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Volume 10 No. 24


When FC Barcelona board member and New Technologies Dir DIDAC LEE began his tenure with the club in July '10, Barcelona’s online presence consisted of little more than a team website with a basic design and a single mobile app. The La Liga side was ranked No. 5 in the world on social media at that time and its website featured a “very old design,” Lee told SBD Global. Lee, who is also the CEO of Inspirit, a technology group that integrates various companies operating in different sectors including online marketing and software engineering, said that he initially viewed his position as Barcelona’s technology director as “a challenge and a huge opportunity.” Under Lee’s direction, Barcelona has become “the No. 1 club in the world on social networks,” Lee said. Barcelona now offers fans 12 mobile apps and a website that is available in nine different languages. FCB is also very active in social media, with involvement in numerous social channels ranging from Facebook and Twitter to Google+ and Pinterest.

Lee discussed the role of new technology in reaching Barcelona’s global fan base, the club’s plans for the future and how it defines its success in comparison with other top football clubs.

Q: How does FC Barcelona’s website and online presence aim to stand out from the competition?
Didac Lee: I think FCB is a global brand. We developed nine websites in nine languages. Some of these languages are local versions. We create local content for local markets. That is the most important thing here. For example, our site in China, it is not the same as the traditional Catalan website. It is on a Chinese website designed for our Chinese audience, with Chinese content and content specific for the fans in China. For example, if it is the Chinese new year, we talk about the Chinese new year.

Q: How would you describe the club’s overall goal in terms of new technology?
Lee: Normally when you talk about technology, the technology is not a goal by itself. It is a tool to reach a goal. My goal is how can we reach our global fan base and how can we be a more global club. This is the key to everything that I’m doing in the technological area.

Q: How does Barcelona measure its web presence, determine success and compare to competitors?
Lee: We do benchmark with the rest of the clubs of the European leagues, especially the Champions League. What we try to do is to increase our traffic month by month. We compare with the four months of last season. We don’t really use benchmarks with other clubs in terms of numbers. We try to compare ourselves with ourselves, but from one year ago. The reason is FCB as a club is a little bit different from other clubs, in terms of the number of sports sections we have, in terms of the kind of club that belongs to its members. There are a lot of things that make it a little bit different from if you compare it with an English club. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. This is why it is very hard to compare the amount of traffic we are having with an English club. This is why we try to compare ourselves with last season’s website, to see how we are increasing, decreasing, etc.

Q: How has the club’s online presence grown since you joined?
Lee: Three and a half years ago, all the technology of the club was the website with a very old design. It was the same website from 10 years ago, it was not very new. FCB was the No. 5 team with social media. We just had one mobile app. I thought this was a challenge and a huge opportunity because from my point of view, the technology is a tool to reach our global fan base. Everybody thought that FCB is a global club, a global brand, but this makes it very hard to reach your fan base. The only way to reach your fan base is using your technology. My commitment with the club is to use the technology to be more global.

Q: How did Barcelona go about achieving this growth?
Lee: What we did: The first thing we did was to put the technology into the strategic plan of the club. Today, this is very easy to see, but almost four years ago, the technology was only a tool for fixes and leaks. One of the first things was to bring technology into our strategic plan. The second thing was to build a very strong online team for our strategy. The strategy is very easy. The first step of the strategy is to create and generate a global audience. The way to do this is to focus on social networks. What we do is to look for our fans, wherever they are. If an FCB fan is on Facebook, we should go and do it very well on Facebook. If our fans are on Twitter, we go to Twitter and try to do the best we can. This is the first step: we generate the audience. The second step is to engage our audience. How do we engage our global audience? We engage our audience by providing them local content for every market. This is why we created nine local websites for each market, etc. The third step of our strategy is to monetize. How we monetize is to engage the audience. We monetize by selling our goods like ticketing and merchandising, or digital goods like mobile apps, etc. Or [we monetize] by providing this audience to our sponsors, and we can generate value through the sponsorships.

