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Football Sponsorship Data & Privacy

The Catalan data plan: Spotify’s FC Barcelona sponsorship explained


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

March 18, 2022 | 6 min read

The Drum explores how the deal to bring music and football together is in tune with each organization’s marketing plans.


Fan data sits at the core of the sponsorship

From summer 2022, Spotify will sponsor FC Barcelona, securing naming rights of the Nou Camp stadium, shirt rights for the men’s and women’s teams, and a fascinating “first-of-its-kind” plan to harness first-party fan data.

The famous football club’s shirts will “become a space that can celebrate artists from across the world”, with murmurings suggesting the incorporation of NFTs. Meanwhile, Barcelona president Joan Laporta said it will “combine... entertainment and football, making it possible for us to connect with new audiences around the world”.

To connect with audiences, marketers need data and Spotify was reportedly attracted to the deal as part of its pursuit of first-person data – as well as the fame granted by the property.

Greg Taylor, vice-president of growth at Media.Monks, has been vigilant to this trend for a while and explains to us the challenges to navigate. “Sport franchises have long struggled to collect individual fan data from brand partnerships,” he says. This lack of data from game day interactions is why sponsorships still lean heavily on in-stadium signage for audience reach.

Taylor adds: “In the past, ticket sales traditionally were a barometer for success as brand partners flocked to teams that had the most ‘sell outs’ in hopes of capturing the greatest reach in person or on TV.”

The rise of digital media means those beliefs are outdated, but many clubs are still more tailored to their sports than to the collection and utilization of fan data. But, says Taylor: “It is imperative for teams to collect fan data not only in-person but also online.”

He points out that most clubs didn’t even have their own mobile app a decade ago but that fans now expect to be able to “view live stats, place sports bet, buy merchandise or engage with brand partners all from their favorite recliner at home”.

One fan site claims that Barcelona FC only has only acquired marketing consent from 1% of its fans, which may have affected the value of the partnership. In the broader media landscape, the decline of the third-party cookie (a currency advertisers used to track, personalize and attribute their marketing efforts) means that brands are increasingly partnering publishers and entertainment properties to tap into fandoms. These properties better be ready for growing demand.

To that end, Taylor says: “The most valuable sports franchises of the future will understand how to segment their most valuable fans based on advanced metrics like customer lifetime value (CLV).”

Said data, paired with predictive modeling, should give sport franchises greater leverage when negotiating naming rights deals as brand partnerships extend well past stadium walls on game day with fans tuning in from mobile devices and commenting across social media in real-time.

It’s time for teams to “consider ROI and not just reach when securing larger brand partnerships,” according to Taylor.

Two top entertainment properties like a football club and a streaming giant represent a strong opportunity to grow those marketable sports fans in meaningful ways.

What role does music play?

Football has always had a close relationship with music. Paul Reynolds, managing director EMEA at MassiveMusic, lists off the Uefa Champions League anthem, Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone and “even my own team West Ham’s ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’” as examples.

Music creates emotions in football fans, so he thinks that Spotify is “smart to tap into this space”. More broadly, TikTok (widely considered a rival now) has its Euros and Wrexham AFC sponsorships.

“A year on from Daniel Ek’s bid to purchase Arsenal Football Club, it’s not a huge surprise to see Spotify striking this partnership with Barcelona,” he says.

But how would musicians, many of whom feel underserved by the streaming service, feel about it splashing the cash to sponsor one of the world’s biggest sports properties? Well, there are actually many positives that music creators can take from this deal with Barcelona, argues Reynolds.

“Unlike many other football sponsors, Spotify already has a relationship with both Barcelona and rival fans. Spotify is advertising to an audience of millions of people across the globe, such is the incredible span of Barcelona’s fanbase, so that will only encourage more people on to the streaming platform. This will no doubt draw bigger revenues for artists – it’s just a question of whether it will reach them.”

The football perspective

Lee Gibbons, managing director for Sport Unlimited, believes that Spotify has received a lot of value for its money.

”The challenge for these iconic clubs is to acquire global fans, who are notoriously easily swayed and follow players before clubs,” he says. He notes that one of the early negotiation points of the deal was allegedly Barca’s small addressable database.

”The Spotify platform and offering and the ability to activate player-first initiatives – ie playlists – will help the club accelerate the club’s first-party global data capture, which in turn will grow its addressable database to monetize directly and offer enhanced value in future sponsorship negotiations.”

In short, Spotify’s product will help grow Barcelona’s monetizable fanbase – a benefit to both parties. “Having access to Spotify’s back catalog and the ability to leverage regional and even national trending artists will be a thrilling prospect for the club’s marketing team,” he says.

Gibbons is also excited to see how the streamer uses its influence to capitalize on the shirt rights and the in-stadium experiences... how about a half-time show at the Spotify Camp Nou?

It comes into play when Barcelona’s shirt sponsorship deal with Rakuten (signed 2017) expires in the summer. ESPN reports that it was worth up to €60m a season, and was expanded a year because of the pandemic impacts.

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