Being the world’s most popular sport also makes soccer (or, you know, “football”) the most widely covered sport on the planet. So do we really need to add another site to the hulking masses of soccer media?
The answer, according to some of the biggest clubs in the sport is yes, particularly when it comes to coverage they have a hand in creating and benefitting from. Dugout is a new soccer site that has partnered with Chelsea FC, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris St. Germain, and AC Milan, to host content created by the clubs and players exclusively for 24 hours before it’s released on any other social media channel, making it the primary source for fans to get news on the clubs and players they love.
Now, we know that sports teams have increasingly become media companies in their own right, producing reams of content for fans, but Dugout’s proposition is to be a hub for all of that in one place. Soccer clubs are no exception. In fact, a club like Real Madrid has more than 143 million followers across its digital platforms. Between August 2015 and January 2016, the club’s Facebook video views were up 247%, with more than 437 million views, and when it launched on Snapchat, it attracted more than 480,000 subscribers in three months.
But Dugout executive vice-president Kate Burns says the company has done extensive research into the habits of young football fans, and the types of content they want. Turns out, old school loyalty is out, with kids supporting an average of 4.6 different football clubs. Dugout allows them to build profiles to focus on the clubs and players that most interest them, all in one place, saving them the hassle of skittering around the internet trying to keep up with the content output of clubs and players individually.
Burns, who has served as managing director of Buzzfeed Europe, and was Google’s first international employee, says the prospect of adding something unique to the football media landscape is a huge opportunity. “What really grabbed me about this project was that it’s not just another football site. The big difference is the access,” says Burns. “The real attraction is the content is coming directly from the clubs and players they follow. When we asked the fans what kind of content they wanted and what they found hard to find, they all said it was about this desire to understand the players, who are they, find more about them as humans, as people, what their lives are like off the pitch. And there was also a big appetite for things behind the scenes at the club, the unsung heroes like the medical team and groundspeople. It’s that kind of content we’re focusing on, that brings fans closer to the game in many ways.”
While Burns says Dugout is completely independently-funded, the business model is built on advertising and the company will share its revenue equally, 50-50 with its partners (the clubs and players). Dugout’s unique arrangement with the clubs also affords it a launch platform rarely seen among new media startups.
“We’re in an unprecedented position with the world’s biggest football clubs as our partners, so they’ve given us access to their websites, social platforms, and above the line stuff like on the pitch with jumbo screens, LED signage, player training bibs, all of that together we have a huge amount of valuable media,” says Burns. “Having that endorsement is important as well, in terms of brand awareness and illustrating the idea that we’re not just another football site.”