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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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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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Content & Media

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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Data & Tech

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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Data & Tech

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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Data & Tech

Stadien im Wandel – Digitales Ticketing und All-Round Entertainment setzen den Fokus neu

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Die Stadien sind die Arenen, wo der Fußball als würdiges Event ausgetragen wird: Kampf um jeden Zentimeter Rasen, das Gegenüber auch mal verfeindeter Teams und Fangruppen, die Ikonen und Stars des Sports im Flutlicht, ja im Scheinwerferlicht. Doch so sehr diese Arenen – Anfield Road, das San Siro oder der Signal Iduna Park – einen Reiz ausüben, so wenig sind sie oft für ein digitales Entertainment-Zeitalter ausgelegt. Neue Stadien setzen hier Standards, die den Anforderungen neuer Generationen von Fans entgegenkommen und Besuche zum ganzheitlichen Abenteuer machen. Die Zeit altmodischer Karten als Tickets und einer eindimensionalen Seherfahrung scheint vorüber. Werden Arenen nun zu Multimedia-Schauplätzen?

Die neuen Stadien weisen den Weg: Minnesota, London und Co.

Tottenham Hotspur ist sicherlich eins der berühmtesten Beispiele für einen klaren Schnitt. Die altehrwürdige Spielstätte White Hart Lane wurde abgerissen, um dem hochmodernen Tottenham Hotspur Stadium zu weichen. Damit will der Verein seiner seit Jahren aufsteigenden Formkurve auch abseits des Platzes eine gebotene Rahmung verschaffen. Die Features, das Design, die digitalen Möglichkeiten sowie die unabhängig vom Fußall ermöglichte umfassende Nutzung des Stadions, all das ist ein Fingerzeig in die Welt der Stadien von morgen.

Das neue Stadion der Spurs setzt innen und außen Maßstäbe, © Tottenham Hotspur

Allerdings zeigt gerade dieses Projekt ebenfalls, wie problematisch so ein Neubau zunächst ist, da sich die Eröffnung deutlich verzögern kann. Neben extremen Kosten spielt der Bruch mit einer gewissen Tradition ebenso eine Rolle.

Nichtsdestotrotz sind moderne neue Stadien, oder zumindest stark modernisierte, in Zukunft wohl unerlässlich für wirtschaftlichen Erfolg. Ein Beispiel liefert der MLS-Club Minnesota United. Erst 2015 in die Liga eingetreten, war die Fanbase erwartungsgemäß klein. Für März 2019 aber ist die Eröffnung des neuen eigenen Stadions, des Allianz Field, geplant. Um sich in einer Stadt, wo die Menschen vielmehr den Minnesota Vikings (Football), den Minnesota Timberwolves (Basketball) oder den Minnesota Twins (Baseball) folgen, einen Fußballverein erfolgreich zu etablieren, hat man sich ganz der Digitalisierung verschrieben. Ab der Eröffnung des Stadions, das berichtet SportsPro, wird es dort keine herkömmlichen Tickets mehr geben. Stattdessen existiert ein völlig digitales Ticketing-System. Den Fans wurden für das neue Stadion 360 Grad-Sichten von jedem einzelnen Platz geboten und überhaupt gab der Verein viele Details, virtuelle Touren etc. über die neue Arena preis. Vor allem der Empfang und das WLAN dürften heute sehr wichtig sein, auch ein durchsichtiger Schutzschirm, der 85 Prozent der Besucher von Sonne und Regen schützen soll, ist eine starke Neuerung.

Noch ist das Allianz Field eine Baustelle, Screenshot YouTube, © Minnesota United FC

Der größte Vorteil des neuen Allianz Field ist die enge Verbindung zur Technologie.

„As part of this, we knew we wanted to build a completely digital experience to show everyone something that they haven’t seen before and just let the momentum take us all the way into the [new] stadium […] Our corporate partners absolutely loved it [because] we had created a full experience you can have on an iPad and were excited to see what we were doing with the technology. They felt like our stadium was already there,“

