Mr. Dídac Lee sits down with Hashtag Sports in our latest question-and-answer series interview.
In his role as Head of the Digital Area for the board of directors at Barcelona Football Club, Dídac Lee oversees the digital strategy for one of the largest and most popular professional football clubs in the world.
Dídac talks about the strategies he employs to bring fans closer to the club, how he maintains Barcelona’s status as the number one digital professional sports team in the world, as well as how employing an entertainment-based approach has benefitted them.
In order to bring fans closer to the club and offer tailored products and services, FC Barcelona has just announced a commitment to using data in new ways to gain an even better understanding of its fanbase. Can you share a little bit about Barça’s new three-prong approach to digital strategy and how the fast-changing consumption habits of the “connected fan” influenced the decision to implement this strategy?
We are witnessing a revolution among consumers and their consumption patterns, especially among new generations. We are in the era of the ‘attention economy’, where we are faced with a new kind of opponent, which rather than competing with us in the stadium, is doing so on our mobile, television, and computer screens. Our competitors now also include major corporations and content platforms. These include big corporations and content platforms, like Fortnite, Netflix, and YouTube, among others. These competitors are offering content 24/7 on every screen, while until now we have only had two 90-minute matches each week. We are also witnessing changes among consumers: content is continually becoming less generic and more bespoke, adapted to tastes, individual preferences and different ways of consuming it.
Taking all of this into consideration, if we can seize the opportunity, we will capture a much bigger market and will be able to create new business avenues that did not even exist before. In the content area: we are working at the crossroads between sport and entertainment, what is known as sportainement. But we have gone one step further by integrating content creation in our business. What’s more, it is our intention for content to form part of the core business at Barça. In the area of data acquisition, until now we have been working with third-party platforms. But from now on, we shall be adding our own platforms to that model, in order to reach fans directly, and get a better idea of their tastes and preferences and thus be able to offer them bespoke products and experiences.
The FRM (Fan Relationship Management) platform is an integral part of Barça’s new digital strategy. Could you share a bit about the FRM and where this idea came from?
This project is the first step in the construction of a fan data management system, the main purpose of which is the acquisition, management, and treatment of data on behavior and interaction with the Club. This new instrument will generate a 360º view of Barça fans, so that the many interactions with the Club can be focused on a single point, thus enabling us to personalize the experience and make it as relevant as possible.
FC Barcelona will be able to use these capabilities to address fans with the right content and experiences, and at the right times, and also integrate all the new experiences generated by the new Espai Barça. Because the Club will have such a better understanding of its fans, it will be much better equipped to identify opportunities to create new products and services based on their needs.
Barça is the world’s leading club in digital, having generated more engagement with its fans than any other sports team on the planet (over 1.4 billion interactions). What does “engagement” mean to the club, and how is effective engagement defined/measured?
Engagement is one of the most important metrics we measure. It is a testimony of our fans connecting with the content we share, responding positively about it. It’s about quality and not quantity. We measure it using the Engagement Rate or Engagement per Post metric when possible.
How is Barcelona’s three prong approach helping to set a new benchmark for fan engagement?
FC Barcelona fans don’t just live in Barcelona, but also in Los Angeles and Shanghai. They are all different in age, football knowledge, culture, language, and ways of consuming sports content. But they all have one thing in common: They love Barça!
Every year 4 million of our fans come to the Camp Nou. We must offer these fans an awesome physical and digital experience to convince them to become ambassadors for Barça around the world. We have already set out on this path and the Espai Barça is a basic part of taking things to the next level. But those 4 million fans are just 1% of the total! How do we relate to the other 99%? We do so by offering exclusive Barça content and experiences that are adapted to their tastes. Audiovisual formats play a central role here because it is through videos that emotions travel best.
As we are doing on the field of play, where the Barça style involves making the ball the focus of everything we do, our new digital strategy is based on putting the Fan at the very heart of things, as part of a Fan-Centric mode, which is based on creating an integrated ecosystem of club products, services, and content in order to offer our fans the very best experience.
The two key areas for making this possible are, on the one hand, Barça Studios for the creation of entertainment content to be fed into that ecosystem. That is why we are so strongly committed to Barça Studios. We are the first club in the world to set up its own audiovisual production company. And the FRM (Fan Relationship Management) data program, in order to get to know our fans better and offer them what is most relevant at all times.
Finally, within the ecosystem of in-house digital products we are developing several projects: innovative solutions for ticket sales, Barça TV+ (the club’s OTT), CULERS membership scheme, and our own e-commerce. Finally, on social networks, we will continue to boost our capacity to reach and connect with audiences, while enriching the process with new programs like the creation of Barça eSports to attract young audiences globally, and particularly in Asia.
Where does content / digital media fit into FC Barcelona’s overall revenue strategy?
This new digital strategy and the launch of new digital Barça products are paving the way to the creation of a new main source of ordinary income for the club, which will help us to carry on being competitive and being the leading and most loved brand in the world of sport.
How has technology been integrated into the club’s business to more efficiently engage fans, and what’s your approach to partnering with technology and service providers vs. executing in-house?
Until now we have only been working through third-party platforms. Now we are adding our own platforms to this model, which will enable us to gather qualitative data that will help us to gain a better understanding of our fans. This relates to our firm commitment to the creation of content that is adapted to fan preferences, which we will now have first-hand knowledge thanks to these platforms.
The line between sports and entertainment is blurring as consumer passion points (sports, music, fashion, film, etc.) continue to converge. Unlike other clubs, FC Barcelona generates all of its revenue from the sports industry. How does digital consumption and convergence alter who Barça, as a sports club, competes with in terms of content and engagement? How has that changed how the club’s approach to content creation and distribution?
What is common to all of the projects included in the new digital strategy is the importance of content and data. Entertainment content, especially audiovisual, is what conveys emotions to fans around the world in the most universal and emotional way. Meanwhile, data allows, not only to constantly improve this content by analyzing fan reactions but it also means that the Club gets to know them much better and is, therefore, able to offer them what they need when they need it most.
Audiovisual content has the power to convey feelings remotely. That is why a key element of FC Barcelona’s new digital strategy is the creation of Barça Studios, which centralizes the creation, production, and distribution of all of the Club’s audiovisual content. It will allow FC Barcelona to produce premium, exclusive content, offering a unique perspective on Barça while also providing new content for Barça’s own channels, thus satisfying the fans’ desire to know more about the traditions and the day-to-day life of the Club.
What types of content are you seeing resonate most strongly with younger audiences?
It always depends on the channel, but mostly entertainment content, short videos, off the pitch and live formats. Also, everything around participation is getting more interest from fans.
What emerging trend or technology do you believe will revolutionize the way marketers connect with fans on social platforms in the next three years?
We see privacy becoming more important and that will affect dynamics on the key social platforms. Also, on the broader internet with an uncertain future of third-party cookies. In terms of technology, we are closely monitoring the potential of voice interfaces, blockchain, and AR, but we do not see any of those technologies being revolutionary in the next three years.
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