Unlocking sport’s digital potential is crucial for Africa – Mario Leo

In a recent interview with CampsBay Media Chief Strategist, Lolade Adewuyi, Mario Leo, the founder and CEO of Germany-based RESULT Sports, one of the leading digital sports agencies in the world spoke of the importance of unlocking the digital opportunities for sports around the continent. 

Below we reproduce part of the Q&A:

Lolade Adewuyi: While I am a keen follower of your work at RESULT Sports, for many people that are just getting to know you, can you please tell us more about what you do at RESULT Sports?

Mario Leo: I founded RESULT Sports in 2008 and the sole focus and purpose of RESULT is to unlock the digital potential for athletes, clubs, leagues and federations. We have our own in-house monitoring system where we follow the digital events on 28 social platforms, the mobile app space and of course the internet of things. We work today with 35 clubs in eight European football leagues, plus Fluminense in Brazil. We build and support the execution of the digital strategy, we measure reach and engagement impact on the local, regional, national and global level. This monitoring enters into a digital asset catalogue and provides clubs, leagues and federations with a new revenue stream. We release twice a year a Global Digital Football Benchmark Report to a global audience. I personally launched now an initiative called “From Africa For Africa”, where I would like to share our knowledge and work with federations, leagues and clubs to bring African football and the huge potential into the global football map.

LA: May I ask, for the person who is hearing about digital and sports for the first time, what is digital? Why is it important for sport?

ML: Digital is anything happening on social networks, especially the big four (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter) and the internet. The Mobile device is huge in Africa, especially in Nigeria. To give you an example – currently, Enyimba leads the digital NPFL ranking with about 100,000 followers on social media. When Victor Moses signed for Chelsea, 2.3 million Nigerians became fans of Chelsea within ten days of his signing. Digital is everything online – and it happens so fast. So it is crucial to get this topic onto the club agenda and have a strategy for it. We want to raise awareness, support initiatives and especially the NPFL, its clubs and the Super Eagles have such an amazing [fan base] so we must unlock the potential.

LA: Looking at the low figures for Enyimba on social media compared with the number of Nigerians that followed Chelsea via Victor Moses, what do you think NPFL clubs and the Super Eagles can do to harness and unlock the potentials in digital?

ML: One challenge is the resources, the current knowledge of the potential and the methods, including content. Digital and all social media channels act as marketing research tools. Why is “Visit Rwanda” on the sleeve of Arsenal jerseys? [It is] because Arsenal can prove to the Rwandan authorities how many people they reach and how many people are willing to come to Rwanda for a holiday. It’s all possible in digital. Current communication by [Nigerian] clubs is mainly or solely on match days, that’s it. But the clubs have so many stories to share -the role they play in their community, the programmes they offer for children and so on. The editorial planning is an important part – they must not offer the same content on all channels.

LA: Do tell, how many people on the average manage the social media channels of the big clubs in Europe? And how can NPFL teams improve in the face of tight resources?

ML: One challenge the European teams have identified and solved is the following: the Media & Communications department has been the only cost centre in a club. Because Marketing earns money with sponsors, Ticketing through selling tickets, Merchandise by selling merchandise. Since all want to sell products and present partners on social media and website, the communications team got a service fee allocation. So it is not a cost centre, but a service department. And it’s not only journalistic – to spread information, but to strategically plan, which content comes to which platform. With this change, true growth was enabled. Manchester City has 55 people in their digital department offering 16 languages and reaching every day millions of people in any language. The eight quarterfinal teams of UEFA Champions League all have more than 20 people allocated to this role. These numbers are high but don’t forget, they have been growing now for 8 years. It’s an evolution. I don’t want Africa and Nigeria to fall behind. The opportunity is out there – we just need to realize the potential, define a clear plan and strategy and execute to become the leading nation in West Africa. But it’s not only European teams – look at Al Ahly, but Zamalek, Raja Casablanca – lots of North African teams also have a huge following already. Newer teams like Pyramids FC or Cape Town City FC are building their brand around the digital opportunity.LA: The Ghanaian clubs are already doing better than NPFL clubs, so we have a lot to catch up on in the West African market. A question now from Andrew Randa: What are the recent trends in digital sports you reckon will be a major factor in the industry in the coming years?

ML: The biggest one is certainly that the mobile device (smartphone) will be the dominant device of the future. The latest content trend goes away from pure information sharing, attendance, goals, results – it’s about entertaining the audience. Each platform in use gets a role:

Facebook = Highlight Channel

Instagram = Entertainment Channel

Twitter = Live News Channel

YouTube = Video Archive

Monetizing digital, sponsors becoming presenting partners for the content or virtual player sponsors – all these are areas of quick growth at the moment

LA: Now let’s talk about monetization, this has been on top of the discussion of digital media for brands. How are the leading European clubs monetizing their huge following and what can we learn locally?

ML: Each sponsor pays an annual fee, depending on the format and frequency. But in general we talk about for one format, let’s take the team line up for about USD$60k per season, and that’s non-exclusive. So a car manufacturer like Hyundai presents all score update formats. All sponsors do get an image transfer of their brand and product. Their benefit, the emotions and passion of sports. Sport, especially football has a huge societal impact, sponsors are keen.

LA: That is an interesting way to monetize social media for clubs and leagues

ML: Yes, we work since 2014 in this area and we can provide a content catalogue. The benefit we bring additionally: since we monitor we know exactly the average reach and engagement this format gets. So we set the expectations and if we overachieve the anticipated results, we negotiate a bonus.

LA: So this is negotiated as a package in the original sponsorship deal?

ML: In principle, yes, but it’s a new sponsorship layer, which is often much higher than selling signboards in the stadium because the sponsor knows [not] too many people are at the game. But digital we can measure every click and ensure to reach the 100K. The main sponsor and the kit supplier are exclusive. They are usually granted digital rights, but all other formats are to be sold.

For the rest of the interview, visit this link

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