Sun, Mar 03, 2019 - Page 11 News List

How Real and Barcelona battle online

AFP, MADRID

As a few hundred Barcelona fans in a far-flung corner of the Santiago Bernabeu roared at the final whistle, millions around the world celebrated with the tap of a finger.

A little more than 2 million people liked the club’s post on Instagram, while 1.3 million watched the live video on Facebook. On Twitter, 886,000 tuned in for a six-second film of a changing room celebration, which then pulled another 2 million likes on Instagram.

Barca’s 3-0 victory on Wednesday knocked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey. Yesterday, Barcelona also had the chance to effectively eliminate their great rivals from the title race.

This week’s Clasico double-header is not just being played out on the pitch, but in clicks.

Real say that their videos routinely reach more than 100 million views in the 10 days around a Clasico, more than the NFL’s Super Bowl in January, which hit 98 million.

Spain is not the dominant country, with the US just as engaged with Real, narrowly ahead of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, France, Algeria and India.

“For clubs like Barca and Madrid, maybe only 1 percent of their fan base will come to watch them play,” said We Are Social Sport director Joe Weston, who crafted the online announcement of Paul Pogba’s transfer to Manchester United by pairing him with the rapper Stormzy.

“How do you serve the other 99 percent all around the world, who are just as passionate? Social media means you can touch those fans in real time,” he added.

For Real Madrid and Barcelona, the battle to be most-followed is fierce. In August 2017, Madrid basked in the glory of becoming the “first sporting institution in the world to eclipse 100 million followers on Facebook.”

“It means the club stands out from our nearest rivals like Barcelona, the NBA and Manchester United,” Madrid said in a statement. “Data also shows a 50 percent difference over Barcelona for engagement.”

Real Madrid had chased long and hard, with former stars such as David Beckham and Kaka asked to make appearances to give numbers an extra push.

Data can reveal characteristics about followers, from the most basic such as gender and location, to the more detailed, including interests and times when they are most receptive.

Barcelona know a high proportion of their following is male, young and Brazilian, so it is easy to see why Philippe Coutinho led the club’s Pro Evolution Soccer advertisement on Twitter on Thursday, at midday in Spain, but the start of the school day in Rio de Janeiro.

Innovative use of social media has allowed some aspiring clubs, such as AS Roma, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, to stand out.

“We do it with a sense of humor; we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Jochen Rotthaus, Bayer Leverkusen’s marketing and communications director. “It’s nice when fans can have a conversation with the club and not feel like they’re talking to a robot.”

Social media also helps players connect with fans. Real Madrid shed almost 1 million Twitter followers in 24 hours after Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus last summer.

Players hire agencies to manage their social media and select a handful of buzzwords to define their image. One grouping might be: leadership, dedication, the US, family and dogs.

“Some players want to change their image,” said Josh Hershman, managing director at Ten Toes Media, which works on the social media accounts of some of the world’s biggest sports stars. “Others just want to grow their following or get enough of a presence for commercial reasons, but the smarter ones understand the value of social media. They realize it’s a chance to promote themselves in a positive way.”

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