Former FC Barcelona player Carles Puyol talks fan engagement apps and the brands who will win at the World Cup

Former FC Barcelona player Carles Puyol talks about his new blockchain-powered app / Olyseum

With the advent of digitisation, most sports are focused on giving fan engagement a massive push. Recently, former FC Barcelona players Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, and Iván de la Peña launched a blockchain- powered social network app Olyseum that connects fans with their sporting heroes at the Fifa World Cup Russia 2018.

The Drum spoke with Carles Puyol to find out how Olyseum is planning to gain fan engagement.

He says: “Throughout my career with FC Barcelona, I've had the unwavering support of millions of fans worldwide. With the desire to expand the limits of real and genuine participation of fans, Andrés, Iván and I joined together to create a collaborative space for lovers of this beautiful sport and interact with users moved by the same feeling. Fans need a reason for investing their time and energy in social media. In my opinion, fans are not rewarded enough for their devotion and support. Without fans, there is nothing. We do it for them. They need to be front and centre in the conversation, sharing in idols’ success.

"The voice of the fans should be the loudest, so we are working to provide them with a space where they can be properly heard. The same could be said for the users of a social network. Without them, there is no network, and it’s not social.”

The idea behind the launch at the Fifa World Cup Russia 2018 according to Carlos Grenoir, Olyseum CEO was to introduce fans to a new, innovative online fan experience. He explains: "We will be testing the network among fans throughout the Fifa World Cup in Russia, and can’t wait to see what they think.

While we have a clear vision for Olyseum, we want the platform to be shaped by fans. We are creating a sports coliseum for fans, by idols, so fan input and insights are the most valuable. This is why we are using the World Cup as our testing ground.”

In addition to incorporating blockchain technology, Olyseum is planning to introduce an incentive program powered by smart contracts for fans contributing to the community. These contributions will be rewarded in the form of exclusive merchandise, VIP tickets, and unique experiences with idols.

How important social media has become for the sports clubs, Puyol says: “Social media is very important for clubs. It is a gateway to the thoughts and feelings of football’s best known superstars. It is also a platform for lesser known players to build a fanbase and express their personality. Social media allows clubs to interact with fans directly, make announcements, distribute content and build brand equity.

However, current mainstream platforms don’t allow for meaningful engagement between fans and players. Fans don’t yet know what it’s like to be able to interact directly with their idols, they only see a profile and a stream of comments. Fans invest so much time and energy on social media but get very little in return. Current platforms only offer one-way communication, but social media has amazing potential to enable two-way communication streams, allowing fans to converse seamlessly with their idols. That’s the way it should be, and that’s why we’re doing this. To be closer to fans.”

The World Cup is repeatedly touted as a global event that will reach as many as 3.2bn people through its run. Brands looking to grab hold of this audience will reportedly boost global advertising spend by $2.4bn. This is despite the absence of some of the world's biggest economic powerhouses from the competition like the US and China.

As to which brands are going to win in successfully engaging fans during the world cup, Puyol says its too early to tell.

He explains: 'Fans want interesting brand experiences. So the brands that can create memorable, engaging fan experiences will win. The World Cup is about passion, dedication and creating memories that last forever. Brands that capture the magic of the World Cup will have a much better chance of cutting through the noise.”

Olyseum is further working on partnerships with other teams and sports clubs, media companies and journalists, as well as with “experiences partners”, to provide users with exclusive experiences on the platform.

Carlos Grenoir further adds: "We believe that Olyseum will become the number one destination for fans and idols from a range of sports, countries, and cultures, and we look forward to welcoming idols from different parts of the sporting world, from basketball and tennis, to golf and motor grand prix.

"We will also develop partnerships with advertisers looking to better inform their research projects. The Olyseum network provides a unique opportunity for advertisers to gain valuable insights from the most dedicated and knowledgeable sports fans on the planet."

In 2016, on its initial launch in Spanish, Olyseum was the most downloaded sports app from the App Store in six countries. It will be interesting to see how the player's influence will give a global push to the app.

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