Vertical growth – how LaLiga is enhancing its digital portrait with WSC Sports

LaLiga’s renowned digital strategy is evolving thanks to the support of technology providers like WSC Sports, which is providing highlights in a vertical, portrait format following the relaunch of the league’s official mobile app.

Like many rights-holders, LaLiga, has had to contend with a momentous shift in consumption habits among its current and prospective followers in recent years.

In a splintered digital landscape in which traditional media models have been disrupted irrevocably, fans are now firmly in control as they access sports content on their terms – and strategies have had to adapt accordingly. Simultaneously, younger generations of sports fans are adopting seismic behavioural changes, such as favouring highlights over live coverage in certain sports, according to a 2021 study by Maru Group for the Variety Intelligence Platform.

Fortunately for LaLiga, it was an early mover in digital transformation; endeavouring to frame its digital strategy around attempts to engage younger audiences – a point of differentiation that gave it a head start over rival properties. This has been backed up by holistic efforts across LaLiga, from sealing youth-facing partnerships with the likes of EA Sports to securing a solid foothold in the esports space. 

Now, with the help of WSC Sports, LaLiga is taking its youth-facing digital engagement strategy to the next level in order to keep enthusiasts worldwide firmly in the picture.

WSC Sports creates automated, artificial intelligence-driven highlights from every LaLiga match – and, since LaLiga’s official mobile app relaunched in July, the content has been delivered in a vertical, portrait format. This is a shift away from the traditional landscape presentation and towards a new mobile experience.

For LaLiga’s digital strategy director Alfredo Bermejo, this delivery of engaging match snippets in a vertical format will resonate with those who have become accustomed to consuming social media content.

Furthermore, the short-form approach enabled by WSC Sports is paying dividends by enhancing personalisation for the end user, according to Bermejo, who started his role at LaLiga in 2017.

Personalisation prevails

“We wanted to make a 360-degree content platform where the fans can find content that matters the most to them,” Bermejo tells SportBusiness.

“That is why we decided to integrate an experience that they were used to having on social platforms and also being able to target specific content related to their team.”

In the two years that LaLiga has been partnered with WSC Sports, the collaboration has been utilised to tackle the globalisation conundrum, which is cited by Bermejo as a major challenge, as well as an opportunity.

At the heart of the app relaunch is a continuous drive by LaLiga to find a way of making the brand even more internationally recognised than it is in a highly competitive space.

“In terms of figures, we are pretty excited with what we are seeing so far,” Bermejo says, referring to the app revamp. “We have increased the number of sessions that the fans are having on the app. The number of sessions per user has increased by more than 70%. Also, in terms of time spent on the platform we have seen an increase of more than 30% from one year to the next. Figures are promising and we are really happy with the result.”

This increased engagement has recently helped LaLiga to cement its status as the most followed of the five major European football leagues on social media.

It recently surpassed 200 million followers across 16 social media accounts which are spread across the likes of Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Weibo, and Line, reflecting the fragmented nature of the digital media space.

“We want to use to get that strategy in place and develop new audiences not just in terms of regions but also different ages and generations,” Bermejo said. “Being able to create vertical videos is really, really key for that. We can tackle different regions and different demographics. We hope that WSC Sports can help us not just to rival the Premier League, but also the NBA or NFL.”

Working in tandem

Digital transformation and optimisation have long been a pivotal part of LaLiga’s development strategy.

This was evident with the creation in 2021 of LaLiga Tech, which has since been rebranded as Sportian after bringing multinational tech company Globant on board, and is responsible for developing all of LaLiga’s technical solutions.

AI, web 3.0, and the metaverse have been put at the core of Sportian’s operations in an attempt to focus on fan experience and the digital transformation of backroom processes. To this end, Bermejo views WSC Sports’ support as complementary to the overall efforts.

“I think we got the best from two different worlds,” said Bermejo. “Sportian know us well and they managed to integrate state-of-the-art solutions such as WSC into our product and to make it work with all the knowledge we had from our existing digital and data platform in terms of personalisation and video distribution.

“It’s been really challenging but we finally managed to find a way to make both work alongside each other.”

Avoid being lost in translation

As the drive to enhance the offering continues, LaLiga and WSC Sports have explored ways to enhance the content and distribution even more effectively.

LaLiga’s social media output is available in 20 languages around the world, which represents a key contributing factor to its international efforts. This is one area of potential development through the partnership with WSC Sports.

“We have ideas in mind such as automated commentators’ translation or how to transform match footage into other kinds of images, and integrating augmented reality into traditional broadcasting,” Bermejo added.

“I think the most important thing is that we are aligning on the basis of how we make a better user experience so that when they consume sports, we are asking: how can we integrate different factors or customisation into it?

“We did it with highlights, but why don’t we have a different layer in terms of language? We have something that is produced in English and Spanish, so can we have that in 20 or 30 languages?”

Ultimately, Bermejo wants to see the digital strategy drive increasing ticket sales in Spain and audiences abroad by encouraging fans to watch live action.

He is even considering enlisting the help of superheroes and much-loved cartoon characters to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Bermejo took inspiration from the NFL’s Toy Story Funday Football initiative which saw a live broadcast of the match between the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars portrayed as animations in a setting from the film franchise through augmented reality. It resulted in the fixture being the most-watched live event on Disney+ this year.

“If I am a Disney or Marvel fan, how can I get my favourite characters into the broadcast?” Bermejo adds. “That is what we would like to explore and I think the sky is the limit.”

For more information on this partnsership, view WSC Sports LaLiga case study here

For more information on how clubs, leagues and federations can make the most of their digital assets read the Rightsholders’ Playbook from WSC.