When asked about how technology is changing his organization, Real Madrid CEO José Ángel Sánchez recalls a key moment more than six decades ago. Back in 1943, the soccer club had outgrown its 22,500-seat stadium and needed something bigger. The team president at the time also realized that more seats equaled more ticket sales, which ultimately meant more money to spend on the best players. Four years later, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium opened with room for more than 75,000 Los Blancos fans.
Fast forward to 2015, and Real Madrid is building another stadium to help engage fans and increase revenue — albeit a virtual one with no physical limitations.
The world’s most popular and most valuable sports franchise ($3.4 billion) today revealed more details about its four-year partnership with Microsoft, which Sánchez said will “transform” how the club connects with fans and runs its business operations.
“We have more than 450 million fans, and it is quite challenging to create relationships and engage with them,” Sánchez told GeekWire on Monday. “The essence of our partnership with Microsoft is really based on the passion that fans have for the club.”
The four-year deal includes a cross-platform app for fans built with Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 that debuts on May 19 and will offer stats, highlights, and other related content to fans before, during, and after matches. Orlando Ayala, Microsoft’s head of emerging businesses, said it was “very important” that the app was built not just for Windows devices, but for iOS and Android users, too.
“We wanted to cover every fan and all devices,” he said.
Real Madrid will offer a revamped digital platform built on Azure and use Microsoft’s technology to analyze fan engagement data based on age, gender, and location, host video content, track fan apparel inventory, and more. The team also has plans to use big data to measure player performance on the field and prevent injuries, similar to what the Sounders FC does in Seattle.
Sánchez, who joined Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today on stage at Microsoft’s Ignite conference in Chicago, said that his club picked Microsoft as a partner based on previous work it had done with the company and after realizing that the organization needed to re-asses its business model — particularly with Real Madrid’s massive international following, as just 3 percent of its fans live in Spain.
“Technology is making it possible to create enormous B2C opportunities all over the planet,” Sánchez said. “We understood Microsoft was the best possible partner for this.”
This is Microsoft’s second key sports-related partnership it has inked in the past few years. In 2013, it signed a five-year, $400 million contract with the NFL.
“There isn’t another industry that is being so fundamentally transformed with data and digital technology like sports,” Nadella said today.
Nadella told Sánchez on stage at Ignite that Real Madrid is “basically like a software company.” Sánchez said afterward that his club is more like a “fan company” using software to help bolster its business.
“Technology is a tool to bring these people together and create a relationship between us and them,” he said. “We’re aren’t a software company, but in the end we admit that these technologies from Microsoft are really helping us transform the club. That is true.”
Financial details of Microsoft’s deal with Real Madrid weren’t disclosed, although Forbes pegs it at $30 million.