual marketing solutions. One example might be, if there is a partnership in the pipeline, the club could elaborate whether the fans would appreciate it. And if they do so – according to the data – an analysis of the fans’ anticipated reaction would be a welcome asset in the negotiations.

Press conference table, FC Santos, Jorge Sampaoli
The press conference table shows how much FC Santos bank on partnerships, screenshot YouTube, © Santos Futebol Clube

Apart from that, the club could compose personalised messages or offers for specific fans much better than before.

Data sharing has its obstacles, though

The initiative from FC Santos, currently managed by well known Jorge Sampaoli, gives fans the option to participate – but of course they can also decline to take part. The data sharing itself shall be fully transparent, as Paulo Prado, director of KonnecTo in Brazil, adds:

This sharing is done in a totally transparent and safe way for the fan, where they decide what kind of information they want to share with us.

That could limit the impact of the solution. But Santos offer fans, who take part, discounts on items from their online shop and the chance to win a signed shirts. Hence they already merge anticipated user behaviour with marketing strokes. For clubs considering a similar apporach in the EU, there’s another obstacle: the GDPR. So collecting user or supporter data would have to clearly reveal the applications of the personal data. Still, getting to grips with variable and situational fan opinions and expectations will be extremely valuable for any club’s digital strategy. For it’s the supporters – mainly online and for the best part on mobile now – whose willingness to pay has to be capitalised on. In oder to measure and augment it, AI research on individual opionions is a way to go.

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