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“We are the only football club in the world that does not monetise social media, ironically there is a lot about how we supposedly want to monetise everything”, explained Manchester United’s CEO of Media Phil Lynch to SportsPro.

While the football industry rushes to take advantage from new income sources like NFTs, the red devils are still about engagement, focusing on collecting first-party data first.

In 2019, out from 155M social media followers, the CRM database only contained 36.1M records. If one of the most loved clubs on the planet only controls data of 23% of its fanbase, are followers really fans?

Based on what knowledge are new fan engagement opportunities being leveraged?

The big picture

Fan tokens have emerged as a new source of engagement for international fans, having generated over 200 million dollars for the football industry since last year. However, better engagement is what will ultimately drive better results, not better fan tokens.

Products like NFTs are not the business sports organisations are in, entertainment is the industry where football can stay relevant in the long run.

Facebook recent move to new name Meta clearly positions the company in the business of social technology, beyond just one of its products, social media.

Likewise, social media followers cannot be just be identified as fans because they clicked one button. Horizm’s report sized Premier League’s digital inventory worth 432 million dollars. But, again, how many followers are really fans?

Redefining digital

“The goal of any digital area should be to disappear in three or four years”, stated Dídac Lee, digital expert and former Head of Digital at FC Barcelona. Digital can be part of the strategy, but it should not be the goal.

All Blacks’ 80% of international fanbase grew from a 20% of early adopters who where eager to try, trust and recommend. In the way of internationalising the business, football properties cannot afford to forget about hard-die fans’ influence.

It is not even about athletes, merchandising or content, but about the stories fans tell themselves about any given club. About their sense of community, belonging, identity, status or connection to what matters to them.

It is vital to draw a clear line between asking for attention and building trust, between adding clicks and earning advocacy, and between trending opportunities and data-driven decisions.

The right look

Theodore Levitt‘s concept Marketing Myopia in 1960 suggested to shift from product to consumer orientation. Effective products can only be designed with accurate and real data as well as adequate understanding for what we call “fans” and “engagement”.

Technology has the power to make football, the number one sport in the world, better. As marketers, our job is to transform data in to change, avoiding to only focus on selling products for unknown audiences.

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