LaLiga wants to learn more about its fans and expand its footprint around the globe — and it’s getting help from Microsoft to make that happen.
Spain’s premier soccer league is one year into its partnership with Microsoft, which is providing tools like Azure and Power BI to LaLiga that helps it connect with more than 1.7 billion fans on social media around the world.
“Fan behavior is changing dramatically nowadays and we have to change with them,” LaLiga Director of Technology Services Silvestre Jos told GeekWire in a phone interview.
Jos joined Microsoft executives at the company’s Digital Difference event last week in New York City, where he and his LaLiga colleagues talked about how they are using technology like artificial intelligence and data visualization to better serve today’s soccer fans on a more personal level — for example, what type of information a specific fan should receive based on their location and interest.
“Our aim with Microsoft is to spread the fan experience all over the world — not only on match day but throughout the week,” he noted.
At the event, Jos showed a Power BI demo that, based on data, ranked LaLiga’s most talked-about players and showed which countries were most impactful to the league. He said LaLiga wants to use technology to better streamline its digital assets together, while also coming up with new ideas like smartphone games or fantasy soccer platforms.
LaLiga organizes nearly 1,000 games per year that are broadcast all over the world, with an audience of 1.2 billion every weekend.
“LaLiga, in our opinion, is the best league in the world,” Jos said.
Jos said LaLiga picked Microsoft because the company is “best of breed” as far as helping the league connect with smartphone-equipped fans and learn more about its business.
GeekWire also spoke with Real Madrid soccer legend Raúl González — also known as simply Raúl — who is now the U.S. country manager for LaLiga, which just recently opened an office in New York City as it tries to expand its presence outside of Spain.
“We have a lot of fans in the U.S.,” Raúl said. “We are using Microsoft tools to help connect with them.”
Raúl also spoke about technology’s impact on soccer itself. He is supportive of new ideas like video assistant referees or tech-driven training tools that help coaches assess player performance on an in-depth level.
But, he cautioned that the use of technology can only go so far.
“The most important qualities are talent, inspiration, and the motivation of the player,” Raúl said. “There are a lot of things more important than the data.”
This is not Microsoft’s first foray into the soccer world. The company inked a similar deal with Real Madrid, one of the top teams in LaLiga, back in 2014. It also sponsors its hometown pro soccer clubs, the Seattle Sounders FC and Seattle Reign FC. Microsoft’s technology is also used by smaller startups like Sensoria, which is putting biometric sensors into smart soccer boots.
Beyond soccer, Microsoft is well-known in the U.S. for the 5-year, $400 million deal it inked with the NFL in 2013 that put Surface tablets in the hands of coaches and players on the sidelines during games.