Design Method

How Real Madrid secured 100M Facebook fans


There are many stories of rivalry and friction between football clubs, but nothing comes close to that of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. As both teams begin to prepare for the new La Liga season in a few weeks, many are still talking about Real Madrid’s off-field victory from last season.

Not content with reaching 1.6 billion video views, the club also celebrated winning the digital El Clasico Facebook crown earlier this year after beating Barcelona to become the first football club in the world to reach 100 million likes on Facebook.

Two of the biggest clubs in the world are known for their intense battles, but this time it extended to their social media channels. However, this was a hard-fought battle with both clubs delivering a masterclass in digital marketing that also involved enlisting the help of high-profile supporters.

The drama began to unfold in November 2016 when Barca netted 95M Facebook fans. Just 3.8M fans ahead of Real Madrid, it sparked an idea for a social media challenge. Real Madrid’s social media team crafted a strategy to narrow and close that gap, then overtake Barca to become the first social media sports club to reach 100M.

Just after the new year in 2017, Real Madrid’s social team enlisted the help of leading sports digital strategy and tech firm, Rebel Ventures. Between them, they devised and enacted a detailed plan to optimize Facebook growth.

The premise was wholly simple – use organic content, be strategic about paid acquisitions, celebrate those big team and player victories, and focus on regional holidays. The dedication of the staff relentlessly pursuing the goal would quickly begin to pay dividends.

Real Madrid quickly started gaining on Barca, closing the gap to 700k in March 2017. However, the club had no time to celebrate this early advantage. Barca went on to beat PSG 6-1 and suddenly advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Champions League.

The victory caused the Catalan giants Facebook page to completely explode with support, netting them almost 1M fans in just a few hours. Realizing the power, they now had, the digital team began pushing hard with spending on Facebook to gain fans and reach the 100M fan goal as fast as they could. It seemed inevitable that Barca was going to stake their claim on the title.

Things were looking grim for Real Madrid. How would they come up with 3.4M fans in 48 hours and hit the 100M goal first? It was a blur of strategic paid acquisition campaigns running 24 hours a day globally thanks to social code working tirelessly in San Francisco, New York, and Tel Aviv, keeping things flowing in real-time.

The gap was closing, but Madrid still needed to conjure up something special to deliver one final push to get there. Once again star power proved to be their biggest weapon in the title race. Players including Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Marcelo teamed up with other legends like Kaka and David Beckham.

These players of both past and present created a virtual team that pushed for support on their personal Facebook pages. Even non-football celebrities dove right in to help Real Madrid become the first sporting brand in the world to reach the significant milestone before their rivals.

It was once again the power of team work that through for Real Madrid. In just 48 hours, they gained 4M new Facebook fans, coming out on top in the final moments of the challenge. Barca was officially defeated, and now Real Madrid masterminded the victory over their rivals to secure the digital El Clásico crown.

To their credit, Barca reached also reached the milestone only 9 hours later. But, it was too late to secure any media attention, there was only one winner in the eyes of the press. 100M Facebook fans were made possible through a captivating digital strategy, unrelenting support from Real Madrid fans, legendary players, and celebrities.

The unification of each of these forces was undoubtedly instrumental in the takeover. However, there is much more to this story than two of the biggest football clubs in the world trying to secure 100M fans. Enlisting the help of important influencers is something that marketing agencies are increasingly using to their advantage.

We all now reside in a digital mobile first world where pop-up blockers prevent ads from reaching target audiences. As a result, influencer marketing is rising in popularity for brands and agencies that are looking to spread their message. A digital strategy is no longer just a nice-to-have but a crucial part of securing an advantage or significant win over your competitors.