Deezer Bets on the Beautiful Game to Score More U.S. Subscribers

Neymar da Silva photographed in 2016
Rex Features via AP Images

Neymar da Silva photographed on May 8, 2016.

FC Barcelona’s U.S. initiatives represent an under-exploited opportunity for its partner music service.

On July 26, FC Barcelona will play Manchester United at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. The match is one on a schedule of four International Champions Cup soccer games that Barça is set to play in the U.S., and an anticipated one, given the star teams’ heated relationship. Barça's U.S. tour is not only about the games: the club’s presence will also serve to promote the opening of two Barça youth academies, the team’s first schools for kids six and up outside of Spain. A reported 1500 young players are expected to try out for a slot at the Long Island academy this summer, with 600 more on the waitlist.

Those numbers are testimony to the Barça brand’s power in the youth market; the team’s more than 350 million social media followers worldwide evidences the champion team’s global impact in the Internet era.

For Deezer, which is betting on the beautiful game to boost its own brand in the competitive streaming service market, Barça’s growing popularity in the States -- assisted by the team’s Hispanic fans, represent an obvious -- and under-exploited -- opportunity to score new subscribers.

Deezer announced a partnership with FC Barcelona late last year, creating a “Sounds of Barça” channel in the service that offers team training soundtracks and playlists by Lionel Messi, Neymar and other well-known players. The Paris-based company also signed Manchester to a similar deal.

"The relationship between fútbol and music has always existed," Barça Sponsorship Assets Manager Casper Siewertsen told Billboard during a recent Barça-Manchester legends match at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium. "But now, using digital tools, we can amplify the impact of fútbol through music."

Deezer offered a chance for subscribers and new sign-ups to win tickets to Barça's U.S. games through a sweepstakes on the service. For Jorge Rincon, Deezer's Miami-based North America VP, the marketing partnership is a win-win relationship.

"The purpose is brand awareness," Rincon says. "The digital evolution of how fans connect with their teams have taken everybody by surprise… Leveraging the official playlists of the teams is certainly driving more subscriptions to us."

According to statistics provided by Deezer, the service has seen a spike in the number of users on match days. Users who listen to the team playlists, soccer podcasts and other related content are "among our most engaged users, with more than 88 percent returning to use Deezer" (the company did not disclose the number of users who accessed that content.) A spokesperson for Deezer, which claims 12 million active subscribers in 185 countries, did not reveal the number of subscribers the service has in the United States.

"When we first signed deals with Manchester and Barça I felt it was a great opportunity for North America," Rincon says. "The number of soccer fans in the U.S. has been growing tremendously. We’re trying to connect the passion for soccer and the passion for music."

Rincon stresses that Deezer’s soccer-related initiatives have particular appeal for U.S. Latinos. A recent Nielsen report commissioned by Univision found that Hispanics consume 64 percent more sports and sports-related content than non-Hispanics.  

"Now with soccer being combined with music we are certainly tapping into the Latino audience," says Rincon.

And in the case of Barça, whose playlists created in collaboration with Deezer feature a majority of songs in Spanish, the soccer connection could translate into a boost for reggaeton, Latin pop and other Latin music on the service.

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