EXCLUSIVE: AC Milan’s Casper Stylsvig On Twitch Partnership And Being More Than A Sports Brand
December 1, 2020
AC Milan has been robust with its commercial strategy throughout 2020 as they counter the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the club has seen tremendous success, joining forces with brands like Etro, EA Sports, launching their own esports team with QLASH and recently partnering with Roc Nation to host a joint music event.
The club has today announced an official partnership with Twitch, and iSPORTCONNECT spoke with Casper Stylsvig, AC Milan’s Chief Revenue Officer, and Twitch’s Strategic Partnership Director Farhan Ahmed to know more.
Why was the club interested in this new partnership with Twitch?
Innovation is an important part of AC Milan. It is in our DNA. What we realised even before the pandemic is that we needed to be much more digital savvy, so we started our digital transformation more than a year ago and we wanted it to be our key objective moving forward. The partnership with Twitch is another step in that journey. The journey consisted of many milestones for us.
“We believed that we needed to be a part of this community, not only for our fans but also for potential fans and our commercial partners.” – Casper Stylsvig.
Twitch is a platform where at any given time in 24 hours a day, there is an average of around 2 million people constantly active on this community. This is a huge community and we believed that we needed to be a part of this community, not only for our fans but also for potential fans and our commercial partners.
When you think about it, we have around 450 million fans or followers on a global scale, so this was another chance to reach to them in a unique way. For us the Twitch partnership is very important and it also makes AC Milan more than a sports brand but also talking or connecting to a younger audience which is very important for a club like ours.
Does the club see Twitch as beneficial in its ability to help you gain access to a new younger demographic of potential AC Milan supporters across the world?
I think there is a huge trend over this if I see the last 10 years in terms of transactions on how people consume sports and how they consume entertainment and so on. I remember 10 years ago you talked about two screens when you watched a football game because now we are talking about three screens. You will always say that you are online you are actually watching from your home and you are probably chatting with friends, maybe neighbours and friends that can be in any part of the world at the same time. So you are constantly being contacted.
“Esports has enjoyed a phenomenal positive growth over the last couple of years and we wanted to be a part of this. We found a phenomenal partner in QLASH and that’s the reason we were brave enough to get this partnership done.” – Casper Stylsvig
So this is kind of our job to be a part of that conversation we want to be on the forefront of fans and potential fans mindset so we need to be as broad and basically the change is in the environment of forcing a club like ours to be a part of this. And that we think is incredibly important not only in terms of talking potential partners but the way we communicate with our fans. The way we sync with them and the way we keep innovating to keep our fans and potential fans interested.
You recently joined forces with QLASH to launch your first ever esports team, why did now feel like the right time to do this?
We discussed a lot when is the right time and with certain things, you just have to jump. We did a lot of analysis, we monitored the market; we monitored the other clubs with what they are doing and that’s growing into an area where you have no previous experience. We as a club have played football for 121 years in the middle of December, we know what football is about.
Now we are talking about a completely different sport. We did feel that in order to show that the club has a modern mindset and also referring to the innovation part I mentioned before, we needed this step in the right direction for our fans around the world. On top of that esports has enjoyed a phenomenal positive growth over the last couple of years and we wanted to be a part of this. We found a phenomenal partner in QLASH and that’s the reason we were brave enough to get this partnership done.
AC Milan has partnered with multiple brands amidst the pandemic, ow have sponsorship and partnership dynamics altered due to the this?
We were quite quick to change our model back in March. We realised we need to focus on our digital aspects in order to integrate our partners in strategy, obviously bearing in mind that Italy was the first country in Europe which was very badly hit by this unfortunate situation. So we needed to react fairly quickly not to be in breach with a number of partners but also show the innovation skills we have within the organisation.
“We were all working very hard during the lockdown and encouraging people to think outside the box and that’s the reason we have managed to get some unique partners on board with us in these difficult times.” – Casper Stylsvig
I think that was the natural way of doing it and sort of opening up. We were all working very hard during the lockdown and encouraging people to think outside the box and that’s the reason we have managed to get some unique partners on board with us in these difficult times.
We never had an aggressive approach. We had more human approach and that’s why we managed to get a couple of very interesting partnership. The approach was just to be able to talk to fans but also come up with solutions where we say “Hey listen we can’t play football at the moment but we have a huge social media platform, we have some players who are very much engaged in what we are doing and that helped us build a unique partnership.”
iSPORTCONNECT also spoke to Farhan Ahmed, Twitch’s Strategic Partnership Director, firstly asking why this partnership something that was of interest from a Twitch perspective?
Sports is a significant growing area on Twitch and what we want to do is work with organizations and creators who would like to grow a community on our service through life long form entertainment.
It became quite clear AC Milan really wanted to do that so if I say was the heart of this partnership is really working with them to unlock that opportunity and to ensure to grow their communities on Twitch and ultimately be successful.
“It’s about helping these clubs really maximise the Twitch opportunity and showcasing what other club partners are doing and ultimately helping them build a community with our audience.” – Farhan Ahmed
That’s the reason we have been working with number of clubs and are quite excited to work with AC Milan.
What can you offer to AC Milan through your platform?
AC Milan will be streaming exclusive live content on our service and that content can be in different formats. It can be content about live matches, academy games; it could be a slide of looking back in the history of the team, their heritage and history. That will be the focus of their content.
It’s about helping these clubs really maximise the Twitch opportunity and showcasing what other club partners are doing and ultimately helping them build a community with our audience which is young and highly engaged.