Q: How would you describe the results from this process?
Lee: In these three years, what we’ve achieved: Currently, FCB is the No. 1 sports club in the world on social networks. I believe it is leading 14 social channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc. With our nine local websites, we are very proud of these. And currently we are working on our Turkish website. We are leading the sports mobile apps industry. We have a catalog of 12 mobile apps. These are the main highlights.

Q: What are Barcelona’s plans for the immediate future in the field of new technology?
Lee: We are working on the [Camp Nou] stadium, how the technology can embrace the matchday experience. And we are working on our social CRM [Customer Relationship Management] project. Social CRM, what we are doing is we try to create our CRM based on all our fans on social media.

Q: Is there one particular area of new technology where FCB is seeking growth and improvement?
Lee: It is a good question because we’ve been talking a lot about it in our building. I really love the concept of the CRM [Customer Relationship Management – a model for managing company-customer interaction], the social CRM, or a CRM based on Facebook. I think this can be a very important asset to activate sponsorship. In the near future, the way brands sponsor clubs will change a little bit. This is why we are working on it, to be prepared for how we can face this challenge.

Q: What changes do you anticipate in this regard?
Lee: The change will be how a brand can cement compartments in the market. How can we reach the potential customer or partner? It’s more about marketing. Another project where I think we can become more global is for everything to be integrated with video content.

Q: Where does Barcelona look for inspiration for new ideas?
Lee: I like to benchmark with entertainment companies like Disney. Although we are playing football as well as other sports, and these are our main businesses, in my opinion, from the digital business management perspective, we are closer to the entertainment industry than to a sports business. One example is our agreement with the video game brand EA Sports.

Q: How does Barcelona’s technology department work alongside other divisions of the club?
Lee: Actually the whole technology area is pretty transversal. All the areas of the club use technology. There is technology in the communications department; it is used in the economic area, the marketing area, etc. So it’s not a specific area, because this area has a transversal role into our organization. My role is to be the board member in charge of the technological area.

Q: Are there particular countries or regions where Barcelona is seeking more growth?
Lee: The Asian markets, especially China.

Q: What makes this area attractive?
Lee: The growth, how football is growing in China, the fact that there’s not a strong domestic league, this is why Chinese fans are adopting European teams. And, of course, for my roots; my parents are Chinese. I think that we can promote growth with my origins. Those are the reasons: the size of the market, the growth of the club, the growth of football and, of course, because I am Chinese.

Serie A Inter Milan President Erick Thohir said that his priority "will be putting the club back on a sound financial footing and not splashing the cash on top drawer players," according to the AFP. Thohir, who recently acquired a 70% majority stake in the Nerazzurri from former Owner Massimo Moratti, "was elected president of the Serie A giants two weeks ago." Fans are "hoping his investment will lead to a move away from the San Siro ground Inter share with city rivals AC Milan to a new, purpose-built arena." However, the 43-year-old Indonesian businessman indicated that fans "may have to be patient." Thohir: "If you ask me if I'm going to buy new players, my answer is always the same. Our decisions will be taken together, but with one eye on the budget. There would be no unilateral decision on my part, that's what's different from the past." He added, "We will buy players, but we're going to be careful with our spending. Our objective is financial restructuring, creating a club which is in sound financial health, as agreed with Moratti." However, a new stadium "could be further in the future." Thohir: "One day we will have our own new stadium, but at this point we can't say if we're going to build one" (AFP, 11/27).

ManU was "involved in a mid-air drama in Germany on Tuesday night with the chartered plane carrying the team forced to abort its landing just 400 metres above the runway at Cologne's Konrad Adenauer Airport," according to Mark Ogden of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. With the Monarch Airlines A321, flight number MON 9254, scheduled to touch down at 5:30pm local time, the pilot "was forced to abandon his landing due to another aircraft being on the runway." ManU defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted about the drama shortly after landing, saying, "Landed in Germany....just....I've only just recovered after that choppy landing! #TouchedCloth!! #mufc." (SMH, 11/27). SKY SPORTS reported another member of the ManU camp told the Manchester Evening News, "It was quite frightening." The member added, "We were coming in to land when we had to pull up suddenly, because it appears there was a plane on the runway. The captain came on the intercom to apologize for what happened and then we landed safely." ManU Manager David Moyes and other senior figures, including former CEO David Gill, "were on the flight with the squad," but Bobby Charlton and former boss Alex Ferguson was "not on board, although they are both due to attend the match" (SKY SPORTS, 11/27).

