This Week in the Football Industry: 17/2/2017

17 February 2017 |
This week's football industry round up features a power play in Facebook’s broadcasting ambitions, a team Szczesny vs team El Shaarawy FIFA match, a potentially record breaking kit deal and the arrival of Wolverwayne Rooney!


Facebook to live stream Mexican football in deal with Univision


Facebook has struck a deal with broadcaster Univision to live stream football from the Mexican top division, Liga MX. Kicking off on Saturday with the biggest game of the season, Club America v Chivas, the opening match should give both Facebook and Univision a gauge of the potential the platform has to engage and attract the football loving Mexican audience.

With match commentary in English, the broadcast provides a great opportunity for Liga MX to build up more of a profile and fanbase overseas. Should the first match live up to its billing, it could encourage a number of new fans to take an interest in the league and prove to be a lucrative additional revenue stream for clubs in a highly competitive financial climate. As sports audiences continue to move away from traditional consumption and more towards digital spheres, live streaming major sports events on social platforms is something that we are likely to see a lot more of in our ever evolving industry. There are, however, substantial concerns that branded live-streaming is a “ticking time bomb” for traditional broadcasters such as Sky who have already seen sharp declines in viewing of live matches amid the convergence of new media.

It is clear that Facebook is still testing the waters regarding live sports streaming as there will be no advertising within these games, however, this partnership with Liga MX is a big toe in the water. With most social platforms possessing an entirely global audience, the potential is huge for rights holders to expand their international footprint, though it is yet to be seen if this may come at too big a financial price with lucrative broadcasting revenues likely to suffer.

Facebook’s presence in football will be addressed at September’s Soccerex Global Convention, with Facebook Sports Partnerships Lead for EMEA, Jerry Newman, speaking as part of the programme’s digital focus. To view the full conference concepts, click here.


Heineken set to launch chatbot to encourage fans to watch UCL


Heineken’s activation of their Champions League sponsorship is set to develop one further with the launch of a chatbot to encourage groups of football fans to come together and watch the knock out stages of the Champions League. Since extending their long term partnership of over 20 years, Heineken have demonstrated their focus on increasing the social elements of Champions League nights, and are encouraging friends to come together to enjoy the spectacle of Europe’s elite going head to head.

The chatbots (a computer program used to stimulate conversations with human users) will be present across social media and will offer rewards to those who watch Champions League matches together. The face of the new campaign, entitled “No More Excuses”, is Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, with the campaign showing him demanding fans to stop making excuses and unite with their friends. The launch film was released on Tuesday and can be viewed below, with the Heineken chatbot set to come into action in April.

The use of chatbots to support the campaign is a further demonstration of the ‘soft marketing’ approach used by Heineken throughout their Champions League partnership. Their focus on encouraging a social element to the tournament creates an environment whereby they know that their product is most likely to be consumed and the use of chatbots in forming these mini communities will serve as an interesting case study for their sponsorship activation.


AS Roma team up with Fnatic with new FIFA esports outfit


AS Roma and leading eSports organization Fnatic have announced a partnership that will see the Italian club form an eSports FIFA team. The deal is an integral part of the club’s strategy to build a strong presence in the ever emerging eSports market, with the aim of engaging their fan base as well as the youthful and digitally focused eSports demographic. As part of the collaboration Roma have recruited three esports players to wear the Roma jersey and represent the club throughout their global competitions.

This partnership is another milestone in Roma’s quest to “become the most digitally connected in the world” a mission statement outlined by their President in 2015. With eSports’ commercial potential expanding throughout the game, clubs and rights holders are increasingly aware of the industry’s ability to provide a connection between them and the game’s plethora of young fans. eSports has an enormous following globally and although football gaming amounts to a relatively small percentage of eSports’ audience, Roma will be hoping this partnership will allow them to get their brand noticed throughout the eSports community. The partnership has already shown good engagement; with 442k views on a live match between team Szczesny vs team El Shaarawy, 7.1k likes and 1.6k comments. With collaborations such as this on the rise throughout the game, it will be interesting to see how clubs activate these partnerships to ultimately enhance their revenues streams.

eSports’ growing presence in the football industry, will be discussed at September’s Global Convention as one of a number of topics surrounding the business of the beautiful game. For more information on our flagship event, check out the Convention homepage here.


Should drug testing in football be more rigorous?


According to UK anti doping, at least 39% of players who played in the Football League last year were not drug tested. UKAD (United Kingdom Anti-Doping), who carry out testing on behalf of the Football Association, took 1,204 samples from 1,989 players to appear in the EFL in 2015-16. The FA says it prioritises the elite level over lower leagues, with the number of samples taken from the Premier League eclipsing those taken of any other level in England.

These new figures demonstrate that a great deal of footballers go through a whole season without being tested at all, putting a real question mark against the prospect of drug cheats in our game. With a number of other sports embroiled in doping scandals over the last few years, football has, thus far, remained relatively unharmed, however, these statistics are alarming and raise concerns about football’s ‘clean’ doping image. With authorities paying extensive focus to testing Premier League footballers there is a risk of young footballers starting off in the lower leagues of English football in an environment where drug testing isn’t as commonplace as in the top tier and taking liberties that may ultimately have damaging effects on their long-term career prospects. It is clear that greater policing and more substantial testing measures need to be put in place to ensure that the perception of football as a relatively ‘clean’ sport is suitably put to the test.


Under Armour in talks with Real Madrid over world record £1.27bn kit deal


On Wednesday, Forbes reported that Real Madrid had begun talks with US kit manufacturers, Under Armour, over a spectacular world record 10 year kit partnership that could reach as high as £1.27bn (£127m annually) in value. With Madrid’s Adidas partnership set to expire in 2020, the new deal with Under Armour would end the club’s 22 year association with Adidas and, under its reported terms, would eclipse Barcelona’s recent world record kit deal with Nike that is reportedly worth £120m a season and will run for 5 years with the option of a further 5 year extension.

Although such reports are, as of yet, unofficial, Spanish newspaper AS, who are synonymous with Madrid and known for often breaking the club’s biggest commercial news stories, appear confident the deal will take place and it represents an aggressive move from Under Armour as they continue their quest to break into the European sports market. Their current deal with Spurs is set to relinquish at the end of the season and whilst the North London club have helped put them on the European football map, a deal with Madrid would be on an entirely different level and represent a strong statement from Under Armour following a tough 12 months that saw their stock fall 40% in 2016, the worst performing sports stock of 2016.


In other news...



Asamoah Gyan deemed to have 'unethical hair' in United Arab Emirates


Here’s a story you won’t see every day! Former Sunderland goal machine, Asamoah Gyan, is one of over 40 players occupying their trade in the UAE to be told that they have ‘unethical hair’. The Ghanaian’s trim has caused controversy with some Islamic teachings banning 'Qaza' hairstyles, where only part of the head is shaved.


The Philadelphia Union Are Hiring A “Chief Tattoo Officer”


MLS side Philadelphia Union, whose squad includes former Arsenal and QPR forward Jay Simpson and Giliano Wijnaldum, brother of Georginio – are advertising for a ‘Chief Tattoo Officer to ink “players, coaches, front office staff and even fans.”


Arise Wolverwayne Rooney


Manchester United’s partnership with 20th Century Fox has allowed the world to explore the poignant acting skills of their record breaking captain and in this latest promotion we are treated to a narrative interspersing Rooney’s greatest club moments with some clips of the new X-Men spinoff Logan.


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