The Business of Sports
Professor Dawn Hiscock
April 8th, 2015
The Effects of Social Media, Media, and Technology on European Soccer
Sports are a bonding agent for the entire world. With its youthful, energetic fan base,
sports have been able to keep up with modern trends while not losing sight of the
traditions that makes sports so enjoyable. European soccer, undoubtedly the
world’s most popular sport, commands a “relatively young, international fan base”
who are leading the charge into the shift into a technology-dominated world.
Innovations in social media, media, and technology are allowing soccer to be a
leader in the world’s plunge into the digital age.
Social media has grown at a rapid pace since the development of websites
such as MySpace and Facebook. The later has been the standard of success of today’s
social media channels, proving so with continued success, innovation, and growth.
The emergence of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has presented athletes and
sporting brands a whole new, efficient, and inexpensive channel of advertisement.
European soccer, the most popular sport in the world, dominates the social media
world. Cristiano Ronaldo just eclipsed Shakira as the most popular Facebook page
ever, with over 102 million likes (https://www.facebook.com/Cristiano?fref=ts). FC
Barcelona, Real Madrid C.F. and Leo Messi also made the top 12 most popular pages,
each amassing more than 75 million likes. ("Statistics of the Top Facebook Pages.").
Social media has become an extremely effective and efficient mean of advertisement
for players, clubs, and leagues. F.C. Barcelona, for example, can post a picture on
Facebook announcing the time and place of their next match with no advertising
costs (https://www.facebook.com/fcbarcelona?fref=ts). With their success on the
field and their massive social media following, 81 million likes on Facebook alone,
F.C. Barcelona is able to promote their event to literally millions of people with just a
click of a button. There is no cost for posting a picture, so clubs who use social media
effectively take advantage of this and promote themselves as much as possible on
Clubs can use social media to close the gap between fan and club. With
videos, pictures, and posts, clubs can give the fan media a way to get to know the
team and club better, something that was impossible in the past unless one went to
a game and got a tour of the facilities. F.C. Barcelona shows pictures of practices and
videos of casual player interviews, which allow the fans to get to know the side of
the player off the field. The relationship, which clubs can foster with the fans by
effectively advertising through social media, promotes strong growth and raises
awareness for the club.
Clubs are not the only group that can use social media to advertise
themselves. Players have been using social media extremely effectively to promote
their brand. Fans crave to get to know their favorite players. Now, through the
different channels, they can. Players can use the different social media channels to
promote themselves by giving an inside look in their lives. Two players who do
excellent jobs at self-advertising are Neymar Jr. and Leo Messi, star forwards for F.C.
Barcelona. Neymar is exceptionally good at promoting himself through Instagram
(https://instagram.com/neymarjr/). Pictures and videos of he with his friends,
practices, and simply goofing around allow fans to get and like to know the
personality of Neymar. The more Neymar connects with his fans and allows them a
view into his life, the more fans will want to see him play or buy his jersey, which
makes him money. Leo Messi, known to be a quiet person, utilizes Facebook well to
promote his values. Photos of he with his family, teammates, and advertisements of
causes which he supports gives fans insight that he is a family man who is a normal
guy and actively cares and supports causes that matter to him. It is easy to like a
person like that, who is a good person, who is very much like the average guy, yet is
the best soccer player in the world. Messi does an excellent job in making videos of
him speaking directly to his fans (https://www.facebook.com/LeoMessi/videos).
While he may not be a talkative person, by speaking to his fans through videos, he
shows that he cares about his fans and increases his likeability, which leads to
people buying his jerseys and Adidas gear, making him more money.
Athletic brands also use players’ social media channels in a similar manor for
free advertisement. The two largest athletic brands, Nike and Adidas, fully take
advantage of sponsoring players as a method of advertisement. Brands will have
their sponsored players talk about and show their favorite new products from their
sponsored brand. Nike’s soccer poster-boy, Cristiano Ronaldo, is always promoting
Nike gear or wearing Nike gear in his pictures. Not only does this show the inside
life of one of the best soccer players in the world, but it is free advertisement for
Nike. When a fan sees Cristiano Ronaldo wearing a cool Nike hat or a new pair of
boots, the fan wants to be like Ronaldo, so he/she will buy the gear, making Nike
and Ronaldo money. Currently, Ronaldo’s profile picture on Facebook is he smiling
and pointing to his signature Nike boot. He is showing how excited he is to have his
own custom boot, and being a polarizing figure, convinces many to buy the boot for
Nike. Messi is a similar type of advertisement for Nike’s rival, Adidas. Messi also has
his own signature boot, which he promotes through pictures and videos for Adidas
as well. Sport, in particular European soccer, has taken advantage social media to
promote players, brands, and clubs. The free advertisement and ability to connect
with fans have fostered growth in all accounts.
Television and Internet are also having a profound effect on European soccer
and it’s growth worldwide. The Internet has allowed fans from around the world to
connect with their favorite teams. Other than the aforementioned social media
channels, Internet websites such as ESPN FC (http://www.espnfc.com) give
American fans the opportunity to keep track of European soccer from across the
Atlantic. Since American soccer is not on the same level as European soccer,
Americans might tend to follow European soccer more closely, which is great for
European soccer. Websites such as ESPNFC.com and UEFA.com allow the game to
expand to non-European countries, which only develops the game further, creating
more revenue and popularity for the sport.
