Footballers are more powerful than they have ever been, not only in financial terms but in the power of their individual brands, a trend exemplified by a new app, Otro.

Star players, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar Jr and David Beckham are among the names signed up to a new digital service designed to bring players’ individual stories closer to fans, the Financial Times reports. A total of sixteen players have signed-up to provide exclusive behind-the-scenes content for the service.

The app, which launched on Monday, is funded through $50 million from 23 Capital, a company that specialises in investment and finance of sports media and entertainment ventures. Key to the project is not only the players’ relationship with fans but also with the venture itself: they will share in the profits. The app is free to download, but contains a premium subscription tier. 

“Football is the most loved game on the planet, but fans want a deeper connection with their heroes. We wanted to create a platform where they could tell their stories for the fans”, said Otro chief executive, Jeremy Dale.

“Otro is Spanish for other and the idea is that this will be their other club,” Dale added. The app will feature games, quizzes, and video content sourced from six of Europe’s biggest footballing cities: London, Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester, Paris, and Munich. Some of the video content available now involves such films as the Tottenham and England playmaker Dele Alli combining football and surfing. It is all helped along by the participating players’ enormous social media followings.

The app is a lucrative example of the rising power of players as their fame spins out from their club’s performance. In its recent report, the fan-focused media brand Copa90 highlighted the player brand as one of the key experiences of the modern football fan: “In social’s more quantified landscape – one where certain players have more followers than the clubs for which they play – the power of the player brand is ever more conspicuous to fans and advertisers.”

Furthermore as many as 46% of 16-24 fans in the UK support a second club, with 27% of those supporting three clubs or more, according to the Copa90 research. An idea such as Otro should play well in a far less club-loyal football world.

Sourced from the Financial Times, Copa90; additional content by WARC staff