Social media trends and innovations in football

The International Football Arena (IFA) Berlin took place last week. First started in 1999, it is an event where top people from the business world of football get together and share ideas and insights from their individual fields of specialisation. Benjamin Stoll was there and has written a detailed account of all that was spoken about at IFA Berlin (not to be confused with the consumer electronics event).

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The primary focus of IFA Berlin was the emergence of Digital Media and its importance to the world of football. As the title suggests, social media was an important subject of discussion during this event. Below we give you a quick look at a few topics covered. 

When a sportsperson becomes the brand

Here is what what an individual, Cristiano Ronaldo, has achieved to supersede global companies to become one of the biggest brands online, today.


These numbers are huge, so how do they compare to big companies and conglomerates?

  • This means he has more fans on Facebook than Manchester United and Chelsea FC combined.
  • On Twitter @cristiano has 31 million followers, more than The New York Times and CNN combined
  • As a result, also topping the reach of Coca-Cola or Nike and McDonalds.

Cristiano Ronaldo brings massive reach and social influence to the club he plays for as well as to the commercial partners he works with.

“There is still great potential for Ronaldo even after his retirement from professional sports to become an even bigger global brand.  His current brand value is already much higher than direct monetization.” – Luis Correira, Director at Gestifute. 

Twitter, Facebook & Youtube key for the portrayal of sports moments & emotions

“41% of tweets are about sports, even though live sports only accounts for about 1% of TV programming.” – Paul Keuter, Head of Sports Germany at Twitter

Two good examples of how teams connected the fans with the players through Twitter were:

  • The German national team using a Twitter wall embedded in their training camp in Brazil to show tweets with the hashtag #aneuererseite (translated: “by your side“) from fans.
  • Schalke 04 use live tweets of fans displayed on a wall next to their dressing room to motivate players before matches.

Glenn Miller, Head of Media Strategic Partnerships EMEA at Facebook had a few interesting insights into football on Facebook.

  • 500 million users engage with football on Facebook each month.
  • Fans don’t want updates from games on Facebook, but interaction opportunities with like-minded.
  • Clubs need to focus on the relationship with the fans and not commercial opportunities.

YouTube is key for those fans who don’t want to pay for premium club television content. Christoph Heimes, Manager Content Partner Switzerland at Google, said that if clubs want to reach bigger and new audiences, then the use of YouTube is key.

  • Youtube checks for copy right infringements, but coordination with the service providers can bring controlled media coverage to the masses
  • German Bundesliga Youtube channel as an example of how rights holders can appeal to a larger audience globally through YouTube.

The need to monetize relationships with the fans

“Will the football industry ever make a profit from the social media hype?”

  • Arsenal has more people working at social media than CNN employs at their sports department in London.
  • The key is not just to connect to the fans through social media, but to get to know the fans through interactions.
  • Most football clubs are still figuring out their social media ecosystem, most of them don’t know the fans in their stadium.
  • Carlos Moreira (WISeKey) believes that predictability in terms of what a club’s fans will buy next will be a bigger market than social media.

More was discussed at IFA Berlin, if you are interested, head over to Benjamin Stoll’s article.

Digital media and its relationship with sport is still in its early days. But after hearing what the experts in the field had to say about digital media, over time, innovations in this space will change the way we interact sports, teams and players. New methods of monetization will emerge, and as a consumer, we will feel more connected with the sport we love.

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