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Real Madrid, and its marketing, is very much in the news at the moment, with the club in talks with Microsoft to rename the Bernabeu stadium, on the back of the €100m mega-signing of Gareth Bale.
I thought I’d take a glance at Real Madrid’s activities in digital, to see whether it is indeed a Galáctico, or merely a pececillo (or minnow).
In May of this year, Forbes judged Real Madrid, despite being the world’s richest club, to be the third biggest brand in the world of football, with a brand value of £409m.
This was significantly behind Manchester United in second, whose social media presence we’ve previously identified on this blog as on the right track but nascent. So how does Madrid compare?
Is the club as successful online as in broader business? Are the digital assets of the club as good as its rivals?
Before we get into it, it's worth noting that we should perhaps expect the club to demonstrate best practice, as it has its own graduate school that runs a masters course in sports marketing.
The Real Madrid website isn’t the prettiest, but I like how focused the homepage is, or ‘pre-homepage’, as it turns out to be. The most important parts of the site are prominent: shop, fan club, tickets, basketball counterparts, corporate hospitality and tours. There’s nothing distracting from the main goals of the site.
The social profiles maintained by the club are also included neatly along the bottom of the page. More on those later.
No Arabic or Korean
The languages available in the top right menu include Spanish, French, English, Indonesian, Japanese and Chinese. This is encompasses a great deal of the footballing world, but those that read only Arabic or Korean will be disappointed.
Of course, Google Translate will help them out, but having to translate each page can be a pain, and the results aren't always accurate.
Accessing this site on mobile, the pre-homepage is too small, and it’s clear the site isn’t responsive to screen size. The text and calls to action are far too small to be readable.
This can be improved in the landscape orientation and with zooming, but it’s not a fun experience.
Back on desktop, clicking through from this pre-homepage, the homepage proper is a lot busier. Although the design, like many football club websites, is a little outdated, the content itself is well ordered for the fan.
Next matches, videos and photos, and a clear top menu again allowing navigation to main areas of interest. However, it can’t be denied that the site isn’t as stunning as attending a game at the Bernabeu, which is surely the goal, even if a pipedream.
The ‘Madridista’ page best sums up the need for change, slick and standardised web design is now a reality and this page, seen below, is a jumbled mess.
The descending ‘headset hottie’ is not only straight from the ottoman of stock art, but if you click on her, she summarily fails to help (at least in my case).
Again, on mobile, the experience of the homepage proper is less than impressive.
Conversion will undoubtedly increase if the site was updated so there’s at least one CSS switch to reorder and resize the content for a smartphone.
The homepage does link to one of the Real Madrid apps in the iTunes store. (I’ll take a look at Madrid’s mobile presence shortly, outside of the non-optimized website).
Before we leave the website, it’s worth a note on the club shop. Like a lot of websites, in and out of sport, particularly within leisure industries, the club shop is on a microsite.
This microsite is undoubtedly a later build than realmadrid.com and is much slicker, more in line with what one expects from an ecommerce site for clothes and merchandise. Korean and German languages are provided for the online store, as well as those available on the main website.
Here’s a screenshot to show you the difference between the store and the home site.
The Real Madrid app
I was excited about this app because it looks great in the app store.
My first attempt failed. Not sure of the issue here, but I got an empty app, which I had to delete, before trying again.
I succeeded second time. The app opens with a loud and emotive video showing the history of the club. It’s actually captivating, although annoying if you’re on the bus and don’t want ‘Hala Madrid’ blaring out. Thankfully, it only plays on first open.
The app is solid but it’s overly monetised. On the main page of the app, I’m offered the chance to take a picture with a Real Madrid star using Fotostar.
It’s a nice experience of simple augmented reality, overlaying a footballer (I chose Xabi Alonso) who can be resized and positioned in a scene with you or a friend.
Then the image appears with extensive watermarks and one is invited to save the image. At that point I see the screen below, saying I have to pay almost two Euros for the pleasure.
Isn’t this overpriced when so many kids will use the app?
You also have to pay to subscribe to Real Madrid TV (understandably a usually monetised product) and to subscribe to ‘Foto Magazine’. What’s free here?
Well, the Twitter feed on the home page, the news feature, fixtures and results, and notifications during a game seem to be the main match-focused free features.
These are also mostly available in competing apps that are perhaps better designed e.g. Sky Sports, or perhaps by simply following matches on Twitter, which every football fan knows updates quicker than most sources.
Aside from match day, there is a nice squad section and a feature on Madrid’s history. These are actually very nicely done, and easy enough to find in the menu.
Of course, one can also be directed to the club shop and to buy tickets etc.
The shop launches in-app, so is actually a nice addition.
