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What: We talked to Emanuela Zaccone, Digital Entrepreneur, Co-founder and Marketing Manager of TOK.tv, about how the platform is changing the way fans consume live soccer games. TOK.tv recently launched  in China, releasing the official Real Madrid app for Chinese fans.
Why it matters: The platform can be integrated into any existing app, turning it immediately into a social network. It puts teams back in control of their relationship with the fans, which currently is mostly mediated by social networks.

http://emanuelazaccone.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/zaccone.png
(Photo: emanuelazaccone.com)

Portada: How was Tok TV created?
E.Z.: “We wanted to give sports fans back the emotion of watching TV together, even when they are far away. Sure, users can post on Facebook or tweet, but text cuts off the emotional side of the game: that’s why we created a platform putting voice at the center of the fan experience, letting users create virtual living rooms and call up to three friends, send stadium and arena cheers and take videos and social selfies together. Today we are integrated into major football teams official apps – such as FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Tottenham Hotspur, Italian Serie A TIM and Lega B and GuoAn Beijing among others.”

Portada: How has it changed over the past 5 years?E.Z.: “We started creating our own apps – from early experiments, such as TOK Baseball Land and TOK Football, to official team apps like Juventus Live. Then we wrapped all of our social features into one, which can be integrated into any existing app. Also, the ecosystem on the other side has changed. While second screening is now a regular behavior, first and second screen tend to converge.”

We wrapped all of our social features into one, which can be integrated into any existing app.

Portada: How do you monetize the app?
E.Z.:  “The TOK.tv social platform allows the brand to own the fan experience with custom social selfie backgrounds and sounds, as well as synced advertising. While a game is on we can recognize advertising on TV and send static and video banners to the users when their attention is higher, making TV clickable.We can also sync advertising with the LEDs pitch side. Moreover, the TOK.tv social platform includes advertising BOTs allowing brands to establish a 1-to-1 direct relationship with the fans.”

Portada: How do you connect with brands and advertisers?
E.Z.:  “We have a dedicated team, which works with sponsors and prospects interested in sports. The power of our platform lies in targeting users when their attention is higher while profiling them.”

The power of our platform lies in targeting users when their attention is higher while profiling them.

TOK.tvPortada: How does an app like this change the way fans watch a game?
E.Z.:  “It cuts the distances while bringing the arena and stadium mood to your couch. Nothing is better than living a game with your far away friends as if you were sitting next to each other. Our platform also integrates Tokie, the BOT who knows everything about your favorite teams. Juventus and Real Madrid already use this in their apps. Since January more than 2.3 million messages have been sent.”

Portada: Are the apps changing the audience, or is it the other way around?
E.Z.: “Both. Apps account for 89% of the mobile experience, but the way people use them takes a role in shaping the future of the apps. Audiences are expert users who don’t just accept everything. They expect to have great experiences, to find content on the platforms they use. This changes everything. Could you ever imagine Facebook buying sports right for live streaming?”

Audiences are expert users who don’t just accept everything. They expect to have great experiences, to find content on the platforms they use.

Portada: What are TOK.tv’s expansion plans?
E.Z.:  “Our 21 million users are spread worldwide, with a large portion coming from the US. We are working to expand to American sports and we have recently launched in China, releasing the official Real Madrid app for Chinese fans. That’s a huge market for football fans, and we are already integrated into the GuoAn Beijing app too, planning to expand even further.”

We are working to expand to American sports.

Codoon, the largest social sports platform in China, is pushing into the United States market after closing a $50M funding round. One of its apps, Runtopia, has 40M active users in the country, and Codoon has turned to Israeli mobile advertising platform Taptica to push it in the American market, driving user installs through Facebook. Could this be a sign of increased Chinese interest in breaking into the US digital market, and a continuing trend of Israel serving as a bridge between the East and West?

Runtopia connects users with an app that tracks runs, shares exercises and helps running enthusiasts meet each other, and contains a GPS and sensor for tracking. And there are plenty of running enthusiasts in the U.S.: in 2015, there were an estimated 60 million active joggers and runners in the country, with thousands of marathons and half-marathons taking place each year.
And while running apps are nothing new to Americans, Codoon is hoping to impress the American market with what they believe is superior technology. “The love of running knows no cultural barriers – we are targeting all running enthusiasts to enjoy Runtopia, who generally tend to be young professionals and smart device users,” said Xiaoyun Wu, Head of Sales and Operations for the APAC region at Taptica.

