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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BVB, FC Bayern, La Liga: TikTok’s the Way to Approach the Fans of Tomorrow
After Inter Milan and AS Monaco, German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund have entered the popular and ever growing app TikTok – which should expose them to many young audiences across the globe.
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing Social Media apps and is especially important to young audiences as well as those in different markets like the US and China. That’s why a number of clubs or leagues have decided to take the application by storm. Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich opened their accounts in the context of their recent “Klassiker“, while La Liga also bring funny videos from their world stars to the users’ smartphones. For the incredible growth of the app might just be a development too important to miss for any club that operates as a global brand these days.
TikTok takes on Instagram and Co.
Yes, TikTok is fairly different from Instagram or Snapchat, yet it fascinates a whole lot of people. There’s no denying that, as in the first quarter of 2019 alone, the app added 188 million new users – a 70 per cent growth compared to Q1 2018. That’s according to data from SensorTower. To date, TikTok has got over a billion downloads and generated over 80 million US dollar from in-app purchases. TikTok was only behind WhatsApp and the Messenger from Facebook when it comes to downloads of non-gaming apps in Q1 2019.
Also, it was top in terms of overall downloads in the US for Social Media apps in the same period. These data show how important the service has become to users, who just want to consume some funny, yet inspirational short-form video.
While Inter Milan have been one of the very fist clubs to appear on TikTok, other clubs have followed suit. Olympique de Marseille or AS Monaco have recently joined the app with their very own content.
And now the giants of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – after meeting in a decisive match a few weeks back –, will also vie on that Social Media platform. First, the BVB started their account with Marco Reus announcing their channel.
It has already over 80k followers despite not having too much content yet.
And only last Friday, the FC Bayern Munich officially informed about the launch of their very own account. Keeping up with the Motto “Make every second count“ – which is related to the content being no longer than 15 seconds on TikTok – Bayern are looking for even more engagement from fans. Not only in Germany, but in the US, in Asia and anywhere in the world really.
The club also notes which advantage the app might have compared to other Social Media services: it can be used without account once you scan a QR code to get started. That makes it easier for fans to get in touch. The German record champions and now once again league leaders have around 18k followers right now – but should gain more once they start to provide more content and more regularly as well.
La Liga see the potential as well
Another entity using the fascinating appeal of TikTok is the Spanish La Liga. Lately, they have started to offer fans content on the app as well.
And they seem to have understood how to bring up creative content in the short form.
La Liga promise the best short-form content about their various stars such as Messi, Griezmann or Modrić, but for now have only about 12k followers. With time and good content, though, these numbers might well rise.
Borussia Dortmund right now have overtaken Bayern Munich, AS Monaco, La Liga or even early adopters Inter Milan in terms of followers. Probably that is also down to Marco Reus’ prominence in Asia and other markets. The club from the Ruhr area are looking to show behind-the-scenes material as well as UGC and training footage.
Despite the rise of TikTok and its undoubted popularity, mainly amongst younger users, it’s not clear yet how important it really is to become for a brand’s and therefore also a football club’s marketing mix. If the provided content is not tailored for the audience or unauthentic, there possibly won’t be a lot of followers interested in the account. Furthermore, it is hard to see advantages beyond user engagement such as likes or shares. Maybe Instagram does offer a more mature marketing alternative, since all the shopping solutions are tied to the app; and probably a lot of clubs, who haven’t yet embraced the idea of going to TikTok, are not totally wrong about that. Still, club’s Social Media managers should give it a try, if they have a proper strategy to leverage the audience and its hunger for short-term content. And a lot of clubs are currently doing that. If the opportunity for brand collaborations arrives, the app might be of even more interest on an economical level, too.
TikTok isn’t wholly untroubled, though. The BBC just reported that the app fails to suspend accounts that send sexual messages to teens and children. So, the app, which has 500 million active users, could face more scrutiny. Apart from that, it definitely offers a route to the attention of audiences that possibly tend to have more of a distance to football as some older fans remeber it, as it used to be. That alone is valuable for clubs and a reason why so many are turning their attention to TikTok – which should only be a supplementary solution besides Instagram, Facebook, Weibo, Snapchat etc. Eventually, it comes down to the strategy a club is pursuing in Social Media as the jury’s out on how important TikTok is going to be in terms of generating real value like revenue. But attention happens to be a major factor for marketing strategies, which makes the TikTok adoption so promising; it should just not be the end of the road, because users and fans not only want content, but stories as well. That’s what keeps them interested and potentially has them spending on merch, tickets or even digital goods.
Sunderland, Juve, La Liga: Documentaries Keep Fans Watching
All Or Nothing and Sunderland ’Til I Die showed how much clubs and streaming services benefit from documentaries. Now La Liga focus North America’s fans.
Sometimes football fans just can’t decide, should they consume more streaming service content or rather go for a game of football or two. And if they are real football maniacs, what do they watch when there’s no game on-hand – although there always seems to be a game played somewhere in the world? The digital reception has made fans aware of content, which does focus football, but in a more cinematic or serial way. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already offer numerous football documentaries. While they certainly bring players, background stories, special behind-the-scenes material and whole clubs to the attention of a very broad audience, they merge different demands to modern media. Football fans are provided with ever more streaming content for their spare time – as clubs and streaming services earn revenue and prestige aplenty.
The streaming service effect
Well, Juventus Turin have always been a top club in Italy, have boasted world-class players and are regular performers in the Champions League. Yet, the Netflix documentary First Team: Juventus was a hit on the streaming service, since it does offer something else than YouTube videos or the club’s Social Media channels like on Instagram. The series keeps fans watching, because they can see material from the reknowned players that seems to be so close to their everyday life as human beings rather than those football superstars. Furthermore, the production is more than professionally crafted, it’s beautifully shot at times and certainly the whole experience is about proper storytelling. And that’s something that football cannot always offer compared to popular series like Game of Thrones, Stranger Things or what have you.
Federico Palomba, Juve’s Co-Chief Officer at the time told JuveNews.eu:
The value we see is to be displayed on a platform by over 110 million subscribers worldwide, half of them in the United States, where their sum exceeds the total of all TV subscribers. We see an opportunity for priceless international exposure, priceless, and moreover with a very high quality product. One of the main objectives of this extraordinary opportunity is to grow internationally and reach new Juventus fans.
