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Crypto, AR, OTT and more: Talking about Innovation with Felipe Ribbe of Atlético Mineiro | Part 1

Felipe Ribbe de Vasconcellos is Head of Innovation at the Brazilian club Atlético Mineiro. In this extensive interview he speaks about the recent developments at CAM.

Your job title is “Head of Innovation”, what exactly are you focusing on at Atlético Mineiro?

Felipe Ribbe de Vasconcellos: Innovation at Atlético today stays under the business department. We have the commercial and the marketing teams responsible for the traditional revenue streams of a football club (TV rights, sponsorships, and ticketing/membership program) and as the head of innovation my main goal is to find new revenue streams that are not being explored by the club. Not only revenue streams that can generate income for Atlético now, but also things that we can start building now in order to have results in the mid and longer term.

So, you are looking for new revenue streams. Where can they be found?

I think that clubs now have the chance to explore new ways of interacting with their fans using technologies like blockchain, augmented reality, IOT, video streaming and so on. Furthermore, the digital world gives us the possibility of reaching people worldwide, not only local fans. Football clubs are also, at least here in Brazil, focusing so much on the hardcore fans and there are good opportunities to explore fans that are not avid, but that can be consumers of the brand as well.  

Atlético Mineiro is focusing on crypto as well. What potential do you see in that area and what are you already doing at Atlético?

A lot of potential. Crypto is so young and I think that is just scratching the surface. Let’s talk about NFTs, for example. The first NFT project, Cryptopunks, was created in 2017, so we are talking about a little more than four years. Crypto gives sports organizations the possibility of engaging with fans in different ways, allowing them to unlock experiences in the physical and virtual worlds, to earn money by playing or by trading cryptoassets…

Here at Atlético we are leading the crypto movement in the Brazilian sports industry. We were the first in the country to sign with Sorare (we already sold more than 500k euros in Atlético’s players cards) and also the first to launch a fan token, with Socios.com. We also auctioned a digital piece of art as an NFT last May on OpenSea and sold it for 2 ETH (around US$5.000 at the time). And from June until December we are releasing a collection of historical jerseys on Binance. Every two weeks we release a new one (it’s a 13 jersey collection) and so far it’s been sold out, with more than 5.000 NFTs sold and more than US$40.000 in gross revenue generated.

You also think about improvements in ticketing. For example, creating a secondary market based on blockchain or experimenting with dynamic pricing. Can you tell me a bit more about your ideas?

Actually, this is what really excites me about crypto and blockchain. I think digital collectibles are cool, but to me the future of NFTs is unlocking experiences. And when I think about it, It’s pretty clear that the ticketing business is going to be disrupted by blockchain. We started to study the possibility of selling tickets as NFTs because we can take advantage of all the features that the technology provides: first, fans can verify the authenticity of tickets; second, we can track who has the ticket and therefore who is coming to the stadium, because a lot of times the person that buys it is not the person that is going to use it. And last but not least, smart contracts allow us to control the secondary market, generating a new revenue stream. Today, sports organizations in general don’t earn anything from this secondary market. But if the tickets are NFTs, I can program them so that every time the ticket is resold, I earn a percentage of it. I can also determine the maximum price that a ticket can be resold and even if the ticket can or cannot be resold. This control is very important. And besides it, once your tickets are NFTs, they can be collectibles too. So you can create a different business from it, maybe exploring dynamic NFTs that update with game scores, stats and even highlights… There are so many possibilities that we could talk about it for hours.

Regarding dynamic pricing, it’s not really it, because the law in Brazil doesn’t allow us to do that. But what we want to do is using AI to find the perfect pricing for every sector on every match, based on information like day of the week, match starting time, weather, moment of the team, who are we playing against, if we have other events in the city at the same time or close, if it’s a holiday’s eve, if the match is in the beginning of the month or at the end, because people will have more or less money to spend… So we have a lot of variables that we can use in order to have better pricing and we want to start exploring it here next season.

You have more than 85.000 members, but right now all of them from Brazil. Next step is opening the membership to international fans. How will you do that and what do you expect?

Today we only sell membership in Brazil, but we have a lot of Brazilians that are also Atlético fans living abroad and this is something that they have been asking us for a long time, so now it’s time to provide it to them. And we also think that we can bring foreigners to become members, not only because Brazil by itself is a powerful brand when it comes to football and we have one the best teams of the continent, but also because we will provide benefits like exclusive content through an OTT platform, official merch, watch parties and other events that can only be accessed by members and so on.

This goes hand in hand with a brand-new OTT platform, right?

Definitely. We are already building our platform and we plan to launch it in the first quarter of 2022. The OTT platform is going to be one of the most important digital products in our digital ecosystem because we’ll be able to deliver special content and access to what happens at Atlético to people all over the world. Football clubs are media companies today and there are so many types of content that we can explore.

What goals do you have with that platform? What right do you own?

Like I said before, we see ourselves not just as a football club, but as a media company and we want to provide the best content possible on our platform. The OTT will be key for our strategy to reach fans worldwide, to generate a new revenue stream, but more than that, it’s a first party platform, so we own the data, which is very important to us. This way we can study fans’ behaviours, what type of content they prefer to consume, how and when they prefer to consume it, with which type of device…

Today we don’t own the rights to broadcast live matches of our professional Men’s team, but we plan to show live matches of the Youth Academy and the Women’s team and special content, like documentaries, total access series, All or Nothing style, and match analysis. More than that, we will explore other content formats that are not usual to sports organizations, like reality shows, game shows, podcasts, gastronomy and travel programs, where the chef and the host are Atlético fans, kids’ content… And even contents that are not related to Atlético. Why not have the rights to show a league from a country that has not been broadcasted in Brazil, for example? I think that an OTT platform can “speak” to different kinds of audiences and that’s what we want to explore here.

This is Part 1 of the interview with Felipe Ribbe. You can find Part 2 here.

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