“Either we have our platform or we will depend on Amazon and Facebook”

the president of LaLiga, Javier Thebesdefended that sports entities will have to have “an important digital platform” in the future or they will end up “depending on Amazon and Facebook” during a colloquium on digital transformation in sports at the ISDE Sports Convention forum.

“Either we make sports companies an important digital platform or we will end up depending on Amazon or Facebook,” said the first executive of the employers’ association of professional soccer clubs, who considered that these large technology companies are “the ones with the data”, while European companies have not been able to unite so as not to depend on them.

Tebas highlighted the work of his organization to transform itself digitally, with an investment of 240 million euros started in 2014 with the support of his clubs, which has resulted in 250 of the entity’s 700 employees being dedicated exclusively to the digital area.

As a result, he explained that LaLiga is in charge of digitizing other entities such as the World Padel Tour padel circuit and will soon announce an agreement to undertake “the digitization of some very important games in the world of sport”.

Its data collection tools and use of artificial intelligence are also applied to its commercial agreements, which allow it to increase the sales of its partners through the information they have on LaLiga fans. “Every weekend we sell more than 15,000 burger orders to Burger King with our digital strategy,” he said.

The participants of the colloquium agreed that, beyond specific cases, Spanish sport in general has not been digitally transformed.

“Many clubs do not have control of their CRM (customer relationship management tools), the mechanics to know if the fans have arrived or not at the stadium, and there are clubs with 600-800 million followers that they have to capitalize on,” Rodrigo stressed. Miranda, CEO of the ISDI business school.

To improve this situation, the Plan for the Promotion of the Sports Sector, which is part of the recovery plans after the pandemic with European funds and is endowed with 300 million euros, has an item earmarked for digitization. “25% of that investment (75 million) is for digital transformation, although we know that this amount will not mean a complete change,” admitted the general secretary of the Higher Sports Council (CSD), Pablo Castillo.

New technological trends, in the debate

The debate also exchanged views on new technological trends, such as NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which Tebas explained have allowed football clubs to fill the gap left by the ban on bookmaker advertising, of about 90 million euros (“Now we have received even more,” he said) and the Metaverse.

Gonzalo Martín-Villa, CEO of Telefónica IoT & Big Data Tech, admitted that the metaverse “is not new” compared to previous experiences of virtual worlds such as Second Life, but defended that companies have to “be there”. “You have to have long or short lights, do the basic things but be there in the new ones,” concluded the executive of the company that, among other projects, has designed the metaverse of the Rafa Nadal Academy.

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