Reaching new fans is totally important and streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video are destined to do just that, worldwide. The latter service even offers viewers a series that refers to many sports experiences: All Or Nothing. And football fans will remember the popular edition fosusing Manchester City in their record breaking Premier League campaign of 2017/18. For the behind-the-scenes material will have made many people across several countries appreciative or even fanatic about the club – that has only grown to international prominence since heavy investments from sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and their recent successes. Their image maybe wasn’t always the best, but Guardiola and his playing style as well as that documentary will have helped. According to the BBC, Man City earned ten million pound for the exclusive camera access alone. And, as reported by City Watch, the series got ten million views and downloads in the first two weeks since its release. The rating on Amazon is nearly as satisfactory for City sympathisers as their last and current season. The high-profile series, narrated by no less than Ben Kingsley, who grew up in the suburbs of Manchester, was even nominated for some TV awards.
A focus on the fans themselves
So, this content can be a revenue and awareness driver for the services and the clubs. But when your club isn’t quite Juve or Man City, focusing on a different perspective might be a sensible stroke. That’s what England’s traditional club AFC Sunderland have done. Their very own Netflix series Sunderland ’Til I Die has been a thorough success – as opposed to their last few seasons in the English leagues. The club are just trying to get back to the Championship after a disastrous spell since their last relegation from the Premier League. And that is all part of the documentary. But, more importantly, as the title tells, it’s about the ties of the city and the club, the incredibly loyal and deeply rooted fandom in a city with many economical problems. They premiered the series at a special event and the success that followed spoke for itself.
On one hand, Sunderland can really do with the money that Netflix will have paid them for such exclusive access. On the other hand, the proud yet troubled club probably have been made more popular in various areas outside of Tyne and Wear. And guess what, there will be a second season this year, as the Guardian’s Russel Scott has already had a preview.
A similar approach is made by La Liga now. As Forbes report, their partnership with Relevent Sports Group has enabled them to reach North American audiences from the start of the 2019/20 season on with United States of LaLiga, a 12-part documentary focusing on fans of different Spanish clubs based in the US. Boris Gartner, CEO of LaLiga North America, is quoted:
Let’s find as many stories as we can of Americans that have some connection with LaLiga. Let’s build that bridge.
Rather than only for established football fans, this series is made to make people love football in the first place. Or understand the love for it. Because the sport is far from being the most popular in the US, yet, it is in the ascendant. La Liga and the Relevent Sports Group formed a first-of-a-kind equal joint venture last year, which is to last at least 15 years. It’s out to bring La Liga to the US and surely find a way to more audiences that promise engagement and revenue. Their series will focus on fans and also on stories like Mexicans, who play in Spain, like Andrés Guardado and Diego Lainez playing together at Real Betis, rathen than just going on about Griezmann, Messi or Real Madrid.
The plan to have La Liga matches played in the US was earlier repelled by the FIFA, though. Therefore, the documentary might even be of more significance in terms of getting the league and the love for football across the sea.
The growing number of football content on streaming services
The success of series like Sunderland ’Til I Die shows that not only Netflix or Amazon take profit from such content, but that the clubs or leagues can leverage this opportunities as well. The people do spend their time on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu etc. So, offering them a new perspective and insights there could be a great chance to win over millions of viewers and earn some money en passant. It would take some good stories, though – but doens’t football sometimes write the best of them?
You can already watch several football-related series, like Les Bleus or Boca Juniors: Confidencial on Netflix. Beside a story about Antoin Griezmann’s rise there will be documentary about compatriot Nicolas Anelka in 2020. Some clubs even started creating original content themselves. Manchester United for example have made Eric Bailly – l’Elephant d’Afrique a MUTV special, on demand for subscribers.
Football fans want to get entertained every day, not only on a matchday. They want background stories, storytelling and high-quality visual content; which, like football and its entertainment itself, just doesn’t end. Be it on a streaming platform or via the very own subscription service, documentaries are drawing ever more interest. While the market is made, not least thanks to Netflix and Co., satisfying these demands can prove lucrative for clubs around the world as they need to become more of a media brand, anyway.
eSports Stars Will be as Popular as Cristiano Ronaldo – In Time
Unpopular opinion: eSports really isn’t made for every club. Without embracing its rich culture, one cannot leverage its potential. Still, it’s kind of an “obligation“, said Reza Abdolali in our exclusive interview.
Anyone connected to the sports industry will know that eSports is indeed something like the new kid on the block. The link between digital developments and the subsequent growth of gaming in society and the football environment’s approximation to technology-based enhancements and monetisation opportunities has inevitably brought eSports on the agenda of many a club. For it offers those clubs the prospect of reaching different audiences, that are not only connected in a digital way, but also keen to consume and open for new technical solutions or offerings. Yet, eSports is no new phenomenon and therefore a certain respect to its unique culture is needed, if seizing all its promises shall be a success in the long term. We spoke to Reza Abdolali, CEO of blackbird eSports, about professionalising eSports, its marketing potential and whether it’s rather an obligation for clubs or brands these days. Also, he opened up on its influences on society, how eSports stars could overtake Cristiano Ronaldo or Tom Brady and what is needed in order to create a lucrative coexistence of traditional and eSports.
eSports: The hype, the numbers, the snares
Gaming has become a widely accepted everyday media outlet, with especially younger audiences growing up with numerous opportunities to play popular games and to watch popular gamers play on Twitch, YouTube etc. as well. Whether it is League of Legends, Dota2, EA Sports’ FIFA, Fortnite, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds or the new Apex Legends, the games industry is a multi billion Euro one; and it is growing continuously.
Only recently, the DFL have partnered with ProSiebenSat.1 to show the Virtual Bundesliga Championship on Free TV. Although TV isn’t a channel for the future, it does show that eSports has found its way to the middle of society, too. Even Google dived in and created Stadia, a gaming platform with few boundaries and the chance to play games via stream from virtually every device.
There’s a long list of modern day potentials you simply cannot overlook: Social Media – especially Instagram and Twitter for football clubs –, apps, podcasts, brand cooperations. So it’s only natural that clubs in their entity as brands are looking to leverage all of them to stay competitive. That’s why so many clubs have already formed their own eSports teams, sections, even academies. These are not only generating attention and engagement in Social Media and a connection to global gaming- and digital-affine audiences, they’re also bringing more sponsors and revenue drivers into the arena. Look at Ajax Amsterdam, who are great at eSports. Selling Ajax-branded gaming chairs – for about 400 Euro each – is part of the plan, while the club’s main shirt sponsor Ziggo now also pays for featuring on the eSports players’ kits. According to Statista, eSports market revenue will go through the one billion US dollar barrier this year.
