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Ist Kryptowährung die neue Strategie im digitalen Fußballbusiness?

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Der absolute Hype um die Krytowährung Bitcoin ist inzwischen vorüber. Doch die Zahlungssysteme finden zusehends mehr Anwendungsmöglichkeiten – auch im Fußballbusiness. In den letzten Monaten häuften sich die Meldungen über die Verwendung von Kryptowährungen bei Vereinen. Dabei stellt sich die Frage: wie genau könnten diese das immer stärker kommerziell und finanziell organisierte Ökosystem Fußball verändern?

Kryptowährung im Fußball: Von Gibraltar United bis hin zu Ronaldinho

Der Name Gibraltar United dürfte bei den meisten Fußballfans keine weiteren Assoziationen hervorrufen; obwohl das Team in der heimischen Liga elf Meistertitel vorzuweisen hat. Dennoch könnte dieser kleine Verein im europäischen und globalen Fußball eine Vorreiterrolle einnehmen. Denn der FC Gibraltar United zahlt seinen Spieler seit der aktuellen Saison ihr Salär in Kryptowährung aus. Der Vereinseigner Pablo Dana, so berichtet unter anderem Molly McElwee für The Guardian, ist Investor bei bei Quantocoin. Mit diesem Bankingsystem, das auf Blockchain beruht, hat der Verein eine Partnerschaft geschlossen. Im Zuge dessen werden Spieler nun per Vertrag in Kryptowährung bezahlt. Dabei erscheint Gibraltar ein geeignetes Testumfeld zu sein. Immerhin hat der kleine Staat zu Beginn des Jahres bereits Regularien für die Nutzung von Geldtransfers über Blockchain geschaffen. Zudem soll das weltweit erste von der Regierung abgesegnete Regelwerk für die sogenannten Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) folgen. Doch nicht nur in Gibraltar hat man sich mit den Vorteilen von Kryptowährungen auseinandergesetzt. In der Türkei hat ein Amateurclub, Harunustaspor, einen Spieler für 4.500 Lira plus Bitcoin im Wert von etwa 385 Pfund verpflichtet. Damit nicht genug. Der FC Arsenal London, ungleich berühmter als Gibraltar United, hat mit CashBet einen Sponsor, der selbst eine Kryptowährung darstellt, die für das iGaming verwendet werden kann. Und Paris Saint-Germain hat erst vor Kurzem eine Partnerschaft mit Socios.com bekannt gegeben. Hieraus soll das weltweit erste Fan Token Offering (FTO) entstehen, heißt es in der offiziellen Mitteilung des Vereins. Mit dieser Option können Fans dann Zugriff auf exklusive Belohnungen und Inhalte erhalten. So heißt es von Marc Armstrong, Chief Partnerships Officer bei Paris Saint Germain:
Always at the forefront of digital innovation, Paris Saint-Germain is determined to leverage the opportunities that cryptocurrency can provide. This revolutionary technology will have an important impact on the Club’s overall business strategy and the way we engage with our fanbase.
Socios-Gründer Alexandre Dreyfus bezeichnet PSG als digitalen Pionier. Und tatsächlich könnte der französische Hauptstadtclub zu den Vorreitern gehören, was Blockchain und Kryptowährungen angeht. Ronaldinho ist einer der großen Stars der Branche, die sich mit der Thematik beschäftigen. Er hat direkt das Ronaldinho Soccer Coin Project ins Leben gerufen. Die Währung kann für verschiedene Zwecke genutzt werden. Zum einen, um online Waren zu kaufen, zum anderen, um zu wetten oder digitalen VR oder AR Content zu erwerben. Auch James Rodriguez vom FC Bayern München hat mit dem JR10-Token seine eigene Kryptowährung. Und während Quantocoin inzwischen sogar 25 Prozent der Anteile am italienischen Serie C-Club Rimini FC 1912 erworben hat – und zwar mit der eigenen Kryptowährung –, haben auch erste Premier League-Vereine einem Testlauf mit diesem Zahlungsmittel zugestimmt. The Telegraph berichtet vom Aufbau digitaler Zahlungssysteme beim FC Southamptom, Leicester City, den Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Cardiff City und Brighton and Hove Albion. Manche Experten glauben, dass schon bald sogar Transfers mit Quantocoin, Bitcoin und Co. abgewickelt werden könnten. Aber welchen Mehrwert haben solche Transaktionen eigentlich und wo liegen die Probleme?

Kryptowährungen als Regulator? Oder nur ein Experiment?