erklärt Jeanene Valentine, Director of Ticket Sales bei Minnesota United. Mit dieser Strategie steigerte der junge MLS-Verein die Zahl der Dauerkartenbesitzer von 4.000 auf stolze 14.500. Und das bei einem Stadion, dass nur 19.400 Plätze bietet. Ob das Stadion pünktlich zur neuen Saison fertig wird, anders als bei den Spurs, bleibt abzuwarten. Jedenfalls können sich die tausenden Dauerkartenkäufer auf eine digitale und zukunftsgerichtete Spielstätte freuen. Zu bemerken sei an dieser Stelle, dass für den Nebau solch immenser Stadien mit all ihrer Technologie und ihren attraktiven Features oft ein zahlungskräftiger Sponsor benötigt wird. Die Allianz – auch Namensgeber der Arena in München und Turin – hat hier seinen Namen und Gelder bereitgestellt, während Tottenham Hotspur die Namensrechte für die neue Spielstätte womöglich auch verkaufen wird. Das ist äußerst lukrativ, zeigt jedoch genauso die immer größere Verzahnung von Vereinen und Partnerunternehmen, bei der manch traditionelles Moment eingebüßt werden wird.

Andere Vereine werden modernisieren

Ein gänzlich neues Stadion ist für viele Vereine schwer zu realisieren und oft gar nicht notwendig. Juventus Turin hat es getan, schon vor vielen Jahren der FC Bayern München oder Schalke 04. Das neue Franchise von David Beckham, Inter Miami, wird verständlicherweise ebenfalls ein neues Stadion erhalten. Auch hier genießt All Round-Entertainment höchste Priorität. Mehrheitseigner Jorge Mas erklärte auf der offiziellen Seite der MLS:

„I want people to spend hours at the game, not to go to the match and just go home.“

Snacks und Drinks aus der Region sollen ebenso ein Alleinstellungsmerkmal sein wie riesige digitale Bildschirme mit Spielszenen auch an den Außenseiten der Arena.

Die Vision des Inter Miami Freedom Park ist futuristisch, Screenshot YouTube, © Club Internaćional De Fútbol

Anders als diese Clubs werden es aber beispielsweise die Mailänder Kultvereine AC und Inter Mailand machen. Seit über 70 Jahren spielen beide im Giuseppe Meazza oder San Siro. Das weltbekannte Stadion soll erhalten bleiben, doch in Abstimmung mit der Stadt vollkommen modernisiert werden, wie SportsSpors Nick Friend berichtet.

Viele Vereine müssen sich inzwischen der Frage stellen, wie auch Digital Natives, beeinflusst durch die Konkurrenzsportart eSports, durch einen zusehends digitalisierten Alltag und damit unausweichlich abhängig vom digitalen Lifestyle, zu zahlenden und regelmäßigen Stadiongängern gemacht werden können. Denn es scheint, dass die Anziehungskraft des Stadionbesuchs allein, nur um sein Team spielen zu sehen, geringer wird. Was können die Clubs tun, um ihre Spielstätte modern zu gestalten?

Neuerungen, die künftig zum Standard werden dürften

Der Blog OEMKIOSKS zählt einige Aspekte auf, die uns in modernen Stadien zum Teil schon begegnen, in den kommenden Jahren aber sicher zur normalen Ausstattung gehören werden. Dabei ist Digital Signage ein erster wichtiger Standard. Schon heute in Bahnhöfen, Foyers etc. zu finden, helfen LED-Bildschirme die Interaktion mit den Besuchern auf digitaler Ebene zu stärken. Hier können nicht nur interaktive Self Service-Kiosks integriert werden, sondern die Bildschirme bieten ganz neues Inventar, das werblich monetarisiert werden kann. Genau diesen Weg könnten Clubs auch einschlagen, wenn VIP-Bereiche oder speziell initiierte Fan-Zonen mit zusätzlichen digitalen Bildschirmen ausgestattet werden.

Im Check In-Bereich können ebenso digitale Mechanismen eingesetzt werden, um konkrete Zahlen zur Auslastung zu ermöglichen und einfach eine moderne Möglichkeit der Eingangskontrolle zu gewährleisten. Darüber hinaus bieten Plattformen wie ClusterWall die Option über die digitalen Bildschirme Interaktionen zu starten. Das kann auch intern für die Kommunikation zwischen Team-Personal und Stadion-Mitarbeitern, zwischen Trainern und Club-Chefs usw. genutzt werden.

Im Stadion der Spurs wird dank Partner Hewlett Packard überall WLAN sein, Beacons prüfen die Aktivitäten der User. Personalisierte Push-Nachrichten sind die Folge. Das ganze Stadion wird zur Cashless-Area.