Still, not every club is jumping on the eSports train. And they’re right not to, unless they have a strategy in place that honours the eSports culture whilst trying to enhance the own club’s brand. Investments shouldn’t be tied to questions like “How much will it earn us?“, although financial matters are certainly important. Rather, one should try to understand the history and future developments of eSports and then deduce potentials and measure application possibilities. We thought about getting more insight into the world of electronic sports. So we spoke to Reza Abdolali. He has the knowledge from different perspectives, having worked as a games journalist and for Virgin Interactive as well as leading his own agency Indigo Pearl. Last year he launched the full-service agency blackbird eSports which looks to professionalise eSports as it develops industry standards for companies and clubs alike. Experience from games, entertainment, management, Social Media and PR should stand them in good stead. They also offer a place for eSports talent from Germany, like Hamburg’s FIFA 19 Coop champion, also the inofficial German champion for that mode, Thiago Ludwig.
Reza gave us a lot of significant and thoughtful answers regarding the eSports environment, potential and its development in the future. It could even be number one sports sometime, couldn’t it?
Spielmacher: eSports: Sneered at years ago, accepted now – where is this sport going in the next 5 to 10years?
Reza Abdolali: The eSports sector has undergone massive growth in recent years. There is no comparable phenomenon within the gaming sector. Meanwhile, eSports is an integral part of youth culture, which unleashes an enormous pull. In the coming years, this trend will increase many times over. There will always be more prominent sponsors who engage in eSports to a much greater extent. This in turn leads to even more visibility and thus a larger audience and higher popularity, which in turn has a positive influence on the room for manoeuvre and the earning potential of the eSport athletes.
Without question, in the coming years, we will see continuing, impressive growth and professionalisation of the area, which will affect and influence all aspects of eSports.
Spielmacher: Which tangible necessities for adjustment come up for clubs and brands today? Or should it be yesterday? There is marketing potential, isn’t there?
Reza Abdolali: Of course, the rapidly growing popularity of eSports and the associated visibility are making more and more companies aware of the sector. Of course we have to deal with a young, consumer-friendly and well-funded audience that is fully networked and active through Social Media platforms. This demographics is highly attractive to companies and their products and services – the potential for marketing activities is huge. However, we always make a very clear distinction between companies that want to become advertisers in the context of eSports and companies or clubs that want to become active in eSports themselves. While the first venture is still relatively easy to manage – assuming you are well advised – true engagement and active participation in the eSports sector is a much more complex challenge, which requires many facets. With blackbird eSports, we have developed exactly this area into a business segment: the successful consulting of customers who want to get involved in the field of eSports.
Spielmacher: Why should clubs or companies take to eSports, anyway? Which conviction would they have to follow in order to reap the rewards in the long term?
Reza Abdolali: We are dealing with a highly networked, young target group, which is also very consumer-friendly and open to new products and services. The fact that games and thus also eSports from the pop and youth culture have become indispensable, makes presence in the eSports sector more and more a “mandatory event“ for clubs and advertising companies. A long-term commitment to this area is therefore increasingly being examined by a growing number of companies.
Spielmacher: Despite growing popularity and viewer numbers, eSports isn’t quite seen as equal to other sports yet. Isn’t it time to concede that status to the sports uncompromisingly now, in the digitalised world we live in?
Reza Abdolali: In my view, this question has never asked itself, because eSports has always been a sport for me. Not accepting eSports as a sport, in my opinion, is based on ignorance or fear of something new. To this day nobody has explained to me comprehensibly why chess and archery, for example, in contrast to eSports are recognised as a sport. Even less can I understand that German gold medal winners in sports shooting in the Olympic Games in this country are cheered and at the same time Counterstrike players are classified as potentially dangerous. Here, it is too unidimensionally thought, if you don’t question the tradition and don’t open up for digital sports.
Spielmacher: How would you reassure people of eSports’ sporting aspects and its probably overlooked benefits in this context?
Reza Abdolali: Of course, eSports differs at first glance from established sports. When you take a closer look, the differences become much smaller. To succeed in eSports disciplines requires the highest levels of discipline, perseverance, mental strength and, of course, talent. eSports athletes are the opposite of “computer nerds“, a picture that some media like to draw. The level of performance in many areas of eSports is now so high that, without a professional, highly disciplined approach to attendees, it is virtually impossible today to celebrate success at world-class level. This enormous willingness to perform and the absolute will to succeed are also features that are now attracting many sponsors to the area – because these are values that companies and brands like to associate with.
Spielmacher: With eSports looking to make its way into mass sports, which are intersections with more traditional sports that inject some familiarity for viewers or sceptics?
Reza Abdolali: The entire Modus Operandi, which has established itself around the eSports area, derives to a large extent from the traditional sports sector. The formation of teams and coaches, the way in which they are commentated on live – up to the background coverage is basically based on practices and experience from the traditional sports sector. The staging of the eSports athletes themselves as well as the involvement of sponsors is reminiscent of familiar formats. Spectators who are new to the game, or who would like to become active in eSports, will discover a variety of familiar characteristics. Of course this reduces the barriers to entry enormously – whether as a spectator or as an athlete.
Spielmacher: Is TV generally still as important for sports coverage as it once was and will eSports make its way to the stations? In Germany, ProSiebenSat.1 show matches from the Virtual Bundesliga on Free TV now.
Reza Abdolali: Detached from the topic of sports: linear TV is losing more and more importance and is already barely or not at all consumed by the younger target group.Conversely, TV is still important for sports in order to reach large parts of the population. After several generations of TV consumption in a similar manner over decades, media consumption has changed dramatically in recent years among the next generation. In this “transitional phase“, eSports is good at broadcasting on Free TV – especially in order to strengthen social acceptance in older age groups. For the young target group is already no longer particularly attractive to get offered eSports content in linear TV. Not least because they want to decide at what time they consume the content. The fixed broadcasting hours of the TV stations are more of a hindrance. The models of the future are already delivered by Netflix and DAZN today. Content on demand – at any time and individually.
Spielmacher: Younger generations celebrate gaming stars like football idols in their own right. Do you think players like F2Tekkz, Faker or Kai “deto“ Wollin will be able to become as popular as icons such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Tom Brady?
Reza Abdolali: Popularity is always relative to the size of the target group or fan base, which helps a personality to become known. Thus, the prominence of athletes, actors or musicians stands and falls. At the end of the day, it is about visibility to a mass market audience. If this is given, for example through extraordinary success, sponsors with ever greater reach become aware of the actors – their cooperation then multiplies the visibility once again. So why should an eSports superstar, who is perhaps the best of his guild in a game celebrated by hundreds of millions of teenagers around the world, not gain such visibility? If you look at the high value of computer and video games within the youth culture, this development is actually only a matter of time. It’s important to keep in mind that many teenagers and young adults have grown up in media contexts primarily through games – games have a much stronger cultural anchorage for these younger generations than they did in previous ages.
