As Relevent Sports Group has built out its soccer properties like the International Champions Cup and the Women’s ICC event, it has also looked to build out its reach as an entertainment company and creating more content and storytelling around the top-tier soccer clubs and players it works with.
To help accomplish that, the company this week hired Robert Rodriguez to lead its content and brand division. Rodriguez, who most recently served as the chief growth officer of soccer content publisher Copa90, was previously the head of global football partnerships at Facebook and Instagram.
Rodriguez spoke with Front Office Sports about his new role, what content connects with the modern sports fan and his experience working with some of the biggest brands in soccer ranging from Manchester United to Neymar.
FOS: Explain your new role.
Rodriguez: I see my role as an evolution of the company as it is growing into an entertainment business and expanding beyond the matches themselves. We’ve seen the growth of the on-product, now the programming in the digital space is taking the next step.
FOS: The International Champions Cup is an event usually played across a month – how does that become a year-round property?
Rodriguez: It’s about creating a heartbeat and a pulse so that before we get into the tournament, fans already have a narrative and a connection with the players and clubs. That means a much more focused strategy that will activate with more players while leaning into lifestyle and culture.
FOS: What kind of content resonates best with the soccer fan of today?
Rodriguez: We’re all seen these all-access shows, something like Hala Madrid on Facebook or the All Or Nothing series on Amazon. There is a desire to go behind-the-scenes with deep storytelling with the players. I think that’s the first wave. The second is, what is the community about? That connection between lifestyle and culture, and the experience that happens when this community comes together.
FOS: Do you think we’ll get to the point where fans have more interest in content like this than highlights?
Rodriguez: I think there will always be a space for highlights, and there are plenty of people that when they go into their Instagram feed, the first thing they want is up-to-the-minute content from a rightsholder. What you are seeing now though is a convergence of wanting to see storytelling through the lens of lifestyle. Fans want to learn more about the characters and personalities that these players have every day, not just when they’re on the field.
FOS: What is the biggest challenge around creating soccer content in the U.S.?
Rodriguez: Soccer isn’t a domestic sport in the U.S. in a lot of ways, and for many people, their relationship to the culture of the sport in some ways is eight hours away. In other parts of the world, you go from playing FIFA in your bedroom to playing five-a-side outside to being part of the culture of the sport. It is happening in the U.S. – you see it in things like the Venice Beach Football Club – but it takes time to develop.