When the elite of Europe face off in the Champions League this week, fans and pundits are likely to judge a team's success purely in terms of the score and other common stats relating to performance.
Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger's team building abilities will be exclusively discussed in terms of their squad's showings on the pitch.
But it's not so simple to the suits in the executive suites who will increasingly judge a player's success on his contribution to a club's brand as well as results - a phenomenon accentuated in recent years by the explosion in exposure and audience insights offered by social media.
Key to this seismic shift in thinking is a concept called PLAN Indexing; standing for Performance-Led Analytics Index. Essentially this means that athletes are being monitored in real time for on-pitch performance, social media activity and the resulting fan sentiment for both.
While the technology facilitating this insight is relatively new, both evolution and demand have been rapid. For example, our Brandtix platform uses over 100 different metrics to analyse these areas live; this is then rationalized with a number of proprietary algorithms, resulting in an overall Index Score. The marketing men at clubs will keep a close eye on their star players’ latest score - but they are not the only people in the club doing so.
The resource can also enable playing staff to detect new talent and identify players with specific abilities and can help clubs understand athletes’ standing with fans as well as players’ agents, which is especially useful insight when it comes to contract negotiations.
Barcelona v Arsenal
The defending Champions take a two goal advantage back to the Camp Nou, as well as having three players in the top 10 index leader board. Arsenal will need to produce one of the best displays of the season to make it through to the last eight.
Luis Suarez (552) v Alexis Sanchez (457)
The once-Arsenal target, Suarez has seen his value rocket since moving to the Catalan Club, both on the pitch and off it. Roughly 34m fans across social media puts him in the top 10 players in the world and with 26 goals in 27 matches in his domestic league, he is also in the best form of his career. Alexis is having a difficult second season at Arsenal but he has proven to do well in the big games, as an ex-Barca player he will also be looking to get one over his old team.
Lionel Messi (745) v Mesut Ozil (576)
Against almost any other player Ozil’s index would compete, however Lionel Messi is not just any other player, 122.7m social media followers eclipses Ozil’s 46.3m (worth noting that the German’s following is the highest out of any player in the Premier League). On the pitch, the Argentinian has returned 22 goals in 24 Spanish league matches, while the Arsenal attacker has never been prolific, it would be difficult to compete with those number. Out of the 1.6k players on the Brandtix index they sit at 3rd and 5th place respectively on the leaderboard.
Bayern Munich v Juventus
While he diehard fan may find analysing anything but the result mystifying, the reality is that for clubs, football is now about more than just the final score. Of course, Bayern will be keen to mark this season with a Champions League trophy, not least of all as a ‘thank you’ to departing manager Pep Guardiola, but the club will also be looking at their roster of players in the light of talent, popularity, their ability to build a brand and attract sponsors.
Thomas Muller (506) v Paul Pogba (465)
Muller has a significantly higher following off the pitch - 13.6m followers - and has been in great form on it, giving him the edge over Pogba. However, Pogba’s recent boot deal with Adidas, a reported £31m over 10 years, has seen his social following grow significantly off the pitch (3.5m new fans). His growing reputation on it could see a big boost if Juventus can beat Bayern and progress to the last eight.
Robert Lewandowski (514) v Paulo Dyabala (443)
Lewandowki has over six times as many followers on social media, 13.1m to Dyabala’s 2.0m. However, more people are currently talking about the Juventus striker on social and his 14 goals this season in the Serie A have pushed Juventus to six points clear at the top of the table.