Noch ist es zu früh, um über etwaige langfristige Wirkungen und Einflüsse von Kryptowährungen auf den Fußball konkrete Aussagen zu treffen. Allerdings könnte die Einführung der Blockchain-Technologie und von Kryptowährungen entgegen der Annahme, dass diese den Finanzsektor der Fußballbranche nur noch undurchsichtiger machen würden, sogar für eine sicherere und transparentere Struktur sorgen. Denn die Blockchain, oft als Buzzword verschrieen, liefert tatsächlich für digitale Transaktionen Sicherheiten, die sich gegen Korruption, instransparente Zahlungen und dergleichen einsetzen ließen. Immerhin ist das System per se darauf ausgelegt, dass die Kette der Datensätze für alle an der Transaktion beteiligten Parteien einsehbar ist. Ein Fortschreiben, eine Veränderung oder die Akzeptanz der Transaktion erfolgt nur über einen Konsens. Ein weiterer Vorteil ist die erhöhte Sicherheit. Erst bei einem Einverständnis der Parteien werden die Transaktionen aufgezeichnet. Dabei werden sie in der Folge verschlüsselt und an vorherige Transaktionen gekoppelt. Zudem wird die Kette nicht nur auf einem Server, sondern in einem Netzwerk von Geräten gespeichert; so wird ein Zugriff für Hacker erschwert. Vereine könnten Kryptowährungen auf dieser Basis also nutzen, um bei Überweisungen von Transfersummen oder Zahlungen an Agenten Transparenz zu schaffen. Ungelistete Zahlungen würden demnach schwieriger zu verschleiern sein. Außerdem haben Transaktionen mit Kryptowährungen noch den positiven Effekt, dass sie quasi unmittelbar vonstatten gehen; was gerade bei Last Minute-Transfers von Vorteil sein könnte. Darüber hinaus sind sie steuerlich günstiger und erfordern häufig keine zusätzlichen Gebühren. Mit solchen Systemen könnte sich der Fußball also in den kommenden Jahren anfreunden. Denn auch die kleinere Clubs haben so Chancen, um digital mit ihren Fans zu interagieren und bestimmte an die Kryptowährung gebundene Angebote zur Verfügung zu stellen. Gerade bei Globalisierungsstrategien mögen solche Transaktionskonzepte lukrativ sein. Allerdings ist es gerade für die kleineren Vereine ebenso riskant, sich voll auf die Kryptowährung einzulassen. Denn ihre gesamtgesellschaftliche Akzeptanz und Stabilität kann noch nicht gewährleistet werden. Facebook und Twitter haben in diesem Jahr beispielsweise die Werbung für Bitcoin und Co. verbannt. Zudem kann der Wert einer Währung stark variieren. Das bedeutet, dass die derzeit schon etwas willkürlich anmutenden Transfersummen bei einer Fokussierung auf Kryptowährungen noch einmal an Unbeständigkeit gewinnen könnten. In solch einem Fall würde der Transfermarkt noch deutlich mehr an die Börse erinnern – und die Fans womöglich eher abschrecken und kopfschütteln machen als für eine transparente und sichere Zahlungseinheit zu begeistern. Daher braucht es in Anbetracht der Entwicklung von Systemen, die auf Blockchain basieren und den Handel mit Kryptowährungen ermöglichen, klare Regularien. Diese sollten etwa von der Bundesseite kommen, bezogen auf den Fußball sollte hierbei aber auch die UEFA eintreten. Immerhin hat dieser Verband für das UEFA Super Cup-Finale 2018 bereits eine Testphase für Blockchain-basiertes Ticketing durchlaufen.

Die UEFA nutzte Blockchain für Ticketing, © UEFA

Im Rahmen des Finacial Fair Play, ausufernden Gehältern und Transfersummen sollten  die UEFA und die einzelnen Ligaverbände mittelfristig über Grenzen – wie Salary Caps – nachdenken, die als transparenter Orientierungspunkt fungieren. Mit dem zunehmenden Einbezug von Kryptowährungen sollte ebenfalls beachtet werden, wie hierüber Finanzströme verwaltet werden. Ansonsten droht das Ökosystem im Geschäftsbereich weiter an Integrität zu verlieren. Nichtsdestotrotz bieten die Blockchain-Technologie und die Transaktionsoptionen mit Kryptowährungen ein großes Potential für die einzelnen Vereine, Spieler und den Fußball insgesamt. Das zeigen die erwähnten Beispiele. Denn die Digitalisierung macht vor dem Fußball ebensowenig Halt wie vor dessen Geschäftspraktiken. Werden wir also zukünftig beim Marktwert eines Spielers auch seinen Gegenwert in gängigen Kryptowährungen erkennen können? Vielleicht. Wir können nur hoffen, dass er dann für den Fan ebenso skalierbar bleibt. Denn der Fußball muss in seinen Facetten für die Fans verständlich bleiben. Sonst leidet langfristig neben der Authentizität auch das Vermarktungspotential.  
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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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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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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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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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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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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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1. FC Cologne First German Club to Invest in eSports Company – with Mercedes Benz

