Football to the fan is everything. It’s an obsession. It is life itself. Football to the corporate world is a multi-million dollar business, where every piece of the game is a commodity, a lucrative avenue to make money. Because of this, access to players and everything surrounding them, is tightly controlled. This controlling nature means that it is sometimes hard to get an idea of the footballer behind the club, the kit, the myriad sponsorship - what makes them tick and, more importantly, what makes them human.
One way in, though, is through music, the ultimate leveller. The music a footballer listens to before a match, in their downtime, the songs that get airtime when they have precious lone moments can tell a lot about the person beyond the boot.
Take, for instance, arguably the greatest footballer playing today, Lionel Messi. Thanks to a partnership global streaming service Deezer has forged with Barcelona (it also has one with Manchester Utd), anyone can see the music he listens to as he’s created a playlist on the service.
It’s packed with tracks from Argentina (Dread Mar I features heavily) and Columbia, while the US is featured thanks to Bruno Mars, Joey Montana and Prince Royce. Whether his selection is to your taste or not - and read into it as you will, given there’s no Spanish singers to be seen - it’s a fascinating insight into one of the world’s biggest role models.
“The emergence of streaming services allows fans to get closer to their heroes by sharing playlists, podcasts and pre and post-game music mixes,” says Golan Shaked, Chief Commercial Officer, Deezer.
“We currently have players updating their playlists on Deezer and interacting with the fans.”
It’s this fan interaction that’s key to what Deezer is doing with sports content on its service. While music is certainly at the heart of Deezer’s proposition, it’s not difficult to see why it would opt to branch into other areas.
When you have Apple Music, Spotify, even Amazon offering up the same 40 or so million tracks, it is no longer about the exact songs available through a service, but how each presents and curates them. This is something Deezer does with human-made playlists, but then the sports content is another standout USP.
“Deezer's main proposition is music, differentiated by Flow - our music discovery feature. However, our user base is becoming more familiar and more interested in our broader audio catalogue,” says Shaked.
“Having such a catalogue allows us to expand the time that users spend on our platform, making Deezer a destination for a more comprehensive audio entertainment experience.
“Sport and football in particular are popular areas of interest which attract a large audience base but more importantly allow users to interact with their favourite teams outside of the stadium.”
It may soon allow users to interact within the stadium too. TechRadar went on a recent trip to the Nou Camp and was asked to add to a playlist that would play before the Man Utd Legends Vs Barcelona Legends match, and also at halftime.
One of our songs was chosen, Lights Out by Royal Blood (for some reason they chose not to play the drum ‘n’ bass classic Barcelona by D Kay & Epsilon) and we have to admit it was a fantastic feeling, knowing we chose a piece of music to play to a crowd of 40 or so thousand. No wonder David Guetta always has a stupid grin on his face.
It got us thinking – could this be something Deezer offers up to fans in the future?
“Sure. Music is about sharing experiences and self-expression,” says Shaked.
“Streaming services coupled with social and sharing features facilitate such experiences. Our fans are also incredibly important to us so we would like to give back where we can.”
This sporting life
The sports section of Deezer is burgeoning. There’s everything from Jose Mourinho's pre-match press conferences to matchday playlists to sports radio (including individual team news thanks to a linkup with TalkSport which began back in 2015) to curated podcasts available.
But it seems that this is just one part of Deezer’s plan to grow beyond music and make the service ‘an audio destination’ that changes in accordance to your locality.
“Deezer is available in 185 countries around the world and the key to its success is the ability to provide an extensive global catalogue but also local content, allowing it to also become a local hero,” says Shaked.
“In Germany we discovered that audiobooks are very popular so we added them to our platform. We know that politics and comedy are both very popular in the UK so we have created bespoke content that caters to those interests and tastes.
“In other markets like Brazil we focus on music genres such as Gospel and Santanejo which have a massive and very loyal fan base but are quite regionally specific.”
Which brings us back to football and local hero (if you are Manchester born and bred), Phil Jones from Man Utd. He has Simply Red’s Fairground and UB40’s Red Red Wine in his playlist. It’s lovely to think that one of these tunes - clearly chosen because of their colour - may be what’s going through his head the next time he makes a defensive clearance in the Champions League this year.
We don’t know what’s better: that we know this, or that we live in a time when knowing this amount of detail about a world-class player is just a click away.