Marc Waters, Managing Director für das Vereinigte Königreich und Irland bei HP Enterprises stell heraus:

„Tottenham Hotspur realise that being digital from the ground up is imperative to transform its fan experience.“

Stadien werden also künftig Arenen bleiben; aber weniger im Sinne des reinen Fußballgenusses, mehr bezogen auf eine langwierige, ganzheitliche und in jedem Falle völlig digital gesteuerte Experience der Besucher. Das erinnert an die Spektakel-fokussierten Live Sport-Events in den USA und man mag richtig liegen, wenn vermutet wird, dass hier Freunde solchen Spektakels gegenüber den traditionelleren Fans priorisiert werden. Wohl auch, weil sie mehr Gewinn bedeuten. Die Stadien der Zukunft werden aber nicht nur im wirtschaftlichen Kontext gebaut oder modernisiert, sie werden auf Gewinnmaximierung ausgelegt, die mit den Eignern oder Partnern in Verbindung steht. Das Fußballspiel bleibt das zentrale Event, wird jedoch multimedial und auf allen Kanälen aufgebauscht. Das ist die Realität kommender Fußballerfahrung. Sie wird Stück für Stück kommen; und wer sich mit dem Gedanken nicht anfreunden kann, muss wohl oder übel dort Fußball rezipieren, wo Digitalisierung und Gewinnoptimierung noch ein Stück weiter in der Ferne liegen. Der Wandel aber ist stetig, im Digitalen oft sogar rasant.

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Neuer Trend aus Belgien? Krypto-Trading Cards für die Liga

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Es ist eine Weltneuheit im digitalen Fußball Business und sie hat ihren Beginn in Belgien. In einer einzigartigen Partnerschaft mit Sorare wird für die erste und zweite belgische Liga eine Plattform geschaffen, auf der die Fans Krypto-Waren sammeln oder tauschen können. Dabei stehen die global ersten Krypto-Trading Cards für Fußballprofis im Fokus, mit denen die Fans sogar die Möglichkeit haben gegeneinander zu spielen. Während Belgiens Fußballlandschaft im internationalen Vergleich überschaubar ist, ist der klassische Spielkartenvertrieb im digitalen Ökosystem des Fußballs angekommen – und dürfte schon bald auch für weitere Länder und Ligen eine Option sein.

Krypto-Trading Cards: Die Entwicklung trägt Trends und Nutzerverhalten Rechnung

Die Partnerschaft zwischen der belgischen Pro League und dem Unternehmen Sorare ist die erste ihrer Art im Fußball und wird auf der Website für die belgischen Profiligen bekannt gegeben. Sorare selbst gab ein offizielles Statement ab. Demnach sind nun die Sammel- und Tauschkarten als Krypto-Ware für die Spieler aller 24 Proficlubs der ersten und zweiten belgischen Liga, der Jupiler Pro League und der Proximus League, erhältlich. Mit diesen Collector’s Items für Fans stellt Sorare eine im modernen Fußball typische Verbindung von Tradition und Aktualität beim Fan-Verhalten her. Denn die Abbildung der Fußballer auf Sammelkarten, Stickern für Sammelalben – die Panini-Alben lassen grüßen – oder beim Quartett ist den Vereinen und Herstellern im Merchandising lange Zeit zugute gekommen und hat ein gewisses analoges Fan Engagement hervorgebracht.

Doch die Voraussetzungen für die Wahrnehmung und Rezeption des Fußballs ändern sich seit Jahren rapide. Gerade heranwachsende Generationen sind Digital Natives und ihr Interaktionswille sowie ihre Kaufkraft müssen digital bedient werden. Daher setzt Sorare auf die Krypto-Trading Cards, die einen Hauch von Nostalgie mit aktuellen Trends vereinen. So können die Fans die Karten nicht nur im Kontext einer Kryptowährung kaufen, sondern auch die Veränderung der Spielerwerte anhand der tatsächlichen Leistungen der realen Spieler mitverfolgen. Dieser Aspekt greift auf das für das Fußball Business inzwischen schon sehr relevante FIFA von EA Sports zurück. Das Spiel bleibt so aktuell, weil es mit der Saison Schritt hält und den digitalen mit dem Fußball auf dem Rasen verbindet. Die User sollen nun ihre Trading Cards mit anderen Nutzern über einen Auktionsmechanismus tauschen und mit ihnen gegen andere spielen können. Dabei lassen sich wiederum bestimmte Belohnungen gewinnen. Langfristig sollen die Krypto-Trading Cards ebenso auf Third Party-Plattformen oder bei Spielen einsetzbar sein.

