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Real Madrid takes on Big Data – and crowdsourced analytics?

Tomorrow Real Madrid and Microsoft will launch a new app to connect fans to the club and to each other. The app will offer extra content during matches, including video from multiple camera angles, as well as games and competitions for users. But it will also give fans access to about 250 series of match data in real time… and that’s what caught my eye.

Today I asked José Ángel Sánchez, the club’s director-general, and Orlando Ayala of Microsoft just how they were going to make all that information available. For example, would fans be able to download the data and use it themselves?

Perhaps someday soon. “That’s not in our plan yet, but it’s absolutely the objective,” Sánchez said. Ayala added that they envisioned a repository for data where fans could combine and manipulate them in any way they chose.

Naturally, the club will monitor fans’ use of the app, collecting a ton of information in the process. Sánchez said one goal was to use the information to improve the club’s operations, especially in terms of its commercial relationship with fans. He said tailored services and experiences would be delivered through the app – a model that Ayala said could be duplicated across other sports as well. But would Real Madrid also take advantage of the ideas that come from users’ analysis of match data?

“That’s exactly where we’re going,” Sánchez said. “You really can’t compete with the talent of the people – there are many millions of them. This won’t be unilateral; it will be interactive.”

Of course, not all users will use the app to run their own analysis. Microsoft and Real Madrid anticipate that most of them will use the app as they would a social network like Facebook or Foursquare. Yet a lot of valuable data can come from those processes, too, especially from a marketing perspective – and that was Sánchez’s specialty when Florentino Pérez brought him to the club. Clearly, the data could be used to measure fans’ engagement with players. Would that information be used in assessing the current squad and potential signings?

“We haven’t gotten to the point where we make decisions accounting for factors beyond the sporting ones,” Sánchez said. “We haven’t got there yet, but these kinds of tools are going to get us there.”

So watch out, Gareth Bales of the future – if the fans don’t love you in the digital world, you might be out of a job in the physical one. That is, unless the analysts manage to convince the fans otherwise!

(The remarks by Sánchez and Ayala are my translations from the original Spanish.)