FIFA World, beyond the borders of reality

FIFA is evolving and carrying out its 3.0 revolution by launching #FIFAWorld. By opening up a new playground on Roblox, just before the World Cup in Qatar 2022, FIFA confirms its desire to renew itself through a new positioning. The arrival in the metaverse is the last stage of a journey which aims to make football attractive for Generation Z thanks to an omnichannel strategy and through a new, more targeted customer experience for this audience, in search of new benchmarks. .

The sport has an advantage in exploring opportunities in this area. Thanks to the existence of communities of fans and supporters, reinforced by fan engagement initiatives, clubs and federations already have the necessary cards in hand in this new universe to use activation and monetization levers. The Qatar 2022 World Cup, which will ignite the international football scene from November 20, will make history through the massive use of technology for the benefit of fans. Both in the field with the exploitation of sports performances, and also at the promotional and marketing level.

Technology and gaming

This World Cup is resolutely technological. Several innovations are emerging during this global event. For the first time in the history of football, referees have even more support to produce the best possible refereeing and thus minimize the possibility of controversy on the pitch, such as the “semi-automatic” offside which comes in addition to the “Goal Line Technology” and VAR. Thanks to 12 cameras positioned under the roof of the stadiums, all the players are permanently located on the pitch thanks to a follow-up of 29 points of their body and therefore potentially influential on the offside. All of this data is centralized in an operations room and updated approximately 50 times per second, at which time data from balloons through the IMU sensor developed by adidas and sending 500 data per second to the control center. In this way, it is easier to identify the exact moment when the ball is kicked to mark the offside line, taking as a reference the point of the body closest to the goal. Artificial Intelligence links data from cameras to track players and from the ball sensor to generate automatic alerts to be sent to referees whenever an offside situation occurs although the final decision still rests with the referee. arbitrator.

And all these technologies are currently only adopted on the biggest international stages given the amount of resources to be used. However, the road is marked and it is expected that in the medium term, fewer cameras will suffice to carry out the same work and make offside, a debate based on data and no longer on interpretation, leaving more space for match officials to assess the dynamics of the pitch and less alibi for players, coaches and fans to challenge the work of referees.

If to this, we add data visualization as a new element of sports storytelling in order to improve the sports experience, by presenting in-depth information to the public and above all through data visualization models using technologies such as reality augmented but also for media professionals who can leverage it to provide new commentary and news ideas for events.

FIFA in the metaverse and omnichannel

The metaverse is a concept widely explored by the sports world in recent months, particularly in terms of Fan Engagement, and FIFA could not fail to take advantage of an opportunity such as the World Cup to embark on this new path to fans around the world. Following on from what UEFA has already done with the Women’s EURO 2022, FIFA has chosen the Roblox platform to create its own FIFA World virtual pitch. A choice that confirms the desire to engage GenZ and the following in the world of football to broaden the enthusiasm for a sport which in recent years has had to upset its content strategy to continue to attract a younger audience. The choice of the American platform Roblox is not insignificant. With a large share of users between the ages of 9 and 13 and covering around 70% of the platform’s total audience, FIFA World is in the top 10 most popular and explored grounds on Roblox with a percentage of around 50% of players between 17 and 24 years old. The FIFA project, however, has a more ambitious vision than the UEFA project for the Women’s Euro. FIFA World is not a thematic space created exclusively for the World Cup, but rather a universe around FIFA which it is planned to perpetuate after this event, by becoming a strategic point of contact to maintain attention on everything what international football offers and will offer like the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

FIFA thus continues its digital revolution by developing an integrated business model and transforming itself into a media company which led to the creation of the OTT FIFA+ platform in the first half of 2022, followed by the announcement of the launch of FIFA+ Collect, the first collection of NFT in collaboration with Algorand on the theme of the World Cup but also at the end of its collaboration with Electronic Arts after nearly thirty years of success around the FIFA simulation game. FIFA23 was the last title of this football game, because EA and FIFA did not reach an agreement to renew the rights to the image, EA not wishing to give more control to FIFA on the management of the game picture.

Football is not just a (simulation) game

The partnership concluded with Roblox is broader than the simple football simulation to which we are accustomed since the first video games and is part of a universe where approximately 50 million users find themselves daily for purposes that are not exclusively playful. . In FIFA World, football is just the thread of an experience that branches out in different directions, encouraging a sense of community and creating new opportunities for partners. Spaces dedicated to socializing and events alternate with mini-games and activities aimed at collecting or buying virtual collectibles. In this way, new sources of income are activated through the release of skins and digital assets to be equipped on its avatars, even in limited editions, taking advantage of the hyper-personalization of experience and rarity. . It also offers even more activations for sponsors who take over this ground, such as adidas.

The monetization of partner activities is an important driver of the Roblox platform entry strategy because it makes the presence of a brand consistent with the context, thus generating value that is considered an asset to be seriously considered in the phase. negotiation of future partnership agreements. FIFA World is also a place to enjoy bespoke content, using exclusive material found in FIFA+, and experience being guided on the pitch by exceptional testimonials such as Barcelona’s Spanish star Pedro González López, better known as Pedri, and German soccer player Lena Oberdorf.

FIFA’s new plans for the NBA-style community-centric model

In FIFA’s projects, football is only a pretext for a strategy that projects the federation towards a global dimension, more like a company than a regulatory body for a sporting discipline. The FIFA brand is too strong not to exploit it in its entirety and President Gianni Infantino is leading its transformation by bringing into the federal perimeter activities that exploit the popularity of the world’s most popular sport to generate new sources of revenue. . The metaverse in which FIFA is developing is a concept that sums up the extension of the Federation’s activity and encompasses a series of actions aimed at bringing the brand to different targets, making them share experiences and emotions and expanding the fanbase even further. It’s about moving beyond the concept of football as just a sport and taking it to the next level, building on what the NBA has been able to do with basketball over the years, but with the strength of a more widespread territorial community – the world – and an even more fanatic audience.

FIFA: global brand with an omnichannel approach

The repositioning of the FIFA brand is a significant example of the possibilities offered by the transformation of Web 3.0 for brands. While the value of data must be considered the new Eldorado of the global economy, companies and entities in the sports sector are faced with unique opportunities. The mistrust of users to consent to the tracking of their data is reduced in the presence of the passion and the feeling of belonging that the sport manages to transmit. The metaverse is a growing market, but one that has already revealed the importance of focusing on experiences rather than products, and in this area the sport finds itself on its own playing field.

Fabio Lalli (with the collaboration of Aurélie Lienhart)

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FIFA World, beyond the borders of reality

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