Spielmacher: With society turning ever more digital and in consuming sports, too, could eSports eventually supersede other sports such as volleyball or handball?
Reza Abdolali: I would not tie this comparison to individual sports, but rather to major trends within the eSports arena. We will see many eSports developments in the coming years, which will surprise us a lot. Especially in view of the huge learning curve that particularly game developers have experienced in recent years, we can expect a completely new, even further optimised approach to the eSports sector. The result will be new generations of games that are even better tailored to the requirements of a modern eSports sector. That some of these games, and thus eSports disciplines, develop even greater visibility than familiar formats is out of question for me.
Spielmacher: A team like Team North, initiated by FC Kopenhagen and NordicFilms, has the look of an entertainment brand. Do eSports sections at football clubs have to go away from being “sections“ and start becoming their own brand?
Reza Abdolali: We are certainly only at the beginning of a long development. At the moment various approaches are being tested, which approach and which branding has a positive effect on the respective eSports company. Of course, the fact that eSports has a completely unique identity has to be highlighted. At the centre of this self-discovery and positioning of the teams is the value compass, which each club defines individually for itself. The resulting approach to a new area, such as eSports, is the focus and the link between an established and (globally) known football team and a new department. Which branding is chosen then, will be rather subordinate.
Spielmacher: As society is steering more towards electronic sports, could there be an imbalance in the future insofar as fans will probably watch and play more in digital contexts without having a physical offset? While FIFA or Madden NFL offer real life re-enactment, Dota2 or League of Legends make that impression harder to imagine.
Reza Abdolali: Internationally successful computer and video games, that emotionally appeal to millions of audiences around the world, are primarily cultural phenomena. Depending on the level of awareness of a game, these products can develop a gigantic traction and thus a maximum of visibility. A reference to the non-fictional world may encourage this development, but is by no means a prerequisite. A comparable media product would include the Avatar, one of the most successful films of all time – a media product that blurs the boundaries between film and game in terms of its tonality and is located in a fictional world. The trait of an eSports discipline, as opposed to the mass market, is thus based to a considerable extent on the popularity of the underlying game.
Spielmacher: What, in your opinion, are the most urgent aspects that have to be addressed in order to professionalise eSports?
Reza Abdolali: As the real sports sector does, we also need more standards in the eSports sector, both generally and internationally. These should not only define the eSportive coexistence, but also offer outgoing action recommendations and approaches. From the management of eSports athletes to sponsorship and the implementation of major eSports events, it would be desirable to establish more standards. Especially when you consider how many new players are pushing into the area, it would be important to be able to draw on some guidelines for recurring challenges and demands. It is not a question of prohibitions or commandments, but rather resources of best practices that have been agreed on both nationally and internationally.
Spielmacher: Change makes coexistence inevitable – we’ve seen that with radio and TV (rather audio and video streaming these days). Do you think eSports will evoke a power shift in the modern sports industry or rather help football (and possibly other sports as well) strengthen its future existence? Could you think of a favourable symbiosis?
Reza Abdolali: The traditional (competitive) sports sector has been a firmly established sector for many decades with fixed processes and rules. In direct comparison eSports is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, media usage has radically changed in the last decade alone. Traditional TV, for example, has lost much of its importance especially in younger target groups compared to Internet-based formats such as YouTube. The development and strong growth of eSports is clearly related to this development. Without transmission options such as streaming, eSports would not have developed these large ranges, and therefore not the meaning. So I think there are a lot of links between the traditional sports sector and eSports. I believe we are still too early in the process to speak of a symbiosis, which is possibly equally profitable for both areas.
Thanks so much for the interview, Reza. We certainly know a lot more about eSports now and will hopefully look at it more reflectively.
Asian eSports Market Taking Digital Football to Another Level
Whoever develops a growing interest in esports should take a look at whatever happens in Asia. South Korea, China etc. really are pioneers – and European clubs can benefit from their knowledge.
The look abroad is always needed if football teams want to evolve and get prepared for the adaption of new elements. eSports has indeed started to establish itself as kind of a parallel sports clubs bank on to gain new fans and more income. While the motives should be examined precisely, football brands should have a look at the Asian eSports market to ready themselves for what lies ahead in that very segment. For it holds so many lucrative options; the Wolverhampton Wanderers are one of the teams looking to take advantage of that.
Wolves form Wolves Weibo eSports section for China
In a football context, the concentration on EA Sports’ FIFA is understandable, when it comes to eSports. Most teams in Europe already have their teams in place to represent them at domestic competitions – or the new eChampions League from EA Sports.
Meanwhile, in the ePremier League, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ representative has made it to the finals, which are played later this month.
The English club has really adopted eSports holistically. Now, they form a team to play in China as they partner with the Shanghai Jingzong Culture Media Company which owns Weibo eSports. The Wolves Weibo eSports team will be launched via an event in March and take part in the Chinese FSL (FIFA Online 4 Star League).
The club wants to conquer the market in China. Therefore, the Wolves have taken to Weibo, which has 445 million daily active users and offers a great opportunity to gain new followers and fans for a club re-establishing itself quite impressively in the Premier League right now.
The esports market in China is growing at pace and we wanted to follow-on from the success of our existing esports team with a dedicated China presence. This collaboration is very exciting as it will see us partner with a world class esports club and one of the biggest media platforms in China,
said Russel Jones, head of marketing at Wolves. And Guangzhuo Shi, CEO of Jingzong Culture Media Company, added:
This cooperation is very exciting for Weibo eSports. Wolves are a very well-known and respected football club across the World. Partnering with Wolves, to form Wolves Weibo eSports, will help us reach an entirely new audience and provide powerful additional resources.
The move to China could turn out to be a quite shrewd one as in Asia, and especially in China, eSports is much more of a real economy already.
Asian eSports sets the tone
China have only recently accepted eSports as a real profession. For the country certainly has a big and lucrative eSports industry already, second only to North America. That is relating to a study by Tencent, which is quoted in the ESports Observer. According to that, the Chinese eSports market will grow to 1,5 billion US dollar in 2020, up from around 760 million in 2017. While North America made 258 million US dollar from eSports-related aspects, China’s revenue was estimated at 104 million in 2017 – South Korea followed with about 49 million.