A study by travel service Kayak shows that "the price of plane tickets for flights from Europe to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup have increased by 36%," according to LA AFICION. The study examined flights from Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. with destinations in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, comparing prices for dates between June 10 and 14 with prices from dates throughout '13. Flights from the U.K. to Rio de Janiero are 36% more expensive, and prices jumped 19% for U.K.-Sao Paulo flights. Kayak also showed a 40% increase in the cost of Sao Paulo hotels and of 18% for hotels in Rio (LA AFICION, 11/27).

UNAUTHORIZED AGENTS PUNISHED: In Mexico City, Luis Moreno reported Mexico's government "will sanction 11 travel agencies for offering 2014 World Cup travel packages without FIFA accreditation." The federal government demanded that Escotours, Mexicotur, Travel Viajes Mexic, Mexticket, Global Entertainment Mexico, Cuevas Travel, Elite Tours, Meza Sports, Veloso Travel, Eight Tours and Travel Sports System get "approval from FIFA, but none were able to do so." In Mexico, the only agencies authorized by FIFA to offer World Cup packages are Mundomex and Nevada Tours (LA AFICION, 11/27).

Liga MX side Morelia, which is owned by TV Azteca, has "released a statement saying the club will remain in Morelia," according to LA AFICION. TV Azteca bought Liga MX club Atlas Tuesday, which "brought about rumors related to a sale of Morelia due to a recently passed Liga MX rule regarding multiple ownership." TV Azteca Chair Ricardo Salinas' club said in the statement, "The team will remain in this city and will remain the property of the Salinas Group." The statement also said, "Our organization will continue working, as it has for 17 years, to make this team a leader in Mexican football, and will invest in players, infrastructure and the development of basic strengths" (LA AFICION, 11/26).

The group of "rebel shareholders vying for control" of Scottish League 1 Rangers "have released a statement reiterating their determination to have four individuals elected to the club’s board at the forthcoming AGM," according to the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The statement also indicated that the position of Financial Dir Brian Stockbridge remains "completely untenable" and that the Serious Fraud Office is now investigating “payments made to certain shareholders around the time of the IPO." Led by businessman Jim McColl, the group also urge fans “to take a one-off opportunity to select the best Board to take the Club forward” on Dec. 19. The full statement is here (DAILY RECORD, 11/27). The SCOTSMAN reported Rangers Chair David Somers has "used the notice of the forthcoming annual general meeting to ask shareholders to vote against proposals for a new board." In his notice to shareholders, Somers called for shareholders "to back the board’s ten resolutions" for the meeting, describing the resolutions as “most likely to promote the success of the Company for the benefit of its shareholders as a whole.” Somers then "urges shareholders to vote against the resolutions" calling for Paul Murray, Malcolm Murray, Scott Murdoch and Alex Wilson "to be appointed as board members." Somers states that the current board “does not believe these Resolutions are in the best interests of the Company,” and "raises concerns that any new appointments could lead to yet more instability at the club" (SCOTSMAN, 11/27).

Real Madrid's basketball team, which competes in the Spanish Basketball League (ACB), is "on its way to becoming a social phenomenon," according to Nacho Duque of MARCA. Through nine games this season, the club's average attendance at Real's Sports Palace arena is 9,071. The only Spanish club with better attendance is Laboral Kutxa. Attendance at two games last weekend drew crowds of 11,429 on Friday and 12,317 on Sunday. The total of those two games, 23,746, "serves as an embarrassment for Barcelona, which has attracted just 5,000 more through six of its own home games this season." It is "all translating to revenue." Real brought in around €150,000 ($203,600) from ticket sales from the last two games. As the "season advances and bigger games come along," Real could bring in as much as €250,000 ($339,300) in a single night. Since last season, the number of Real season-ticket holders has increased by 1,200 to around 6,400. Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso said after winning the league championship, "The biggest title is seeing the Palace full" (MARCA, 11/27).