How digital storytelling and gaming can lift the profile of a football competition

Spain’s La Liga competition have realised the power of digital storytelling and gaming, implementing strategies successfully to engage fans across the world.

Alfredo Bermejo, the director of digital strategy at La Liga, recently stated that building a connection with supporters is a priority, through the use of a variety of social media channels: “We need to know what the fans like, which platforms they engage with and what kind of content they like.

“Social media provides the possibility to go global and to have a scaled approach to the fans,” he said at the Social Football Summit conference.

Social media engagement data provides evidence that relevant stories of an international player at a modest club in the league, will have a bigger impact than posts about a superstar at Real Madrid or Barcelona.

“I think a common goal for all of us is to go beyond the big names and the big clubs and to try to tell stories and make other clubs and players become known by the audience,” Bermejo explained.

“We try to identify which stories are relevant within markets. Sometimes players from smaller teams have a bigger reach than the big stars because they belong to a certain territory where they are number one.”

As an example, Chinese international Wu Lei signed for Espanyol in January of 2019 with the club becoming the most-watched team on Chinese TV.  La Liga’s follower count on social media network Weibo also soared by 82% in the second half of the 2018/19 season, due to Lei’s arrival.

Similarly, in the Japanese market, Eibar have utilised the signing of Takashi Inui in 2015 to tell appropriate stories about the player and continue to build the club’s profile in the country.

The competition’s social media metrics reach their highest during the matches of each round, therefore, the use of gaming to keep fans entertained for the whole week is vitally important.

Bermejo explained: “It’s an area where data gives us an advantage. With the traffic to our official website, we have big spikes during the weekend and then, during the week, we have lower valleys. What we try to do is to generate content abroad that helps us to minimise that.”

The league’s fantasy football gaming service, La Liga Fantasy Marca, has been a huge success.

“One of our biggest investments has been in our fantasy football game,” Bermejo stated. “When we created it, we had a belief that it would help boost consumption of more matches than just the traditional Real Madrid or FC Barcelona matches.”

“When you create a team, you have to select players from different teams so the biggest match for you during a weekend may not be one involving the biggest teams,” he continued. “It may be the match where you have the most players from your fantasy line-up.”

Fans can choose which team is their favourite before selecting a squad in the fantasy game, with the data portraying a broad spread of interest and engagement with different clubs in the league.

This is significant for La Liga and for its broadcasters, as information like this is shared between both parties in the best interests of strengthening their relationship.

“In the past, leagues used to sell the rights to broadcasters and then do nothing more,” he concluded. “Now, the model has completely changed. We’re moving from B2B to B2C business, where the relationship with the client and with the fans is getting more and more important.”

Other recent examples of La Liga connecting with the gaming world include Sevilla’s commercial agreement with Fortnite, where their kit will feature in the game along with more than 20 other football teams across the world.

As of May 2020, Fortnite has amassed over 350 million players globally, with Sevilla and La Liga tapping into the potential of the gaming giant through this beneficial partnership.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Los Angeles FC teams up with Foundation Fighting Blindness to host vision impaired fans

Major League Soccer club Los Angeles FC is teaming up with the Foundation Fighting Blindness to host blind and low vision fans at LAFC matches at Banc of California Stadium this season.

Leveraging the team’s partnership with audio technology Mixhalo, fans will have access to crystal-clear, real-time play-by-play in English, featuring the call of ESPN LA’s Dave Denholm and the Spanish audio featuring Armando Aguayo on 980 AM La Mera Mera.

All fans at Banc of California can now use their phone, headphones and the free mobile Mixhalo app to listen to Mixhalo’s high-quality live audio for an immersive experience while watching at the stadium.

As the first-ever MLS team to adopt the technology, LAFC announced its collaboration with Mixhalo in December 2020. With fans now returning to Banc of California Stadium at full capacity, Mixhalo audio will be available to all fans at every LAFC home game throughout the remainder of the 2022 season.

“LAFC matches are for everyone,” LAFC Co-President and CBO Larry Freedman told lafc.com.

“We are constantly focusing on improving our fan experience and making our games more accessible to all. We are proud to welcome fans from the Foundation Fighting Blindness community this season to experience LAFC matches in person through Mixhalo’s incredible technology.”

Guests from the Foundation Fighting Blindness community will attend select LAFC home games and have the opportunity to meet with Denholm and Aguayo before the game.

“We are honoured to be partnering with LAFC in making the games more accessible for our blind and low vision community,” Jason Menzo said to lafc.com, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

“We look forward to the technology rolling out into other stadiums, not only in the United States, but globally.

Mixhalo Head of Sports Doug Holtzman added:

“Mixhalo elevates the live sports experience for everyone, and we’re thrilled that vision impaired LAFC fans can enjoy a better experience at matches this season.”

“With live calls from Dave Denholm directly in your ear – it really doesn’t get much better than that.”

FIFA and EA Sports end 30-year deal

As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, gaming giant EA Sports and world football governing body FIFA have parted ways.

The partnership dated back to 1993, when FIFA International Soccer was launched for the SEGA Genesis.

Their current partnership was set to expire at the conclusion of the Qatar World Cup, with a new deal aiming to branch out into new areas – including NFTs.

It was reported that EA made a ‘significant offer’ for an eight-year exclusivity deal with FIFA for all of its Esports and gaming rights. However, the deal was knocked back, according to Reuters, as FIFA did not want the rights all with one company.

FIFA 23 will be the last game made in collaboration between the two organisations, set to release in late September this year, worldwide.

The FIFA series was estimated at the start of 2021 to have sold over 325 million units, according to ForbesFIFA 18 is the equal 40th highest selling video game of all time, estimated at 24 million units across all platforms.

FIFA confirmed it would still produce video games with third party developers, while EA will rebrand the FIFA series under the title EA Sports FC. The new series would include licensees such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which at this stage has authentic coverage, as all players are face scanned and the full broadcast packages akin to real life are featured in the game.

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