Well, these numbers are one thing. Another is the sheer amount of people clubs and brands can reach in the Asian and Chinese markets. Because in 2020, the global eSports user base is expected to grow to 590 million, yet, 59 per cent or 350 million of those originate from China. Although that means a decline in per cent, China is still extremely important for any club and their internationalisation strategies. And being present on WeChat or Weibo alone will not be enough as eSports’ ever growing popularity can help clubs and brands reach a whole new audience.
The importance is clear to see when you look at the deal between Nike and TJ Sports from Tencent and Riot Games. Dot ESports report about a deal worth about 7,5 million US dollar annually, which sees Nike create the official clothing for the League of Legends Pro League. Furthermore, starting from the mid-season Invitational, fans can purchase sneakers and apparel from Nike and the LPL.
Additionally, Nike will provide players and teams with strength training programs to improve mental and physical health as well as stamina.
eSports potentials need to be assessed accurately
As the Asian eSports market offers a lot of potential, other teams are making their move, too. PSG, who already have teams for DOTA2 or FIFA in China, start with a Mobile Legends team for the Mobile Legends Pro League Season 3 in Indonesia.
Asia is a strategic market for PSG Esports. It’s time for us to move down to Asia Pacific. With 43 millions Mobile Legends players, half of them in Indonesia, getting into this game was obvious for us. PSG Esports is striving for the best and we are glad to make an association with leading Team RRQ,
commented Yassine Jaada, Chief Gaming Officer of PSG eSports. Thus, not only China should be considered, if football clubs want to expand their eSports brand to Asia. According to the ESports Insider, the ESL will bring more DOTA2 tournaments to new markets like Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. And for any club or brand this opens the door to opportunities for reaching new audiences across Asia.
But before clubs start their journey, there are a lot of questions that need to answered honestly. What do they expect from their involvement in the eSports market? For only an authentic approach will provide ongoing appeal, income and fan engagement. Apart from that, it’s important to know which games should be focused. Yes, FIFA has the closest ties to football. But in Japan, the J1 League collaborate with Konami to form an eSports league in which Pro Evolution Soccer – known as Winning Eleven in Japan – will be played, as SportsPro Media report. And DOTA2, League of Legends or what have you will be of growing importance if new audiences should be made aware of a brand. Yet, football clubs cannot view eSports as an extension of their traditional brand and a mere revenue driver, since it’s a unique universe – which on one hand offers unique opportunities, not least in Asia, but on the other hand demands an approach appreciative of the long existing eSports culture.
MLS Launch New App for Personalised Highlights, Merch and Even Ticketing
The MLS’s new app will be customised in team colours and offer individual feeds and alerts as well as highlights, ticketing, merch and fantasy football.
The MLS seasons just started this weekend. And to keep the growing fanbase engaged, the organisation has provided fans with a quite impressive all-in-one app. The official MLS app got a 2019 update which not only encourages supporters to “Live Your Colors“, but also enables them to manage diverse football content and adminstrative functions regarding the game in a single app. Thus, they can choose their favourite team, buy tickets, watch instant highlights or make last-minute changes to their fantasy team. The personalised entry makes the app valuable to them – and the MLS eventually.
The MLS’s popularity is on the rise
In the United States, there’s a growing interest in football (and no, not American Football). The MLS is gaining more viewers and certainly more engagement in Social Media.
Getting players like Wayne Rooney or Zlatan to play in the US league will have helped growing awareness; but the teams themselves are constantly getting better at promoting themselves as something different not only to the widely beloved US sports such as baseball or basketball, but also a bit different to European football. For the franchise of Atlanta United, for example, is merging traditional football values with updated marketing strategies. Therefore, they’ve created a whole new experience for fans.
Yet, as attendances go up in the MLS, TV viewers seem to vanish still. And that might be a consequence of a shift in the perception of events. People are using their mobile devices to get the latest information or even to watch games. According to Engadget, the MLS has 70 per cent of its digital content perceived via mobile. That’s why an app is indispensable for football clubs, leagues and so forth these days. Hence, the MLS has updated its own app and come up with a great experience for fans. For they can choose their favourite team fist, which will customise the whole interface in the respective team colours. Furthermore, this choice will give fans quick access to everything happening cocerning their club.
But supporters can still get comprehensive information about all the events in the MLS. They can follow other clubs and players as well as popular series or columnists to personalise their own feed and their alerts – just like in proven Social Media.
Fans can also access quite a lot of detailed statistics and don’t have to leave the app to really get all the insights in relation to the Major League Soccer and its developments.
The app is about monetising and marketing as well
What makes the MLS app so special is its holistic approach. Because fans can not merely check results, see highlights or get the latest transfer – or draft – updates, but rather manage their very own supporter experience. They can book themselves tickets for the next match they’re attending via Ticketmaster or SeatGeek inside the mobile product. Aditionally, they’re able to buy merchandise from the various clubs directly from the very app.
As a result, the app is quite a good alternative for any MLS club to monetise fan engagement. And that engagement might grow further since the popular MLS Fantasy is an integral part of the new experience.
The improved version of the app offers a lot for fans and might turn out to be a valuable asset for clubs and the league itself. For it surely shows that the MLS is utilising its nous in terms of media and technology.
Fanst and interested sports enthusiasts can get the app in the Play Store, Apple’s App Store or will get a download link once they’ve entered their mobile number at the MLS app’s homepage. “Evolved“ says the slogan in the YouTube trailer regarding the app. This might be a promise, that the MLS is evolving further in 2019. There’s certainly a lot of potential off the field, let alone on it.
So we will welcome the new MLS season with so much opportunities to keep informed on our smartphones.
The Factory for Idols – Latin America is Banking on Unique Talents for Growth
Latin America is leveraging its culture of developing great players to grow its own market, home and abroad. We spoke to LATAM experts to understand the current ambitions.
From Ronaldo and Carlos Valderrama to Lionel Messi, Neymar and Edinson Cavani: Latin America produces top talent continuously. The most recent exports to European football are Vinícius Júnior, who is thriving at Real Madrid right now, or Rodrygo. In European football, players from the LATAM area have always been an important ingredient, they’ve brought joy to the fans on so many occasions. Yet, the football cultures overseas and in Europe are quite different – and European fans barely take too much interest in Latin American leagues, it seems. But since the LATAM superstars and top talents show time and time again, football is a universal languange. Therefore, and with internationalisation via Social Media or eSports being a multifarious approach, global markets can benefit of each other’s strengths.
