How FC Barcelona wants to use digital to delight fans

People love football — but as the competition for eyeballs intensifies, how can sports teams keep fans engaged?
16 March 2020

Players tunnel at Camp Nou arena. Source: Shutterstock

Football Club (FC) Barcelona is well known offline as well as online, there’s no doubt. 

However, to keep fans close in an age where attention is fleeting, the team’s directors have committed to digital with the aim to create a revolutionary experience using innovative digital products and services.

This effort, of course, is expected to boost revenues for the club and become a top source of income in the coming months.

“From this new approach, the club needs to take a further step forward and focus on a paradigm shift in terms of its digital strategy in order to be able to meet these challenges,” FC Barcelona said in a document outlining its plans.

According to the club’s directors, at the center of its digital strategy is a need to be “close and permanently connected to more than 350 million followers on social media, most of whom will never be able to watch a game at the Camp Nou [FC Barcelona’s home stadium in Spain] in person.”

That is the “key to fostering loyalty in an increasingly more competitive world” — and the club is quite right. 

What FC Barcelona has honed-in on is something that clubs and associations in other sports are also exploring, be it NASCAR or American football.

FC Barcelona wants to put ‘fans at the center of everything’

Of the 350 million followers that FC Barcelona has on social media, only 4 million are able to make it to Camp Nou each year. It’s new fan-centric approach, the club hopes, will take it closer to those that never have an opportunity to visit the stadium in person.

“The […] model is based on the creation of an integrated ecosystem of club products, services, and contents in order to offer the best […] experiences to its fans, wherever they are, and whether or not they visit the stadium. 

“The focal points for achieving this are, first, Barça Studios with regard to the creation of entertaining content to feed this ecosystem, and the FRM (Fan Relationship Management) data project, to get to know fans better and deliver what is most relevant to them at all times.”

From the document that the club has put together and shared with media, data seems to be a core element of driving and thriving with digital.

The FRM data project is interesting because its main purpose is to acquire, manage, and analyze data on behavior and interaction [of fans] with the club. 

The club’s directors believe that the new FRM platform will help clearly understand where the interests of fans lie so that interactions with the club can be better focused, tailored, and geared for maximum engagement.

This data can also help amplify the message and emotions conjured by the content created by the club’s ‘Barça Studios’.

Overall, the studio and the new data platform are expected to help boost e-commerce revenues, accelerate efforts to grow the club’s membership and support its ticketing efforts, and also help generate income from on-demand content (OTT).

While there’s a strong emphasis on growing revenues, the investment in digital is not only commendable but also extremely exciting for fans — who will be happy to spend more with the brand hoping that the funds will be used to augment the club’s activities on the field as well.

The work that FC Barcelona has embarked on is exciting. Others must follow suit if they want to keep up. They must also remember that their competition isn’t just FC Barcelona or teams and leagues in other sports but the entire online entertainment industry. That’s their new reality.