Bringt Sorare einen neuen Trend?

Das junge französische Unternehmen ist das erste, das lizenziert Krypto-Waren in Europa anbietet und genauso das erste, welches dies im Fußball Business tut. In den kommenden Wochen sollen weitere Partnerschaften mit Ligen und Clubs aus Europa bekannt gegeben werden. Der CEO und Mitgründer von Sorare, Nicolas Julia, erklärt:

„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.“

Tatsächlich arbeitet Sorares System mit der Blockchain-Technologie von Ethereum, um sowohl die Transparenz und Authentizität als auch die Tauschpotentiale und plattformübergreifende Einsetzbarkeit der Krypto-Fan-Artikel zu gewährleisten. Denn dank der offenen Struktur der Plattform sollen die Trading Cards barrierearm getauscht und in verschiedenen digitalen Spielen eingesetzt werden können. Um die Krypto-Artikel zu kaufen, müssen die Fans nur drei Klicks ausführen und können per Kreditkarte die Spielerkarten usw. ihrer Wahl erwerben. In ihrer eigenen Galerie sind sie angezeigt, während sie im Fantasy Game eingesetzt werden sollen, um Belohnungen zu erspielen. Darüber hinaus können die Artikel ebenfalls wieder verkauft werden – im Bestfall mit Gewinn in der Kryptowährung. Wer als Fan aber eine Sorare Card besitzt, erhält zudem Zugriff auf Vorteile und exklusiven Content von bestimmten Clubs.

Mit der Sorare-Mitgliedschaft sollen Vorteile für die Fans bereitgestellt werden, © Sorare

Das Unternehmen setzt mit seiner Idee der Krypto-Trading Cards als Treiber für Fan Engagement und Einnahmequelle auf eine Entwicklung, die in anderen Sportarten genauso zu beobachten ist. Erst vor Kurzem hatte die Major League Baseball (MLB) MLB Crypto Baseball eingeführt. Der Entwickler für Blockchain Games, Lucid Sight, hat das Spiel herausgebracht und laut BlochainGamer.biz sehr schnell viele Teams und Player verkauft, schon nach wenigen Wochen im Wert von 400.000 US-Dollar.

MLB Crypto Baseball von Lucid Sight hat einen guten Start hingelegt, Screenshot MLB Crypto Baseball

Auch für die NFL sind derartige auf Blockchain basierend Spiele im Umlauf. Das zeigt zum einen, dass Blockchain ebenso wie Kryptowährungen im digitalen Sportökosystem bereits umfassend Einzug gehalten haben. Zum anderen bestätigt sich damit ein Trend, den Sorare mit den Trading Cards im Fußball etablieren will. Gelingt dank der Blockchain-Technologie die Übertragbarkeit der Artikel auf andere Spiel etc., dürfte sich das Modell langfristig etablieren. Und weitere Ligen werden sicher nachziehen. Vor allem die Premier League, aber auch die Bundesliga, LaLiga oder die Serie A und Ligue 1 werden die Fans verleiten, Krypto-Karten von Ronaldo, Messi, de Bruyne, Neymar oder vielleicht Alcácer zu erstehen.

Das Konzept könnte überall aufgehen

Der CEO der Pro League, Pierre François, ist jedenfalls überzeugt vom Konzept Sorares:

„The Pro League is proud to be the first of the European professional football leagues to sign such alicensing agreement based on the blockchain technology. In addition to our historical partnership with Panini, the Pro League thus takes into account the sector’s developments. Sorare is a young companybut we have been convinced by its founders’ determination and especially by their willingness to address the new interests of the fans who follow our competitions.“

Der Wechsel von Panini zu Sorare könnte sich schon bald umfassender vollziehen und symptomatisch für eine Entwicklung sein, die digital ausgerichtete Clubs und Ligen nicht verpassen sollten. Und digital sollten diese natürlich sein, um die Fan-Interessen zu bedienen und von der Investitionsbereitschaft dieser Fans zu profitieren. Das mag vor allem dann gut funktionieren, wenn man das innovative Potential nicht allein im digitalisierten Merchandising sieht, sondern erst recht in der zukunftsgewandten Blockchain-Technologie, die zu einer ganzheitlichen und plattformübergreifenden Schnittstelle von Media, Vertrieb und Fan Engagement beiträgt. Hier kann die Verzahnung von Fußballer Features, Gaming und Social vorangetrieben werden. Und diese ist für die Vereine und Ligen äußerst lukrativ und letztlich wohl notwendig, um den veränderten Vorzeichen der Fans von heute und morgen gerecht zu werden.