A closer look into the LATAM football culture: Letting experts have their say
From our European perspective, football circles around the big leagues – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga – or the European competitions, mainly the Champions League. All these games have a specific appeal for global audiences, too. In terms of monetisation and forward-thinking development for clubs and federations, a more international approach is inevitable. Clubs harness their Social Media reach or their connection to different types of audiences via eSports presence in order to grow in various markets – be it Asia, the US or even Latin America.
But then again, in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and so forth, there are always quite fascinating developments as well. While the marketing coup from Chilean Club Deportivo O’Higgins might not have gone down well with all fans, Brazilian club Corinthians from São Paulo have just teamed up with IBM in a ten-year partnership that will see them modernise their stadium and the fan experience due to AI technologies. Luis Paulo Rosenberg, marketing director of the club, said:
We are convinced of the benefits that a global partner like IBM can bring to Corinthians in general and to the Arena in particular, making the convergence of technologies and Artificial Intelligence key to a new era of possibilities for the fans, improving the experience of each and every Corinthians fan during and after the match day […] Everything will change, and the passion, that’s always the same, will find new ways of expression from today on.
Change is indeed finding its way to LATAM football clubs as digital offerings complement the solutions to make most of the often unrivalled passion of supporters from Columbia to Argentina. Streaming services like Spotify and Deezer start partnerships with big clubs like Boca Juniors or São Paulo FC.
And with fans worldwide experiencing football more and more via OTT services, Social Media or streaming platforms, there are certainly less boundaries for different cultures and markets in a more globalised football ecosystem.
We wanted to know how the very different football world on another continent and with presumably another perspective positions itself to compete with prosperous markets like the European football or burgeoning markets like the MLS. Therefore, we talked to some experts from abroad to understand just how the LATAM football market utilises comparatively small budgets to create unique and sought after talents and solutions. Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui, directors and co-founders of Good Morning Sports and the conference SportBizLatam gave us some quality insights. Their conference offers the sports industry of LATAM a great opportunity to not only connect but to make developments happen – across the world.
It takes place in various contries in Latin Ameica, from Bolivia to Brazil, from Uruguay to Argentina. Next up are Santa Cruz, El Salvador and Bogotá. Good Morning Sports is a sports business agency with a focus on international marketing and best practices for the professionalisation of solutions in sports. Partners are the Hawk-Eye technology, the Johan Cruyff Institute, Genius Sports Stubbub, UFC, Zurich or Santander. So, let’s take a look at their perspective on the growth development of the LATAM football market – and why we can learn a lot from it, as it’s an “idol factory“.
The interview with Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui
Spielmacher: In your opinion, what distinguishes the LATAM football culture most from that in Europe?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Football is a very affordable sport. It can be played everywhere, that is one of the reasons of its popularity in LATAM, being the most adopted, practiced and followed sport. On the positive side I would say one of the main differences is the fan passion. The link between a fan and his/her club is of total loyalty. On the downside, in some countries stadiums are not safe enough to make the transformation from a match to a show possible. And families are not so often in the stadiums yet. There are still some violent behaviours that need to be eradicated to convert the matches into real shows and to grow the fan experience. Clubs in this region are still in a process of becoming more and more professional, hiring experts for each area and starting to act, work and plan as companies, enterprises and institutions do.
Do clubs in LATAM actively look for options to augment their monetisation potential in Europe, the US or Asia? What are they focusing on?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The main foreign income source for LATAM clubs are player transfers. However, the most popular clubs are also working with international license and sponsorships. The key is to create different income sources through new products and fan services. The clubs tend to copy and adapt good practices from abroad (USA, Europe) with a local component and the super challenge of tighter budgets, which sometimes leads to creating amazing strategies with few resources.
La Liga has plans to play league matches abroad. Would the Argentinian Primera División or another league from the continent consider such an option, too?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The last Libertadores final was played in Madrid, unfortunately not for the right reasons (it was due to violent incidents in Buenos Aires), but represented a new business opportunity for showing LATAM football in other continents. We believe this will be the case more and more often. Also in Latam most of the countries have extensive territories, and some competitions (for example ‘La Copa Argentina’) are using different host cities across the country in order to reach fans who don’t have the possibility to travel to the capital to follow their teams.
Facebook has secured free to air rights for the Champions League in LATAM from 2018 to 2021. Will these reception opportunities for fans help make European football and the respective teams more attractive for the audience? And will it impair the relevance of clubs from their home countries?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: European Football in LATAM is already relevant. Now it will be reached, and watched, more easily. Audiences will grow and this will end up affecting local football in terms of volume as people will follow the most attractive competition and show, and that is European football nowadays. We believe local clubs and leagues have a big challenge to retain audiences and sponsors, as they will compete more and more with international clubs. Clubs need to improve their sponsorship strategies, activations and metrics.
From your experience, are broadcasters in LATAM increasingly interested in showing different leagues to offer a broad and international package like Social Media do?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Broadcasters are already including new international content. We believe the challenge is to create an attractive format, especially in the case of leagues or competitions which aren’t as popular yet in the region. For example, in Argentina the Chinese League is not very much followed, but if a broadcaster presents a 2 minute recap, only with the highlights, this will be consumed.
The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A or the Primera División de Argentina aren’t too well known or followed in Germany and probably other European countries, too. With the biggest leagues – the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga – vying for attention already, shouldn’t leagues from LATAM rather try to gain more followers in countries like China, that are adopting the sports more and more?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: For sure, US and Asian audiences are appealing in terms of volume and more unexploited opportunities. Some clubs and federations are already having their first Asian sponsors. And a great opportunity is that Asians love and adore ‘idols’ and LATAM is an idol factory! However, the approach towards new regions and international fans also depends on a solid growth strategy and resources assigned to make it happen.
eSports is becoming a way to leverage fans’ investment and awareness regarding video games. There are eSports sections at FC Santos or Boca Juniors. Has this concept been widely adopted? And do you think it will help the clubs gain international recognition via this sports?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: eSports in LATAM is just starting; it already has followers and early adopters but it hasn’t exploded, yet. Only edgy brands are starting to support this competitions. For example, in Argentina the eSuperLiga is sponsored by RedBull. However, LATAM represents a big interest as a market because of its large audiences. Leagues from abroad are also taking advantage of the early stages and are entering the territory, developing projects that will grow faster because of the experience gained in their origin countries and their best practices. We do think this could be another way for the clubs to gain more international recognition, especially reaching young millennial audiences all over the world.
