The Founder and CEO of Chiliz stresses the potential of digital assets to power a new generation of sports membership programmes as he discusses the “Engagement and Monetization of International Fans” during the ‘Sports Tomorrow Congress’, hosted by the Barça Innovation Hub at the Mobile World Congress.
Globalisation has changed the rules for professional sports off the pitch. Top teams have more fans than ever before, but these fans are no longer a homogeneous community stemming right from the heart of the clubs, they are made up of diverse communities spread all over the world.
They share a passion for their team, but each community has a different way of expressing and experiencing it. Leading industry experts agree that clubs’ ability to understand the needs of their fans and offer them tailored products and experiences will be key for football’s global powerhouses to continue thriving.
The Chiliz foundational team identified two critical aspects which apply to all global fans: the desire to be officially recognised by their clubs and to have a voice within the community. Delivering a solution to those needs in a way that was scalable for the clubs was the mission that inspired the creation of Socios.com and Fan Tokens in 2018.
Socios.com took its name from the trademark member ownership model of the two top Spanish clubs (FC Barcelona and Real Madrid), since the possibility of participating in fan-related decisions was one of the perks of the platform’s proposition, as well as giving fans the opportunity to earn rewards for their loyalty.
Fast-forward five years, Socios.com works with over 150 partners across 25 countries and 10 different sport verticals, and Fan Tokens have shown their potential to power a new generation of membership programmes that fans across the world are increasingly requesting, as the Fan Relationship Index Report points out in its recently launched 2023 edition.
This annual independent report, highlighted by Chiliz CEO Alexandre Dreyfus during his recent keynote at the Sports Tomorrow Congress hosted by the Barça Innovation Hub during the World Mobile Congress 2023, digs into how football clubs engage with their fan bases. The study estimates that top clubs could make up to €850m in additional digital revenue if they applied similar Moneyball data analysis techniques they use to track the performance of their players on the pitch to analyse their fans off the pitch, and then deliver new products tailored to their needs. The study suggests that blockchain can be the catalyst for change and that digital assets have the potential to become the backbone of a new generation of loyalty schemes, more aligned with the needs of global fans.
Fans demand new loyalty schemes
According to the report, 62 percent of fans in the UK are demanding updated membership schemes including new perks, such as discounts on tickets and merch, voting rights, access to exclusive experiences and, notably, a scheme that rewards them for their loyalty in a similar way that airlines have been doing for years. And for this they are willing to pay up to 25 euros per month. Data shows that 70 percent NBA fans in the US also support a European football team, and that the vast majority would be willing to sign up for a loyalty programme.
“There is a big fan base keen to invest in their passion for their club, in the same way that they invest in fashion brands when they buy clothes or shoes or in a music band when they purchase a ticket for a concert. Clubs need to think about the value that they give these global fans in exchange for the time, the money and the interest they put into their clubs,” Dreyfus said.
Fan Tokens are already providing sport clubs with a platform to develop this type of proposition. In 2022, nearly 2,000 Fan Polls were launched on Socios.com, giving fans the chance to make unprecedented calls such as choosing stadium celebration songs, kit designs and more, with over 25,000 earned rewards linked to their clubs, ranging from signed merch to exclusive VIP experiences.
Fan Tokens are also allowing clubs to own the relationship with their fans, something that is critical for them as Dreyfus stressed during his talk: “Clubs need to own the relationship with their fan bases instead of relying on third parties, such as social media channels, broadcasters and others. Clubs have millions of followers on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, but that doesn’t mean they have 50 million active users, let alone 50 million clients, because they don’t own their data. Digital assets -Fan Tokens and other blockchain products- give clubs the chance to own that data.”
Socios.com, which works with some of the biggest clubs in the world, has seen exponential growth since it was launched in 2018. It currently has 1.8 million users across 160 countries, but Alexandre Dreyfus estimates it could take up to 10 years for Fan Tokens to reach its full potential. In the meantime, he added, Socios.com will continue educating sports fans in the technology and the utility of their product.