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Passt die Leistung zur Taktik? Neuer Ansatz zu ganzheitlichen Performance-Metriken

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Die Leistung auf dem Platz wird heute schon sehr detailliert getrackt. Trotzdem erfahren Spieler auch eine Wertschätzung von Außen, wenn sie besonders viele Kilometer gelaufen sind oder eine hohe Zahl an Sprints aufzuweisen haben. Dabei steht diese körperliche Leistung während des Spiels oder nach demselben zwar fest, wird jedoch kaum mit den entsprechenden taktischen Vorgaben oder Spielentwicklungen in Korrelation gesetzt. Eine wissenschaftliche Arbeit stellt den „Integrated Approach“ dar, bei dem konkrete physische Metriken mit den taktischen Aktivitäten auf einzelnen Positionen und letztlich im Team kontextualisiert werden. Mit zusätzlichen Machine Learning-Prozessen könnte diese Art der Analyse einem Trainerstab einen ganz neuen, datengestützten Blick auf die Leistung im Rahmen einer Spielphilosophie ermöglichen.

Die gemessenen Leistungen sollten im Spielkontext stehen

Die Korrelation von Zeiten und Bewegungen stellt für die Ermittlung von Leistungsparametern im Sport einen Kernpunkt dar. Ganz besonders im Mannschaftssport und damit auch im Fußball werden bestimmte Parameter für die Leistung jedoch häufig noch isoliert betrachtet. Wenn Jacob Bruun Larsen, Timo Werner oder Philipp Max im Spiel eine Reihe von Sprints aufweisen, stimmen die Werte auf den ersten Blick mit ihrer taktischen Ausrichtung und Spielaufgabe überein. Wenn aber ein Salif Sané oder gar der Torwart viele Sprints leisten muss, dann kann das als isolierter Messwert positiv wirken, in Kombination mit der eigentlichen taktischen Vorgabe allerdings auf Probleme bei der geplanten Spielgestaltung hinweisen. Nun ist ein Fußballspiel zwar immer mindestens zum Teil von Spontaneität und Unvorhergesehenem geprägt – andernfalls würden wir wohl weniger Tore und Überraschungen erleben. Aber trotzdem sind taktische Vorgaben, die Woche für Woche einstudiert werden, eine wichtige Basis; auch für die Handschrift eines Trainers. Der José Mourinho vergangener Jahre ist ein Musterbeispiel, Guardiola ist es heute wie ein Klopp, Sarri, ein Stück weit auch ein Nagelsmann.

Die meisten Sprints in der Bundesliga (Stand Oktober 2018), © Bundesliga

Aus diesem Grund heraus ist das In-Relation-Setzen von physischen Leistungswerten mit den taktischen Rahmenbedingungen ein Weg, um eine subjektiv wahrnehmbare Leistung objektiv und datengestützt einzuordnen. Und auf diese Weise könnten Anforderungen an Spieler präzisiert oder deren tatsächliche körperlichen Leistungen auf dem Platz für kommende Aufgaben modifiziert und optimiert werden.

Die Wissenschaftler Paul S. Bradley und Jack D. Ade haben für Human Kinetics einen theoretischen Ansatz entwickelt, der weniger eindimensionale Distanzen usw. misst, sondern vielmehr taktische Rollen und Trainerentscheidungen – individuelle wie teambezogene – als Kontext für die physischen Leistungen ansetzt. Davon berichten sie im International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. Obwohl die Laufdistanzen in vielen Ligen meist steigen, wurde bisher wenig auf die Einbettung der einzelnen Werte geachtet, die uns Zuschauern ja ebenso gern als Hintergrunddaten präsentiert werden. Bradley und Ade sind jedoch überzeugt, dass ein integrierter Ansatz, der einen konkret definierten Leistungskontext aufgreift, eine differenziertere Betrachtung von physischen Leistungen ermöglicht; und damit ganz neue Trainingsoptionen eröffnet.