However, the point still stands that a lot of the content is monetised, and the main info feed is drawn from Twitter. In addition, I had trouble when viewing the free news section. I didn’t authorise Twitter to link with the app, and thereafter when clicking news I got an error as shown below.
The app needs to be rejigged slightly to demarcate paid and free content and to make sure the homepage carries free and informative features.
New Kick app
Kick, is only a week published, but looks like it could be a successful app, and is the app currently publicised on the Real Madrid website. The premise is great, the app allowing you to speed test your strike of a football. In order to share the strike you think to be world beating, there’s an 89 cent charge in-app.
Although I don’t know how many downloads it’s seen so far, an accurate estimate is often 100 downloads per iTunes customer review.
This very rough equation, which may be an underestimate for a younger age group, would hint at 200-300 downloads so far. Not bad for a week. Although the submission of a strike is monetised, I feel this app is better balanced between what it promises and what it delivers.
There are three more apps, a free football game – a tried and tested format, with in game purchases of course – a fantasy manager game and an app showcasing editions of the matchday programme, Grada Blanca. Again this Grada Blanca app is free, but hints at purchases in-app to actually get the content.
This is where Real Madrid excels, along with many big football clubs, notably Barcelona and Manchester City, and more recently Manchester United.
But although Madrid has tons of fans and engagement, are they using the relevant platforms as well as Barca?
The sheer size of the fan base guarantees at least some success on Twitter, and it appears as follows:
- @RealMadrid: 9.5m
- @RealMadridEn: 2.8m
- @realmadridarab: 1.3m
- @realmadridjapan: 89k
These accounts generally tweet the same content, in different languages. To be honest, the feed isn’t particularly inspiring outside of match days, being as it mainly autotweets the website’s news articles, occasionally throwing in promos for other assets, such as the Kick app, shown below.
Give it your best shot and try if you can kick +130 km/h like Real Madrid players do! http://t.co/FAFQbOHH1J— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) November 11, 2013
During and after matches, there is some better content that helps to attract followers. This includes live tweeting games, and providing wallpaper of significant moments from games, as well as other pics and comments.
The #RMLive hashtag is used during games and press conferences to denote when the social team are tweeting from events off the cuff. See some examples below.
GOAAAAAAAL!!! RONAAAALDO!!! WHAT A FREE-KICK!!!!! #RMLive— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) November 9, 2013
Of course, @Cristiano bests the club itself with 22m followers. This is the norm for big players at a lot of clubs. Cristiano arguably transcends the sport, with his appeal in fashion and celeb circles etc.
His Twitter feed, along with many of the players, features in the Real Madrid app feed.
This is the social heartland for Real Madrid, with a staggering 45m followers, bettered only by Barcelona’s 47m.
There are similar posts to those on Facebook e.g. the same Kick advertisement, which has received a staggering 6,000 likes in the last two hours.
There are a number of Facebook pages, which you can see below. The squad page (Equipo) is quite interesting, taking the user to the web page and social accounts of every player in the squad.
There’s a Madridista page, again encouraging subscription to the fan club with a discount for Facebook referrals. All straightforward, but nothing groundbreaking, and again the design of the pages is fairly basic.
Nothing doing here, unlike Barcelona, which has a nascent board with around 600 pins.
Just one account here, which makes sense, with the way Google integrates its products. Funnily enough I’d never seen the translate tool automatically included into G+ posts. It doesn’t appear on all of them strangely, but where it does, it works well. See a translated post below.
This Google Plus account is actually great. It embeds a fair amount of video, which is what fans want. There’s some nice imagery used in the header, and the account has garnered 4.5m followers, which is astounding for a G+ page.
Just a cursory mention here, but Madrid seems to have its ad copy working nicely for the online store. I searched for ‘Real Madrid’ and was served the following ad on Google.
Nice that the ‘free delivery on orders over £100’ is highlighted, and the new Gareth Bale kits. After all, this is where Perez will be looking to recoup plenty of that transfer fee.
- Madrid knows where its priorities lie, and the messaging of most communications are football first, followed by promotion of the shop, the fan club, the apps, tickets and hospitality.
- Because of this, the website has focus.
- The online shop is good enough.
- The social output is at least voluminous, with live commentary and accounts in different languages.
- The Google Plus page is managed well.
- #RMLive is a good addition to the Twitter account.
- There are a number of apps for both Android and iPhone, they appear free to download.
- The main website needs a redesign. It’s outdated and doesn’t work on mobile. Without this major piece of the puzzle in place properly, the multichannel UX can feel clunky.
- The main Real Madrid app is over-monetised.
- All of the apps feature some in-app purchasing.
- There’s no presence on Pinterest, which could drive sales to the shop.