In an interview with Maurice Sonneveld
about the potential of digitalization within competitive sports and E-Sports
Due to the pandemic, digitalization is a massive topic right now — how do you see the areas of sports & E-Sports positioned within that context?
With the physical distance that came up through COVID-19, it has become vital to create digital closeness, which has been the road we had chosen. Naturally, given the circumstances, this is also a road we have to walk a lot faster now by focusing more on digital tools and solutions, to make the most out of this situation, and maybe even grow closer.
What do you expect to see in the future in regards to digitalization within competitive sports & E-Sports?
We are developing a holistic digital ecosystem in which we consistently take the view of our fans. Our goal is to deliver information, services, and offers at the right time via the right channel of their choice. We want to create digital experiences. As a sports club, we to an extent also see ourselves as service providers for emotions. Of course, many things will continue to take place at the venue itself, for example in a digital arena. But the entire fan cycle can also be lived out via digital touchpoints and channels. Especially when addressing future generations, we have to rethink many things and consistently implement our ‘Fan Centric Approach’. For example, we were the first Bundesliga club to develop our own eSports Academy for the promotion of young talent. Here we also train social media and media competence. One of our e-athletes was thus able to develop into one of our highest-reach athletes within a very short time, ahead of most footballers. This shows how much potential there is in this field.
Which potential do you see in Augmented Reality within your industry?
Basically, our strategy is based on expanding our reach, promoting fan proximity through commitment, and on the funnel for monetization. For me, AR and VR are vehicles for measures to promote engagement and also to arouse emotions. When we think of the stadiums of the future, for example, I can very well imagine working with cross reality to extend the duration of the stay in the venue or to create special experiences at third-party events. For example, by making the club’s great historic games come alive again from the players’ perspective, or by ensuring that top Virtual Bundesliga matches are played in the digitalized arena.
What are you hoping to see from digitalization and Augmented Reality within the industry of competitive sports / E-Sports?
It is, of course, desirable to collect the fans of our e-sportsmen and women and to be able to enthuse them for analog soccer. But in my view, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, because in a digital ecosystem we can reach our users even if they don’t interact with the core sport. But we take great care to ensure that there are no cannibalization effects by, for example, organizing events that coincide with soccer. On the contrary: Our E-Athletes are often in the stadium at our games and some footballers are also frequent guests at our e-sports academy. Here we can already see some synergy effects. We weave digitalization and e-sports with the DNA of our club.