„However, at present, a new ‘integrated‘ approach that contextualizes match physical performance would surely progress the field’s understanding of the global demands and assimilate the physical and tactical data more effectively. Intuitively, this may aid the coaches’ understanding of the physical performance in relation to the tactical roles and instructions given to the players and enable practitioners to effectively translate match metrics into training and testing.“

Um das althergebrachte Modell darzustellen, greift Bradley auf eine eigene Veröffentlichgung (Bradley et al. 2009: High-intensity running in English FA Premier League soccer matches) zurück.

Der traditionelle Ansatz zur Messung von Laufleistung im Fußball, © (Bradley et al.), Human Kinetics

Anders als dabei gibt es natürlich inzwischen Messungen, welche den Ballbesitz (oder den Mangel daran) als weiteren Kontext miteinbeziehen. Doch darüber geht der vorgestellte „Integrated Approach“ der Wissenschaftler hinaus.

Der „Integrated Approach“ 

Mit diesem Ansatz möchten Bradley und Ade den Facettenreichtum des Fußballspiels in körperlicher und taktischer Hinsicht abbilden. Wenn etwa die Außenverteidiger immer wieder Flankenläufe starten und die eigentlichen Außen überlaufen – wie Augsburgs Philipp Max –, ist das ebenso ein taktisches Mittel wie ein hohes und frühes Pressing, das etwa für Jürgen Klopps FC Liverpool charakteristisch ist.

Liverpools Pressing gegen Manchester City in der letzten Saison, Quelle: Anfieldindex.com

Bradley und Ade konzentrieren sich auf die Überschneidungen von taktischen und physischen Aktivitäten, weil die letzteren zu einem Gutteil im Idealfall aus ersteren resultieren sollen. Dabei geben sie an, dass verschiedene Spieler auf unterschiedlichen Positionen auch verschiedene Aktivitätsfelder aufweisen. Zu den Variablen ihres Ansatzes gehören Größen wie der Sprint in den freien Raum, das kollektive Verschieben nach vorn im Angriff oder der sogenannte Recovery Run, wenn ein Spieler seine Position verloren hat und zurücksprinten muss. In einer aus Ade et al. entlehnten Grafik (Ade et al. 2016: High-intensity efforts in elite soccer matches and associated movement patterns, technical skills and tactical actions. Information for position-specific training drills) wird deutlich, dass der Innenverteidiger natürlich ganz andere Läufe macht als der Außenstürmer.

Positionsspezifische Angaben zu taktisch-körperlichen Leistungen, © (Ade et al.), Human Kinetics

Nun könnten mit ihrem Modell, anders als beim traditionellen Ansatz, dank dieser Differenzierungen und der angesetzten Parameter wie Flankenläufe von Außenverteidigern oder Sprints in den Strafraum explizite Erkenntnisse zu den unterschiedlichen physischen Leistungen der Spieler im Kontext ihrer taktischen Vorgaben ermittelt werden. Das demonstrieren Bradley und Ade mit einer Grafik, die den Unterschied zum eher eindimensionalen Ansatz der Distanzmessung etc. (siehe Bild oben) zeigt.

Der „Integrated Approach“ kann die physischen Leistugen positions- und taktikbezogen kontextualisieren, © (Ade et al.), Human Kinetics

So lässt sich beispielsweise ermitteln, dass die Positionen mit klar definierten Defensivaufgaben, Innen- und Außenverteidiger sowie zentrale (eher defensive) Mittelfeldspieler, 26-31 Prozent ihrer Läufe mit hoher Intensität absolvieren, um Räume defensivorientiert abzudecken und zuzumachen, während etwa Flügelspieler im Mittelfeld nur bei 13 Prozent der Läufe diese Intensität erreichen. Je nach System müssen Trainer aber auch von ihren Flügelspielern mehr Defensivarbeit einfordern; zum Beispiel, wenn im 3-5-2 gespielt wird. Dann können sie aufgrund einer solchen Datengrundlage im Training nicht nur auf die Relevanz der defensiven Laufwege zur Raumabdeckung hinweisen, sondern diese direkt trainieren. Die obige Grafik zeigt ebenfalls, dass naturgemäß die Außenspieler mit den Läufen in den „Channel“, also in den freien Raum auf der Außenbahn betraut sind. Fällt nun in der Messung auf, dass zentrale Verteidiger oder Mittelfeldspieler mit großer Häufigkeit diese Läufe tätigen, und dass womöglich mit hoher Intensität, mag das auf ein Ungleichgewicht bei der taktischen Spielausrichtung hinweisen.

