How the latest acquisition of FootballCo, owner of Goal.com, could grab advertisers’ attention

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FootballCo, the football publishing company and owner of Goal.com, has acquired the Italian site CalcioMercato.com, created 25 years ago, in order to strengthen its foothold in the homeland of the Euro 2020 champions. Juan Delgado, managing director of the football company that was formed out of Dazn in 2020, explains how the deal was “obvious” and will be revealing of more to come.

FootballCo’s first acquisition was announced on Monday August 23 for an undisclosed amount. He adds a strong Italian presence to complement Goal.com (worldwide), Spox (German) and Voetbalzone (Netherlands). FootballCo has been owned by US private equity firm TPG since 2020 and seeks to broaden and deepen engagement with fans of football’s top nations ahead of the World Cup in 2022.

Footballco chief executive Juan Delgado said it was “a no-brainer” to grow into “one of the best football leagues in the world as the digital advertising market grows rapidly”.

FootballCo reaches 400 million monthly visitors. There are now 12 million additional visitors coming from Calcio Mercato, the majority of which will naturally be based in Italy.

Content plans

Editors with many titles can pollinate content, share sources, and access and even translate stories for new editions. But the benefits of having real journalists who know a specific market became increasingly clear during Euro 2020.

Delgado said: “The Voetbalzone team in the Netherlands contacted Goal Italy for more details on why Roberto Mancini called on reserve goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu for the final two minutes of his game against the Netherlands. Wales. The local knowledge of the Italian team kept the Voetbalzone team ahead of local competitors and resulted in one of the tournament’s most popular stories on the site.

Following the acquisition, he says FootballCo is sitting in “the world’s largest digital football advertising market” after establishing a substantial presence among some of European football’s superpowers. It is “the largest and most mature digital football market in the world… and it is sure to have a good return on investment”.

To guarantee that return, Delgado claims to have one of the biggest sales football teams in the world. The tactic is to “capture a super strong market, with a passionate fan base and tons of content to export elsewhere.”

He claims CalcioMercato.com has an even more engaged audience than Goal Italy because it stuck to its guns and was not “driven by social frenzies or SEO – the audience is deeply engaged.”

Working with brands

Developed football markets may be the easiest to monetize immediately, but Delgado’s ambitions go further and “will invest where it makes the most sense in terms of fan engagement, monetization and the ability to shoot.” based on our global and pan-regional advertising capacities ”.

So far, FootballCo has worked with brands such as Budweiser, Kia, Santander and Guinness, and is looking for more ahead of the World Cup in 2022.

Its main argument with advertisers is to help them have a stronger voice outside the match window. Tournament sponsors, for example, will be keen to show their relevant football ads in content discussing the matches they will help host (or have already delivered). But beyond that, as football converges with culture, lifestyle and streetwear, expect to see more advertisers from this industry entering. It appears to be one of the exciting growth points for the sector. “We don’t cover or nail all of this yet, but you’ll see changes on Goal pretty soon, as well as some of the other brands we’re looking at from a M&A perspective. “

What is the attraction?

Informing about upcoming acquisitions is the idea that clients will want to work with as few publishers as possible – which means being able to run campaigns to large numbers of fans, even regionally.

“Brands want to deal with a single partner who speaks their language and has a local team to serve them, for example in Seoul, but who have the ability to interact with their marketing directors in Brazil, Italy, UK and in Germany, for example. Again, this is a demand that may increase around world football competitions.

An Asian car brand, for example, and sponsor of one of these competitions, could seek to target football fans in three European countries in which it wishes to develop. By leveraging Goal’s global reach and the deeper national ties to national titles, FootballCo seeks to be better able to meet these demands.

“We’re leveraging our reach, both locally and globally, to sell media and content solutions – it’s been our bread and butter for years, and with all of today’s targeting capabilities, if you can provide information and evolve brands with you. “

Part of that goes through “what some people would normally call ‘branded content'” – it’s a word many publishers don’t want to use, perhaps due to the low quality of historical production in this category. .

For Goal, Goal Studios used to produce this content. Today, it is a team of more than 100 people ”[who] live and breathe only football strategy development, ideation, content creation, activation and story distribution ‘- much of this video – on behalf of our clients’.

Diversification

But now that he’s from Dazn, he’s looking to diversify his production and “supercharge himself to own the digital ecosystem of football fans.” That means marketing your own clothes (most recently in Fifa 21), bringing events to fans, and potentially owning an esports team “at some point.”

When asked to compare his company to any other in the media, Delgado admits he will look “very American” but adds: “No one has ever done that in digital sports.

Probably the closest is the NBA’s global footprint through ESPN Digital, HouseOfHighlights, and BleacherReport. “They serve the basketball fan in most of their digital needs, whether it’s watching / reading great content, scores, lifestyle, culture, or shopping. Outside of sports there are a few examples like BuzzFeed or Vox – but we think that by focusing [on football] we have more to build and gain.

But with a World Cup immediately following a digitally disrupted Euro, the race is to get the business up and running and spend the advertisers (who are already planning campaigns).

The publisher who masters “video, social (again) and access” will win, according to Delgado. He concludes: “It is difficult to be authentic, to evolve and to have access to the personalities who will move the agenda forward.


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