Football clubs like Barca, Atlético de Madrid, Juventus or Paris Saint Germain are launching to sell ‘tokens’ to monetize the loyalty of their fans.
Ads show wide-eyed children entering large football stadiums hand in hand with their parents for the first time, but the football industry has long sought the business away from ticket sales. It is an effort that began at the beginning of this century, when the big clubs began to spend part of the preseason in countries like China, Japan and the United States; now, with the stadiums turned into empty shells, it is accelerating. The evangelization of global fans, from Vietnam to California, is entering a new phase, and in the same way that the internet and social networks changed the relationship between clubs and fans, now blockchain opens new avenues of relationship, and business.
That is at least the hope of Alexandre Dreyfus, a French businessman, practically self-taught, who has been setting up digital businesses since 1995, as he proudly tells by videoconference from Malta, where he resides. After dedicating himself to online gaming, last year he set up Chiliz, whose brand is partners.com, in Spanish for the whole world. It is a platform for the purchase and exchange of tokens – digital tokens – for the fans of, for the moment, eight top-level clubs, such as Juventus, Paris Saint Germain and Atlético de Madrid. One of the most brilliant, Fútbol Club Barcelona, will announce this month the launch date of its own, which it is already promoting on social networks.
With these digital tokens, the fan, from anywhere in the world, “will have the right to participate in polls and voting, without feeling discriminated against” for not living in the global soccer capitals. For example, deciding what song is played in the stadium when the team goes out onto the field or the images of the changing room tunnel. In return you will pay two euros for each token.
Socios.com works with its own cryptocurrency, which is called after the promoting company, Chiliz, and the value of the token fluctuates. These are characteristics that bring partners.com closer to the world of crypto, which carries negative connotations linked to speculation and fraud and is scrutinized by financial regulatory bodies. “We use tokens because we are a global company, and that’s easier for fans: in arcades they were already used decades ago,” explains Dreyfus. “And we turned to blockchain because to do something new we need a new technology.” But, he assures, in the price fluctuations of the tokens there is only an innocent bit of gamification to make the product more attractive: “It is a product with limited units, like the ticket for a good game: you can make money with it if you resell it. , but it is not your intention ”.
If you saw Chendo play, this is not for you
For José Bonal, professor of Sports Marketing at the European University, the business of partners.com has, a priori, all the sense in the world: “In recent years, clubs have worked hard to be global, with tours and academies, And now they enter a second phase, in which they try to convert that new fan base into income. What’s the use of having a million followers in India if all I get are likes on Facebook? ”He asks.
Tokenization is the way to foster a feeling of belonging to the club with its new fans, more unfaithful than the natives. “In Asia they have a more short-term view, linked to the great stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and winning dynasties. And they can be from different clubs in different leagues ”, continues the sports marketing expert. That is why you have to offer them something special.
Dreyfus exemplifies with a visit he made to a Juventus fan club in Singapore: “They breathe every minute thinking about the team, but most likely they will never be in the stadium. What they want is to feel heard, to be part of a community. On Twitter they are just one more number ”.
Therefore, the business is only understood from a global perspective: 80% of PSG tokens, which are currently the most successful on partners.com, circulate outside of France, in 53 countries; in the case of the Turkish Galatasaray, 76% were acquired in other markets, explains Dreyfus. But it also has a strong generational component: “You are precisely the type of person who is not addressed to partners.com,” says the businessman to the journalist, over 40 years old, a fan of one of the teams in his city and an occasional visitor to his stadium.
Mature, athletic (club, not physical) and sentimental, the journalist wonders where the old football was. “Sport is a reflection of society and not the other way around, so it is not that the world of sport changes, but that society changes,” explains David Moscoso, professor of Sports Sociology at the Pablo de Olavide University.
Moscoso supports his arguments with data from the latest Sports Habits Survey in Spain, prepared in 2015 by the then Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.
In 2015, the percentage of people who attend sporting events fell by 13 points, to 35%. And five years ago, 45% of sports fans were informed about their clubs through the internet, and 24% through social networks.
The profile of this “hypertechnologized” fan supports Moscoso’s prognosis: this is an unstoppable generational change that is going to continue. These are men between 15 and 35 years old, interested above all in football, but also in, in this order, motor racing, tennis, motorcycling and basketball. And the pandemic accelerates the process, he predicts, in a general trend that ranges from the approach to ‘eSports’ by the International Olympic Committee to the digital sessions of personal training, so in vogue during confinements.
“Before he used to hook up at a disco and now he hooks up online. In the same way, football is going to have a technological component sooner rather than later ”, assures Bonal. But “the romanticism is not lost; becomes. Each generation lives it in its own way ”. The excitement of going to the stadium hand in hand with the father is pure 20th century; in the XXI the excitement has digital support.