Der Ansatz muss noch weiter reifen; Machine Learning kann helfen

Was sich für die Analysten im Trainerteam zunächst gut anhört, hat noch so einige Hürden zu überwinden. Immerhin muss der „Integrated Approach“ noch feinjustiert werden. So müssen die kontextuellen Angaben langfristig und nach womöglich auch variablen Parametern derart systematisch ermittelt werden können, dass die Erkenntnisse eine definierte Vergleichsbasis schaffen, auf die zurückgegriffen werden kann.

Da Bradley und Ade ihr Modell zunächst manuell erstellt hatten, wäre eine Analyse schon dann schwierig, wenn mehrere Teams mit ihren sämtlichen Spielern in mehreren Spielen untersucht werden sollten.

„As the levels of complexity increase, the ability to clearly define actions and scenarios becomes more difficult.“

Allerdings könnte mit einem auf Machine Learning basierenden System diese differenziertere, dabei jedoch nicht zu komplexe Messung zu nachhaltigen Leistungserkenntnissen führen. Sofern auch ein Abwägen stattfindet, welche Werte als relevant eingestuft werden. Bei einem solchen System oder einer KI, die die taktikbezogenen Variablen entsprechend filtert, könnten auf das Trainerteam zugeschnittene Messzyklen initiiert werden. Und diese dürften deren taktische Trainingsansätze definitiv unterstützen. Ein Problem bei der Definition der Variablen ist natürlich die Überschneidung von Aktivitäten, weil ein Sprint in den freien Raum auf der Außenbahn bei Ballverlust schnell zum vielleicht noch rettenden Recovery Run werden kann. Hierfür müssten also zeitliche Parameter angesetzt und taktikrelevante Priorisierungen übereinstimmend eingestellt werden. Letztlich könnten die so ermittelten Werte auch nach den verschiedenen Phasen der Spiele unterteilt werden.

„These could be classified as in-possession construction, in-possession counterattack, out-of-possession low/medium block, and out-of-possession counter-defending. This is particularly important, as success in transition moments has been shown to be critical to match outcome.“

Auf diese Weise könnte der Einfluss der Spieler auf das taktische und das spontan initiierte Spielgeschehen datengestützt eingeschätzt und über daran orientiertes Training optimiert werden. Da die Daten der Wissenschaftler sich bisher nur auf ein Team bezogen und das ganze System noch keine umfassende Marktreife hat, bleibt der „Integrated Approach“ für den Moment noch ein theoretisches Modell. Dieses hat jedoch großes Potential. Denn bei der zusehends steigenden Professionalisierung jeglicher Trainingsabläufe sowie der parallelen Digitalisierung der Planung, Messung und Unterstützung derselben ist eine individualisiertere und gleichsam kollektiv taktikbezogene Leistungsermittlung eine sicher interessante Aussicht für die Trainerteams, letztlich aber ebenso die Spieler. Unterstützung erhielten Bradley und Ade bei ihrer Ausarbeitung übrigens von Ian Graham, Director of Research beim FC Liverpool.

„The traditional approach has been used for 4 decades to quantify match physical performances. However, the integrated approach contextualizes match demands by assimilating physical and tactical data effectively.“

Wir dürfen also gespannt sein, ob die Trainer künftig auf diesen Ansatz setzen und das Training daran orientiert optimieren können. Wahrscheinlich wird bereits daran gearbeitet. Vielleicht wird den Fans vor dem Bildschirm dann irgendwann offenbart, dass ein Joshua Kimmich wegen einer Taktikumstellung in der Halbzeit in der Folge deutlich weniger Flankenläufe, dafür aber viel mehr Sprints in den Strafraum oder Laufwege zur Raumabdeckung absolviert hat. Besonders die Potentiale von Machine Learning und KI dürften dahingehend einige Optimierungen ermöglichen. Das Zusammenspiel von Taktik und der körperlichen Leistung und dessen Verbesserung mag dann für einen positiven Spielausgang sorgen; aber ein genialer Moment von einem Spieler wie Eden Hazard wird wohl immer, Taktik und Messung hin oder her, genauso eine Entscheidung herbeiführen können. Und das ist auch gut so.

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