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Big clubs roll out their own sporting apps

Football clubs are taking their sporting apps now more seriously.

Recognising their unique global reach, the game's biggest teams are now seeking to consolidate their reach by introducing their own branded apps. Beyond other sporting entities, football clubs boast enormous global reach that transcends geographic, national, cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic borders.

Earlier this year, Manchester United took the next step, by announcing the global launch of its own digital app, which will make its internal television channel, MUTV, available in 165 countries.

To help the club roll out the launch, Manchester United hired Phil Lynch and appointed him to the position of CEO of Media. Lynch was previously the head of global media and content at Yahoo and is credited with overseeing over 3,500 content partnerships during his time there.

Meanwhile, in January 2016, Sina Sports and Manchester United announced a long-term partnership in which Sina Sports became the club's official digital media partner in China and the exclusive broadcaster of MUTV in Mainland China.

Li says: “Reaching, interacting and communicating with fans through digital and social is much better than traditional television, which is a very one-way street. On digital and social, clubs can easily build a strong, engaged community that truly feels connected to the club, in addition to receiving instant feedback from their fan communities.

"With traditional television, it is a very isolated experience for the fan and beyond very basic ratings, the club isn't receiving much feedback on the content they produce."

Li confirms United is the most popular club in China, but explains that this is in large part due to the club's substantial efforts to make meaningful connections with fans in China.

“It's easier to hold training camps and pre-season tours in Europe and United States, but Manchester United and other clubs who are serious about capturing market share actively choose to come to China."

Jose Angel Sanchez, Real Madrid's general manager, offers in a nutshell why football clubs are entering the sports app space.

“Seventy years ago when the soccer economy was based on ticket sales, the president of Real Madrid built a huge stadium to house 120,000 people," says Sanchez.

“He thought that having biggest stadium would provide the biggest revenues so he could be able to acquire rights to biggest players in the world. That's exactly what Santiago Bernabéu did. Now we have over 450 million fans so we have to build the virtual stadium to put them all in, and understand what they are expecting from us so the club can benefit from what they want."

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