Real Madrid is the wealthiest sporting team on the planet. A colossus on the pitch, and in the bank, the famous Spanish soccer club has won a record 10 European titles, and generated €549.5 million in revenue in the 2013/14 season, according to Deloitte. It is conservatively estimated by Forbes to be worth $3.4 billion.
Yet, according to its own CEO, José Ángel Sánchez, the club has a comparatively primitive digital presence. ”We are the richest club in the world, but the current business model is a little bit exhausted,” he tells Quartz. “We really need to change certain things, structural aspects of the organization.”
To that end, the team has struck an all-encompassing technology partnership with Microsoft, covering everything from a new mobile app (to be released later this month) to equipment that can be used by players and coaches to enhance on-field performance.
Real Madrid claims to have 450 million fans around the globe—most of them outside of Spain. It hopes that by using Microsoft’s cloud and Office 365 platforms, it will be able to offer those fans exclusive content and services, at all times, not just during games.
Sánchez thinks the club eventually could use Microsoft’s capability in data analytics and technology to help the team on the pitch, and even prevent injuries. ”We think that this is going to play a role in future team performance,” he says. “We are just starting, but it is a really a very interesting area, and it could be a certain area of advantage [for Real Madrid] in the future.”
Both Real Madrid and Microsoft insist that their arrangement is more of a partnership than a sponsorship, suggesting both companies are committing money. But financial terms have not been disclosed. However, Microsoft’s head of emerging businesses, Orlando Ayala, tells Quartz that the agreement is ”truly unprecedented” in size—which is saying something, since Microsoft’s five-year deal to supply NFL teams with tablets and other interactive technologies is reportedly costing it $400 million.
Tomorrow, Real Madrid’s quest for an 11th European title continues when it faces Italy’s Juventus in the semifinals of the prestigious UEFA Champions League. Sanchez sounds as confident as you would expect the CEO of the world’s richest sporting team to be. “We won the Champions League last year, we expect to win it again in a month’s time.”
Real Madrid already holds the record for the two most expensive player transfers in history. Recently, it has been loosely linked with a bid for Raheem Sterling, who plays for Liverpool (the club this writer happens to support). Asked whether it’s true that Real Madrid is interested in Sterling, Sanchez said: “It is not true. I know the player, but we are not on the issue.”