Spotlight: Interview with Will McDonough, VP of Brand and Commercial Strategy at Copa90

Spotlight: Interview with Will McDonough, VP of Brand and Commercial Strategy at Copa90
In this Soccerex Spotlight, we interview Will McDonough, VP of Brand and Commercial Strategy at Copa90, addressing Original Content, the US and European Fan Markets, Copa90s FIFA World Cup 2018 Successes and the upcoming Women's FIFA World Cup 2019.

1) Hi Will, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us today! Copa90 has become an established and active part of the football media landscape over the past few years. For those who don’t know, please could you start by explaining what Copa90 does, and what your role as VP of Brand and Commercial Strategy entails?

COPA90 is a distributed football/soccer media business that entertains, informs, celebrates and connects football and its fans around the world. Whether it’s catching up with your favorite players, in depth documentaries about fan culture, or fun sharable football/soccer content, COPA90 provides a unique perspective on today's game.  

As the brand lead in the States, I ensure that our brand identity and core beliefs are upheld when working with partners, brands and expanding to new platforms. 

2) Since the conception of Copa90 in 2012, how has football fan culture changed, and how have you adapted to the changing fan market?

The biggest change that we have seen over the last 6 years is the way that fans consume the game. Fewer and fewer are watching the full 90 minutes, and increasingly turning to outlets and platforms to follow along. Highlights, social commentary, memes, and gifs all provide today’s fan with a totally different way to experience and engage with the game.  In many ways, fans don’t even need to watch the broadcast to really to be active participants. (Here's a study that we ran around the modern fan)

3) Copa90, in the company’s own words, is “the definitive youth media brand for football”. What are the defining characteristics of your brand, and how do they connect you to young football fans? 

We have a saying, "everything outside the 90 mins makes the 90 mins matter more."  This phrase really encompasses everything that COPA90 sets out to be as a brand. It exemplifies our passion to cover stories that live beyond the pitch. We are also big on inclusive storytelling, working directly with our Creator Network – a vast, global network of vetted creative soccer people – finding ways to place fans at the root of our projects.

4) Copa90’s YouTube channel has over 1.6 million subscribers, and is rapidly approaching 350 million video views, of which 75 million views have come this year so far. The Copa90 channel continues to grow daily, producing a video at least once every other day; how have you been able to achieve this level of engagement?

I would say it’s a healthy combination of a few a things:

1 - Staying relevant and on top of current events.  So much happens within the course of a week, if your creators and producers aren’t locked into all the movements across all leagues, it shows.

2 - Recruiting top talent. Finding voices and personalities that resonate with the community is extremely important.

3 - Being different than the rest. With so many places to turn for a perspective on the game, we've had to carve out a unique voice and perspective.

5) One of your most successful YouTube series’ is “FIFA and Chill”, where you interview some of the biggest names in football, the most recent of which is Hector Bellerin. Why is this format of content so engaging for football and Copa90 fans?

FIFA and Chill is pretty great for a few reasons. Firstly, you couldn’t cook up better chemistry than what Poet and Vuj bring to the show. Secondly, this format brings out personalities and that’s really what people want to see.  Be it footballers, artists, celebrities, whatever – fans want to see these people hanging out in a fun and relatable environment. It just works. 

6) In 2015, Copa90 bought KickTV - with whom you were Marketing Director for 3 years - from Major League Soccer, and transformed it to Copa90 US which currently has 1.1 million YouTube subscribers and almost 200 million video views, alongside a vast social following. How did the transition from KickTV to Copa90 US work, and why do you think the Copa90 content model works so well in the US? 

The acquisition of KICKTV and the transition to COPA90 US was natural one.  From a business perspective, we went from a "house of brands” (COPA90 + KICKTV) to a branded house (COPA90).  This eliminated a lot of market confusion and provided the business with more scale and opportunity.  From a content perspective, we were able to take successful cues from our UK family and apply great storying to some pretty incredible stories here in the States.  Good stories and great storytellers is always a pretty good recipe for success.

7) From a media / content creation perspective, how do the US market and the European market compare, and how do you adapt to maximize engagement in the two different markets?

In truth, the creation process isn’t really different from UK to US.  It’s all relative as long as you understand the audience that you are targeting.  What we have noticed, which probably isn't a surprise is the rapid entrance of new advertisers into the branded content space here in the States. MLS, Liga MX, USL, and NWSL are all evolving so fast.  Brands and league sponsors are excited to find new ways to get involved and needless to say, it’s been a really exciting year for our business. 

8) With focus on original content, Copa90 had a hugely successful summer in 2018 with your coverage of the FIFA World Cup. Why do you think your coverage of the World Cup was so successful, and how will you use the experience from this summer in future football competitions, both club and international?

Our success throughout the World Cup was really based on the fact that we went all in.  It was pretty obvious that people didn’t know what to expect with the tournament being played in Russia, but for us it didn’t matter.  We were fully locked in on the idea that the World Cup was going to be amazing.  So, we made the commitment to cover it like no one else.  We wanted to show that you didn’t need to be on the ground in Russia to experience the World Cup.  You could just follow the COPA90 experience and you could be transported immediately on an incredible journey.  We plan to continue to create new ways to experience the game around all major tournaments.  (Here's how we did it

9) With the men’s FIFA World Cup behind us, the next big international competition is the Women’s FIFA World Cup in 2019. Copa90 has recently confirmed USWNT’s legendary Abby Wambach as part of the COPA90 team. What are your plans around the women’s game, the women’s World Cup and Abby?

Everyone is pretty excited to have Abby going the team, as she’s a legend in the game. We are cooking up some really great stuff for the Women’s World Cup. No question, we have intentions of going big. We are also thinking beyond and building “Woman + football preposition that will live across the business.  This isn’t just about covering the women’s game, which will be one of our focuses. It’s also about expanding our thinking and making COPA90 a place for all football fans, male and female as well as women in football and the women fan base. 

10) At Soccerex USA, Copa90’s General Manager for the Americas, Marc Horine, will be joining us, speaking on a panel discussing the current generation of sports fans, and the transition away from live sports towards original content. Do you believe that live sports and original content complement each other, or that they are both competing for views?  

I see them as two very different products but they can absolutely compliment one another.  For example, our Derby Days series is intended to help provide more context around these cherished rivalries.  Digging into the history, the community, the rituals provide a natural hype and understanding that make matches more exciting.  

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