But for that to happen, the company needed a partner capable of providing a wide range of traffic sources. Enter Taptica and its proprietary technology, which leverages big data to enable targeting at scale so that brands can engage with mobile audiences, and has worked with companies like Amazon, Disney, Facebook, Twitter, OpenTable, Expedia, Lyft and Zynga.

Sports platform Codoon has the majority market share in China, and wants to expand in the U.S.

James Si, a vice president at Codoon, explained that Taptica’s acquisition of AreaOne, a long term Facebook Marketing Partner badge holder, made the company very attractive to them, as the company is “equipped with both the ad technology platform that fully automate Facebook advertising and its powerful DMP, which is fueled by the repository of big data from billions of impressions driven from the mobile campaigns.”

Codoon was also attracted to the fact that “Taptica has a truly international team, the perfect mixture of the West and the East,” and that “Taptica’s Beijing local office in Beijing provides warm, timely service to us, while Taptica’s American and Israeli team help us to understand the consumer habits acodoonnd the marketing techniques of the West.”

Wu added: “With our headquarters in Israel, along with offices in San Francisco, New York, Beijing and Seoul – we are truly an international company and we’ve localized in China so there is a blend of cultural and business similarities that help us work well together.”

Israel Serves As Tech Hub, Bridge Between East and West 

Israel has long been held in “high esteem as a hub of innovation,” said Wu. He also explained that China is taking advantage of Israel’s access to innovation to learn as much as possible to “position itself in an innovation economy,” while Israel also takes advantage of the relationship to learn about opportunities in the East.

China had long sowed the seed for innovation in the digital era.

“Israelis are more culturally similar to the Chinese than to the Americans, which facilitates negotiations and ongoing business relationships. We’ve heard over and over from our Chinese partners that the Israeli ‘can do’ attitude is something they can easily identify with.” Wu added. taptica

According to Si, Codoon has wanted to build up the Runtopia app for the American market from the get-go, signaling increased Chinese interest in the Western market. “We designed a totally different product for the American users,” Si said, based on the understanding that running habits are different in the United States than in China, “where the population is much more dense and concentrated in the cities.”

To these ends, Taptica’s proprietary technology leverages big data and machine learning to provide quality media targeting at scale, and designed full sets of creative based on the core audience of American runners, combined with automated keyword optimization, “which has nicely given us the best bang for our marketing dollars,” Si added. “In the future, we may develop further specialized applications: for example, we may even enhance the user experience by designing wearable devices for seniors that are less used to smartphones.”

Encouraged By Innovation, Chinese Will Push Into American Digital Market

According to Si, “going into the West is an important strategic move” for Codoon, and Runtopia plays a large role in that strategy for expansion: taking advantage of American users’ enthusiasm for running. “We are on the way to build one of the most interesting product in the world. We will keep on updating our product to meet American users’ needs,” Si elaborated.

Chinese development and innovation is moving at a very fast pace – they are leading the way in mobile – and it will be interesting to see how their globalization efforts change the mobile landscape in the years to come.

But why are companies like Codoon pushing into the United States now? The answer is simple, in Codoon’s case: the company has the majority market share in China, and wants to expand. “This is a trend that we’re seeing from lots of innovative Chinese companies that are exporting superior mobile apps and sharing them globally,” Wu said.

In general, Wu asserted that the Chinese tech industry is focused on figuring out how to crack into Western markets.“They are not only becoming more comfortable with expansion, but they are becoming very good at globalization,” he said. While there are still cultural barriers that “can’t be overcome solely through technology,” partnerships like that between Codoon/Runtopia and Taptica are critical “because cracking culture is about working with people who have unique local knowledge.”

“Chinese development and innovation is moving at a very fast pace – they are leading the way in mobile – and it will be interesting to see how their globalization efforts change the mobile landscape in the years to come,” Wu said, expressing excitement for what could be to come.

Si agreed that “there is a lot of brain power in China, making promising products at an astonishing speed.” And since China has a huge population base, applications are updated by users constantly, and consequently, Chinese developers are very skilled. “China had long sowed the seed for innovation in the digital era,” Si concluded.