How important do you think are the LATAM audiences to European clubs? Are they trying to edge into the market over there? And is it just top teams from the Champions League or are smaller clubs also engaged?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: LATAM represents large audiences for European clubs, a way to grow substantially in terms of audience and fans. Football is part of the culture itself; we consume football from everywhere. A key factor is that every latam country has some of their national idols playing abroad. Not only in the biggest European teams, but also in smaller ones, results in those teams being followed by the player compariots. The players have their own fan equity, it helps the clubs in reaching and growing enormously the amount of fans from the player’s country. Then, as a consequence, local brands begin to show interest in becoming sponsors.
How much attention pay LATAM audiences to the Bundesliga, or, in comparison, the Premier League?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: The Bundesliga still has a great area of opportunities to grow in LATAM. Their strategy developing content in Spanish is helping in this regard. FC Bayern Munich is the most followed club of the league, and it is related to its LATAM players [like James Rodríguez, editors note].
Finally, what can clubs, associations or brands learn from the LATAM football culture?
Cordeiro/ Baigorrotegui: Basically the export of talented players is a great deal. All the clubs work in this regard and it is the main contribution from the region to the world sport. Additionally – and not only in football or sports – what characterizes Latam is the capability of developing amazing unique strategies, with low resources and budget, but with high creativity, commitment and determination.
Thanks so much for the interview. We wish you and the whole LATAM football ecosystem continuous success.
Our interview partners Laura Cordeiro and Patricio Baigorrotegui manage the agency Good Morning Sports and are the creators of the SportBizLatam. Get in touch, if you want to know more about the conference, their solutions or the LATAM football ecosystem.
Arsenal London Offer Blockchain App for Digital Collectibles
Fans of the London club can now own and trade digital collectibles like autographs or unique video content in an app created by blockchain firm Fantastec.
For a lot of supporters, the matchday just isn’t enough. That’s why they consume so much football content on Social Media, on streaming platforms or in specific apps. Netflix’s Sunderland ’Til I Die or successful fan channels on YouTube are great example for this development. To meet the fans’ desire for more football and branded content at best, Arsenal London have teamed up with the platform Fantastec SWAP which uses blockchain technology in order to provide fans with digital collectibles. Those can not only be attained but be swapped globally by every supporter who accesses the app.
Arsenal make use of the blockchain technology
Arsenal London are certainly amongst the global frontrunners when it comes to digital media development. Their respective Media Group under the guidance of Ben Ladkin keeps fans everywhere engaged.
“The right content, at the right time, on the right platform“, that’s Ladkin’s motto. Fittingly, Arsenal have now partnered with technology innovators Fantastec to create an app which provides fans digital collectibles on the basis of blockchain technology. They’re not the first entity to bank on such content, though. The Belgian Pro League has already created crypto goods such as player cards in collaboration with Sorare.
We are very proud to have signed this world first partnership with the Belgian Pro League, and we thank them for their trust in Sorare. We see this as a game-changing announcement for the crypto-goods and the football industry. We believe that Sorare’s technology and user-friendliness will allow football fans to freely trade and play with their digital goods. Today’s announcement marks the first step of our development, which is guided by our ambition to create a global open gaming ecosystem, where users can live their passion right at the heart of the game and enjoy a truly new way to engage with it,
said Nicolas Julia, CEO of Sorare, at the time. Sorare are a company that embraces blockchain technology – and so are Fantastec. Their SWAP platform offers Arsenal fans a free-to-download football game inside an engaging app. Therein, a user can unlock player profiles from them men’s and women’s teams. Once unlocked, these profiles offer exclusive video content or autograph cards from the players themselves.
Arsenal London are the first team announced to get going on this platform, but other clubs from the Bundesliga or the Premier League could follow suit. Simon Woollard, content partner at Fantastec, commented:
Fantastec SWAP is a game-changer for international football fans as well the sports collectibles industry. The majority of sports fans are mobile-first and geographically distanced from their favourite teams. Fantastec has developed a new approach for fans to engage in more valuable relationships with the teams and players they love, rewarding their activity in the app, and empowering them to own a genuine share of a club’s history – timestamped and safely protected on the blockchain.
He emphasises Arsenal’s forward-thinking approach and the safe surroundings the SWAP platform offers due to the blockchain background.
Mobile, gaming, apps: That’s where clubs have potential
Peter Silverstone, Arsenal’s commercial director, said:
As football fans, many of us remember collecting and swapping player cards with friends. This initiative with Fantastec SWAP brings that concept into today’s digital world and gives our fans access to unique Arsenal collectibles and content wherever they are in the world.
Furthermore, beside the digital collectibles, Social Media-like features shall get supporters in contact and farther strengthen the exchange in this quite fascinating digital ecosystem. Arsenal encourage fans to make in-app purchases for player collections – as that will get their revenue in a mobile environment up even more. Still, whoever downloads the app, will be given free packs upon the sign-up. The Fantastec Swap app is available in the Play Store and in Apple’s app store.
While clubs use in-app revenue opportunities like these to monetise the ever-growing desire for mobile-friendly and fan-centred content, technology companies and app developers such as Fantastec or Sorare will start thriving. For fans, collecting club and player items increasingly shifts to the digital space. Will player cards and similar collectibles really take off, though? The MLB has had success with that – and to connect a digital- and gaming-affine generation of fans to purchasable in-app content is a shrewd stroke. At leat, if these apps can offer a sustainable additional value for the fans who crave the extra content piece.
Streaming Services Offer Clubs a Route to Fans’ Ears and Hearts
The BVB have teamed up with Deezer and join the likes of ManUtd or Barça, while Boca Juniors and Co. partner with Spotify. Streaming Services grow in importance for any club, especially with podcasts in mind.
Multi media are a modern standard for any user. And so do football fans not only follow their beloved clubs via one channel, but use various opportunities to get ever more content concerning their club. With this in mind, it is no wonder a lot of clubs are teaming up with streaming services like Spotify and Deezer to create club branded channels and playlists in order to lure the supporters to the respective platforms. That very move also makes for a great foundation if clubs consider embracing the growing podcast market in the future.
Deezer deals aplenty for clubs
Borussia Dortmund just launched their very own Deezer account where not only playlists for the matchday will appear, but also curated ones from selected players like Marco Reus or Jacob Bruun Larsen.
Carsten Cramer, BVB director for sales, marketing & digitalisation, explained that the club could get closer to its fans via such a streaming service:
We’re very happy to partner up with Deezer. Music like football has the power to unite people. With Deezer we have the ideal partner to get closer to our fans thanks with music.