German cult club 1. FC Cologne and the Daimler AG become shareholders of eSports company SK Gaming – for the benefit of the football, though, Cologne insist.

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Having a genuine eSports section and various players for your club is far from a novelty. Investing in an established eSports company is indeed. That’s just what the popular German club 1. FC Cologne have done. They are now officially associates at SK Gaming, eSports experts for over two decades. And Mercedes Benz, or rather the Daimler AG have followed suit. Investment in eSports on this very level seems shrewd. Cologne have emphasised how the move shall support the football side and its right to exist in years and decades to come.

eSports is becoming more and more integral in a football ecosystem

The 1. FC Cologne, known as effzeh (German pronounciation of FC), is the country’s first club to kind of merge with an eSports company. They’ve recently announced that they did invest in SK Gaming, a company that exists for 22 years now.

It was only in January 2018, when that company announced a partnership with the club, which since has been relegated to the 2. Bundesliga. Their appeal to the fans has not vanished, though. They still are one of the most liked and followed teams in Germany and remain a progressive club. Not only their RheinEnergieStadion, which is quite a venue for a club far from their most successful days, shows that.

Entering the realms of eSports isn’t just optional for clubs these days, it’s rather obligatory. Nowadays there are Virtual Leagues connected to the football associations for eSports in most countries. In Germany, the Virtual Bundesliga Championship, where EA Sports’ FIFA matches are played, just starts for the first time – and it will even be shown on free TV as well as numerous streams. And Cologne will play VfL Wolsfburg in their own stadium first. Their chances aren’t too slim either as they will have Mirza Jahic, Niklas “Bomb“ Flöck, Dylan “ DullenMIKE“ Neuhausen and Timo “Praii“ Gruneisen playing for them under the SK Gaming stewardship.

Besides, unique shirts have been created with a shared Logo for this competition.

Shirt for FIFA eSports players at 1. FC Cologne/ SK Gaming, © 1. FC Cologne

Furthermore, the teams from SK Gaming, world-class at Counterstrike in the last few years, will play League of Legends, SMITE or Hearthstone in the future, too. And they will wear the lettering #effzeh on their sleeve. Colognes executive Alexander Wehrle said:


Our previous cooperation has shown that the FC and SK Gaming fit together very well. Now there is a unique opportunity to enter a top company of the boom, to which we have a personal bond and with which we share our roots in Cologne. We wanted to use this opportunity. Daimler becoming shareholders as well shows how eSports has developed and what economic potential it has.


Yet, he stated that the club doesn’t want to establish eSports at the expense of the football side. Instead, it wants to make sure that „ideas, trends and business models“ ensure the right to exist for the very football club.

Daimler has realised that potential

The Daimler AG, who own the brands Mercedes Benz or Chrysler, have also become shareholders at SK Gaming with immediate effect.

Mercedes Benz invest in eSports, © SK Gaming

In 2017, Mercedes Benz had already become main partners for the ESL. Investing in an eSports company might be something of an unexpected operation. But with the sports growing in importance due to its rising audience and the opportunities the marketing inventory holds, being one of the most prominent brands in the market certainly seems well calculated.

eSports has that overlap with football; it is mainly reduced to EA Sports’ FIFA, though. But eSports is far more and it reigns amongst young audiencens, while it gathers ever more interest elsewhere. Football clubs and brands are right to invest. Although you have to admit that acquiring an eSports company is quite an astonishing step to accomodate oneself to that social and media development. It’s pioneering, but it could become the norm. In the future it will be interesting to see, whether eSports teams will help assure the football clubs and their football teams of their raison d’être. Or whether those football sides will someday be distant reminders of the clubs real roots. The latter seems unlikely for now; but digitalisation implements change much faster than one had thought before.

If you want to have a look at renowned eSports company SK Gaming, watch their video from YouTube:

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