How Real Madrid Created the World’s Largest Digital Stadium With Microsoft Azure – Inspiration Series

Real Madrid Football Club is undeniably one of the world’s most famous sports companies with 500 million fans worldwide. However, with its global success came a universal challenge. To keep its fans engaged, the club needed to find ways to connect with them. The club enlisted a Microsoft team to help inspire, develop and deploy a solution using its cloud-based services. The dream was to wow their global fan base and the solution, the world’s largest digital stadium powered by Microsoft cloud services. 

What Was The Challenge?

Until its collaboration with Microsoft, Real Madrid’s ability to interact with its fans was limited. Supporters either had to get hold of tickets for one of the 81,000 seats in the club’s stadium, visit its website, or chat via its social media channels. However, with such a colossal following, the club needed to deliver more and wanted to live up to its followers’ expectations. And, more to the point, the club needed to understand and learn from its fans to drive forward and see continued success. 

Prior to launching a new product to engage with fans, revenue from the club came from three key sources: stadium tickets, broadcast rights and merchandise. Any cloud-based virtual experience would need to enhance the business as well as delight its fans. By creating a more interactive experience for the 97% of its fans situated outside of Spain, the club hoped to drive greater fan loyalty and thereby boost its revenue. 

What Was the Solution?

A team from Microsoft and Real Madrid worked together to come up with the ideal solution to engage fans. With the knowledge that every fan would love to be in the stadium, but at the same time, that every fan loves the rich experience they get from watching at home, the team struck on an idea. They needed to create a virtual experience that looked and felt like being in the stadium, while at the same time providing statistics, replays, camera angles and social interaction. 

The virtual stadium needed to provide a premium experience of the game where users could see where their friends were sitting, gain extra information about the game and even use a mobile device while watching on the big screen to further enhance their experience.  

The team built the solution from the ground up, first by storyboarding the in-stadium and at-home experiences, then evaluating which cloud-based virtual experiences could deliver the features they’d need. 

How Was the Platform Built?

Microsoft worked closely with real Madrid to build a Platform-as-a-Service solution using a wide range of cloud services. The digital sports platform delivers rich content and draws deep insights with its three key components:

  • Fan engagement platform – the back-end of the platform captures every fan interaction, whether they’ve checked in to the stadium, updated their profile or commented about a game on social media. Each interaction is stored in Azure Table Storage and DocumentDB to give Real Madrid invaluable customer data. 
  • Advanced video platform – by leveraging Azure Media Services, Azure App Service and Azure Media Player, users are able to access any historic game and can search for in-game moments. When watching live games, fans can choose camera angles and playback moves as they happen.
  • Fan-facing application – built on a .NET Framework through Visual Studio 2013, Real Madrid’s mobile app, available for iOS, Android and Windows, gives fans access to content wherever they are. They can virtually access the stadium, search data on club players and review statistics. To ensure security and scalability, the Azure Active Directory B2C identity services provides user authentication and profile storage. What that means to fans is that they can use standard passwords and achieve a seamless experience across all of their devices. Meanwhile, Visual Studio provides advanced analytics so Real Madrid can improve their offerings in real-time.

Building a PaaS solution based on Microsoft Azure and other cloud applications gave Real Madrid the global scale that they needed, our Azure Consulting team at XAM would have loved to help with this. More than that, it has relieved the burden of managing the ever-evolving sophisticated infrastructure that its digital offering required. As a result of the collaboration, Real Madrid has grown its digital team with the core focus of enhancing the fan experience and business outcomes. 

What Benefits Did they See?

Real Madrid’s new digital platform has managed to connect its huge community of fans with the club and has vastly improved the experience of being a Real Madrid supporter. With the addition of the PaaS platform, the club is able to profile supporters, understand them better and give them what they want. The club has realised the following benefits from its PaaS platform:

  • Personalised 1:1 experiences – the club can track individual customer preferences and activities, gather vast volumes of data and ensure that everything that is offered at touchpoints is personalised. 
  • Robust and stable system – telemetry and analytics ensure the system meets demand and scales accordingly.
  • Rich customer experiences – informative experiences for every user, no matter where they are. 
  • Increased data sources – the club used to pull data from just five sources, but now has more than 70 with the Microsoft cloud platform.

Both fans and the team have benefited from the new offerings that Microsoft Azure has delivered. Real Madrid can have conversations with their fans, learn from them and provide more. Meanwhile, fans have an improved experience, can interact seamlessly and get more from every game. What’s more, since adopting the platform, Real Madrid has reported a 30 per cent growth in digital revenue. 

Can Azure Help Your Business?

With the help of Azure, Real Madrid have managed to completely disrupt the football business model. The club is no longer bound by its physical restraints and is able to augment experiences, increase engagement and maximise interactions. 

In today’s digital world, every business needs to try to gain a competitive advantage. Chances are, as an IT leader, you’ve noticed the competition coming up with new innovative ways of doing business. Microsoft Azure can deliver a competitive advantage in any number of ways, using data and technology to go above and beyond customers’ expectations. 

If you like the thought of integrating your cloud services, moving faster, achieving more and saving money, then Azure could be your perfect partner. You’ll be able to augment your existing IT services in an affordable way with easy scalability. While not every business will be able to immediately launch a PaaS solution, adopting Azure’s compute offering or their network and storage in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) can make a massive difference. What’s more, if you’re already familiar with Microsoft’s products, then you’ll be productive in the cloud from day one, leveraging its engineering powers and industry-leading security to deliver sustainable and scalable business benefits. 

To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the benefits that Real Madrid experienced:

  • Challenges – Real Madrid has a huge number of fans, 97% of which are outside of its home in Spain. The club needed to be able to wow their global fan base, offer an exceptional experience and learn from their fans to enhance their offerings. 
  • Solution – by collaborating with a team of Microsoft professionals using Microsoft Azure, the club built a PaaS platform which created a virtual stadium. Fans can take a seat, see where their friends are sitting and search for details about clubs and statistics. The advanced video platform enables fans to access any historic game, choose camera angles and playback moves. Meanwhile, the back-end of the platform captures and stores every interaction to give the club invaluable customer data and enable them to fine-tune and personalise their offerings in real-time. 
  • Benefits – the platform has dramatically improved the experience of being a Real Madrid supporter. The club can deliver rich, personalised 1:1 experiences on a robust and stable system. Real Madrid now pulls data from 70 sources and has reported a 30 per cent growth in digital revenue. 
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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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