Ralph Pighin, VP Central & Eastern Europe at Deezer said that Deezer would accompany happenings at one of Europe’s biggest clubs with relevant audio content.
Referring to the founding year of the BVB, Deezer offers fans its family service for 19,09 euro in the next three months. This special offer, meant to make individualised listening for all family members – up to six profiles – easier, will be available in the BVB app.
The French streaming service Deezer is also the official music partner for media giants Manchester United or the FC Barcelona.
ManUtd put it nicely by claiming the streaming service offers a passage to clubs’ hidden hearts:
Deezer’s partnership with Manchester United is an exclusive backstage pass for fans to the club’s hidden heart. With football and music content you won’t find anywhere else, from player’s playlists to what’s playing in the stadium at Old Trafford before a match, Deezer is the best place to listen to Manchester United’s Flow.
Clubs are banking on different streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify
Not only Deezer is helping teams around the globe reach their diverse fanbases. Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors for example have recently partnered with Spotify, as SportsPro Media report. As part of the deal the club will create a playlist with a title like Way to the Bombonera. The Swedish streaming giants had already teamed up with the three famous clubs from São Paulo: Corinthians, Palmeiras and São Paulo FC. On São Paulo FC’s Spotify channel there are playlists with hits from the years 1992, 1993 an 2005 – as in each of those years the club won the famed Copa Libertadores. The partnership even saw Spotify give caricature paintings as well as co-branded headphones to the players.
Now, that’s what you call visible branding.
Various clubs from all over the world have their own channel on Spotify by now. Borussia Mönchengladbach or West Ham United are examples for that.
And Spanish La Liga does have its own channel, too.
Apart from Deezer and Spotify, big clubs like Arsenal London or Bayern Munich have partnerships with different streaming services in place. The German record champions have an exclusive deal with Apple Music and are furthermore equipped with Dr. Dre headphones, a division from Apple. Arsenal London, on the other hand, have a started a partnership with streaming platform TIDAL. This rather unique deal emphasises Arsenal’s conviction of developing young talent. Arsenal chief commercial officer Vinai Venkatesham said:
Football and music are great passions of so many of our global supporters. This partnership combines these two passions in a unique way and will give our members access to some fantastic benefits. It is also a celebration of our shared belief in young talent, and will create opportunities to bring together our players with TIDAL’s rising artists.
Here, some Arsenal stars tell you what they listen to before matches.
The big potential in deals with audio streaming platforms
As of January 2019, Deezer had seven million paying subscribers, according to Statista. Spotify have 87 million paying users and 200 monthly unique visitors, though. And Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO and founder, wants to turn the audio market into a success like the video market. For he says that people tend to spend as much time with audio these days as with video content.
With the world focused on trying to reduce screen time, it opens up a massive audio opportunity.
And audio does not just mean music. Podcasts are a content format which has been well adopted in the US. According to the IAB (International Advertising Bureau), ad revenue from podcasts was estimated at 314 million US dollar for 2017. To take it into perspective, that signals an 86 per cent increase year-over-year. And estimations from PwC see it surpass the one billion mark by 2020, growing to 1,6 billion dollar in 2022.
So there’s a whole marketable market there for the taking – and sports clubs should be aware of this potential. Especially, since in Europe the podcast market hasn’t been swamped with too much content, yet. And listeners are even earger to spend a lot of time and are not afraid of native advertising as well.
To partner with streaming services like Spotify, where the users are for a good part anyway, is a shrewd idea. Because Spotify just acquired podcast specialist platforms Anchor and Gimlet Media for nearly 340 million US dollar to strengthen their own podcast department.
St. Pauli, a cult club from Germany with fans everywhere, has already offered its fans the opportunity to listen to podcasts via Deezer. These are only fan podcasts, but clubs could integrate their own content, too. If it is exclusive, it would surely lure even more people. And that would also be great for the streaming service. The FC St. Pauli also promote songs from their remarkable FC St. Pauli Music School by Levi’s® via Deezer, an insitution at the Millerntor stadium for everyone who can’t afford music lessons. Branding and fan generating go hand in hand for them with the help of the streaming service. Those are great marketing prospects for any club in the world, since audio and football have long been closely related – and a revival, albeit way more digital and immersive, seems to be on the cards.
UEFA to Launch Own OTT Platform
The disruption of traditional football coverage takes another step. European football’s administrative body, the UEFA, will launch an own OTT streaming service over the next six months. That was confirmed by Aleksander Čeferin, rigth after his re-election as the body’s president. But the development won’t stop there. Partnerships with big companies are in the pipeline, yet, the European football shall stand for unity.
UEFA has big plans: An OTT platform to start with
There’s always something to talk about with the UEFA involved. A few days back, Aleksander Čeferin has been unanimously re-elected UEFA president until 2023. The body’s strategy circles around four pillars:
- keeping football first
- building trust
- ensuring competitiveness
- increasing prosperity
Another, yet rather dubios, person involved in the UEFA’s fate is Nasser Al-Khelaifi, debatable president of PSG. He is now the ECA representative of the UEFA Executive Committee.
I look forward to working alongside members of the UEFA Executive Committee to enhance and develop European football, whilst ensuring that the interests of clubs, are represented in the decision making process,
he said. Some will surely doubt that he is going to support really every club’s desires.
However, the UEFA wants to make European football more accessible via digital platforms to anyone – and is therefore planning to launch their own OTT service.
This is why I am pleased to announce that UEFA will be launching its OTT platform in the next six months. We are fully aware that a revolution is under way, and are in the process of agreeing historic partnerships with the world’s leading companies in this field. We have already started to move in this direction thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Alibaba Group. This partnership is more than a simple sponsorship deal. It’s a first agreement that opens up new horizons, such as the creation of a centre of excellence in new football technologies or joint e-commerce projects,
said Čeferin following his re-election. While the OTT platform will start showing women’s and youth games first – since rights for the European competitions like the Champions League are allocated for another few years –, partnerships with big companies like Alibaba will only help grow the brand UEFA. How that helps a “society racked with doubt“, as Čeferin calls it, remains to be seen. There might surely be hope, that the UEFA will make it easier to access games under their patronage and provide fans with a great and holistic digital experience in the future. Yet, the UEFA earn more money every single season – and deals with the likes of Alibaba will surely accelerate the process. That money mainly returns to those participating in the Champions League and Europa League: clubs, that are quite rich anyway. And with Čeferin and Al-Khelaifi on the board, the thought of a more economic growth management is never far away. Maybe, beside all this talk of development in the football ecosystem, the UEFA should harden their stance on the Financial Fairplay first.
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