Television has been a huge asset for the growth of sport. However, in the
past, European clubs have been able to individually negotiate television rights
rather than as a league. For the 2015-16 season, for example, F.C. Barcelona agreed
to a deal with Telefonica for a whopping 140 million Euros, compared to smaller
clubs in La Liga, who might receive 18 million Euros from television (Corrigan,
Dermot. "Barcelona Agree €140m Deal to Sell TV Rights - Report."). Due to this
discrepancy, larger clubs in leagues with no league-wide television contract, such as
F.C. Barcelona or Real Madrid in La Liga, are allowed to find their own deals. Being
the larger clubs, they are able to command a larger television contract, leaving the
smaller clubs to only be able to negotiate minuscule deals in comparison. This leads
to a huge imbalance in viewership in leagues like La Liga, which drastically restricts
the smaller clubs’ viewership and severely limits their opportunity for growth. On
the other hand, leagues with a more balanced approach, such as the Premier league,
offer more balanced revenue sharing, leading to better overall competition between
teams – La Liga has been dominated by Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona for as long as
anyone can remember. The better overall competition in the Premier League
prompted Sky and BT Sport to pay a record 5.136 Billion Euros for television rights
in the 2015-16 season (Smith, Ben. "What Does Record TV Deal Mean?). This way,
lower tier clubs in the Premier League are able to bring in more revenue, allowing
them to purchase better players, keeping the balance of competition more equal
than their La Liga counterparts.
There are other television programs about European soccer as well. Barça
TV, for example, is a television channel owned by F.C. Barcelona. It specializes in all
things F.C. Barcelona: soccer, handball, basketball, etc. It cannot, however, broadcast
actual games. The channel must resort to showing highlights and discussion based
programing since the rights to televise games go to Telefonica. Barça TV is very
similar to ESPN in its programming, except it cannot broadcast full games. While
Barça TV is available to most people in Barcelona and Spain, Telefonica and the
channels that broadcast full games are not. People are forced to go to bars or
restaurants to view games, since many times, they cannot afford the subscription to
view games. This strategy does promote game attendance, however. According to
Statbunker.com, top-tier clubs F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid are first and third
respectively in average game attendance of UEFA clubs as of the 2013-14 season,
each averaging over 70,000 fans per game (Home Attendance UEFA Champions
League 13/14.). With high attendance numbers, the powerful clubs are able to
collect more ticket revenue on top of the massive television rights deals that they
Along with the growth of social media, television, and Internet in European
soccer, the sport has also seen technological development within the game. One
example of technology influencing the game is goal-line cameras installed in the goal
posts so that referees can more accurately judge what is a goal and what is not. The
technology, called “Hawk-Eye” and “GoalRef,” is quite expensive for teams,
reportedly costing about “$200,000 per stadium” (Bell, Jack. "Soccer to Adopt Goal-
Line Technology). The technology’s necessity is debated, however. UEFA President,
Michel Platini, is strongly against the new technology, being quoted in 2010 as
saying, “Eyes have always functioned and have always worked, so I am more in
favor of testing the experience of whether the referee there has seen whether the
ball went in or not, let's wait and see how the [five-official system] works before
seeing whether goal-line technology is important" (Press, Associated. "UEFA's
Michel Platini: Video Not needed). The technology was approved, nevertheless, and
it was implemented exponentially to arrive in time for the 2014 World Cup.
Disputed goals have raised the question if this technology is necessary. Of course,
there are traditionalists, like Michel Platini, and pro-innovation supporters, who are
in favor of new technology, in every sport. Whether or not the technology is able to
take a permanent place in soccer, such as instant replay has in the National Football
League or Major League Baseball, is up to the leaders of the game.
Ultimately, the growth of social media has led to athletes, clubs, and leagues
to be able to effectively increase advertisement efficiency by freely posting on media
channels. Social media allows the groups to connect with their fans and relate to
them. As the fans see more into their favorite player’s lives, they are more likely to
buy related products. Media, television and the Internet to be specific, has a direct
influence on competition within individual leagues. Revenue sharing and league-
wide television deals like the Premier League’s new 5 Billion Euro deal allows the
entire league to be more competitive and fan friendly, unlike La Liga, who allows
teams to individually negotiate television rights. Lastly, innovations in technology,
such as goal line cameras, are the source of controversy in the soccer world. The
integrity of the game is questioned when referees are not trusted to make calls on
their own. However, other major sporting leagues have trusted technology for
instant replay to make critical decisions, which is why soccer is likely to follow.
Bell, Jack. "Soccer to Adopt Goal-Line Technology." The New York Times. The New
York Times, 05 July 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
Corrigan, Dermot. "Barcelona Agree €140m Deal to Sell TV Rights - Report."
ESPNFC.com. N.p., 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
"Home Attendance UEFA Champions League 13/14." Statbunker Football. N.p., n.d.
Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
Press, Associated. "UEFA's Michel Platini: Video Not needed." ESPN. ESPN Internet
Ventures, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.
Smith, Ben. "What Does Record TV Deal Mean?" BBC Sport. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web.
08 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/31386483>.
"Statistics of the Top Facebook Pages." Socialbakers.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.