Why Spanish soccer league La Liga is relaunching its app as part of a DTC play

Often overlooked in the media realm is a paradox: sports leagues thrive on passionate fandom, yet they maintain an unexpectedly distant relationship with their fans. However, Spain’s premier soccer league La Liga is determined to break free from this irony by revamping its app and establishing a direct relationship with its fans. 

The app will try to cease being results-focused to become more of an entertainment hub. Fans will have the opportunity to watch match highlights, delve into archive footage and access statistics about their favorite teams and players. Additionally, the app will offer competitions and exclusive content from the league’s sponsors. It’s all free once fans register their details. As it stands there are no plans to introduce ads to the app.

“This will help us to know football fans better,” said Alfredo Bermejo, director of digital strategy at La Liga. “At the end of the day, fans consume football in many different ways, from sports news sites to social media, and the teams and leagues often know nothing about them.” 

Imagine hundreds of passionate football fans logging into the app regularly, each interaction providing the league with invaluable insights into their preferences. This wealth of knowledge empowers the sports organization’s media aspirations. 

“By having that information from our fans we’re able to get a good understanding of how they behave, which products they like and the content they watch,” said Bermejo. “This will help us to improve our proposals for our sponsorships or to create specific sponsorship packages for La Liga.” 

While it may seem like a tall order for a single app, it has become a necessity for modern sports organizations. An app, alongside digital media in general, opens up additional revenue streams. Prominent soccer clubs like FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea have already exemplified how sports franchises are rapidly transforming into media brands themselves. 

“If at some point we do decide to create our own OTT service then the app means we don’t have to start from scratch,” said Bermejo. “We will have an audience that is relevant, who are engaged with La Liga and may be interested in having a service like that.” 

However, before La Liga’s larger ambitions can take shape, the app’s overhaul must demonstrate a tangible impact on the league’s audience. Last season, the app boasted approximately 1.6 million active monthly users, according to La Liga. 

Match highlight videos are expected to play a pivotal role in growing this audience. In fact, La Liga has enlisted the expertise of video specialist WSC Sports to automate the creation and distribution of match highlights using AI technology. The tech indexes various highlights in near real time to create automated highlight videos, which can be shared on the app, social media platforms or even an OTT service. Notably, the videos are indexed in the standard 9:16 vertical video format. 

“One of the best ways to create an ecosystem is to generate that data within La Liga,” said Bermejo. We don’t want to be reliant on social media [for that sort of data]. It’s important to us but what we’re doing [via the app] is related much more to how we build a community for ourselves.“

The app will relaunch ahead of the 2023/24 football season later this summer. 

“Traditionally, a league digital offering was focussed on providing fans information such as match schedules and statistics,” said James English, partner at sports and entertainment agency Fuse. “This has been changing significantly as leagues look to capitalise on audiences, particularly international fans, who follow the sport overall vs a given team.”

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