Internet

Google, Nike Take Run at Soccer-Focused Social Network

Internet giant Google is teaming with athletic shoe titan Nike to prepare the field for soccer fans worldwide with a new multi-language site that coincides with this summer’s World Cup competition in Germany.

Dubbed “joga.com,” joga being Portuguese for “play,” the new site will allow players and fans of soccer — or football, as the sport is known in Europe — to create profiles, pick favorite players, post photos and video, compete in online tournaments and more, Nike and Google said.

“They’re certainly well rounded with brands,” Basex CEO and Chief Analyst Jonathan Spira told TechNewsWorld. “Given the excitement of the World Cup in June, it seems it’s an excellent time to start a social network for football fans.”

Ready and Waiting

The site, which will connect users with various pages and offer country-specific promotional offers, news and information on tournaments, should draw as many as three million players in 40 countries, backers claimed.

Joga.com will be presented in 14 languages but is currently only available by invitation. Google and Nike said the site, which has been hosting the “grassroots” Joga3 fantasy soccer tournaments since February, will soon be open to others.

“We created the destination and tools,” said Nike Vice President of Global Brand Management Trevor Edwards. “Now it’s up to people who love the beautiful game to log on, sign up, and build a community that celebrates brilliant football and the joy of playing the world’s most popular sport.”

Passion Factor

The new Joga.com site builds on Nike’s “Joga Bonito” effort that includes JogaTV, the tournaments and, of course, Nike gear.

It is attempting to build an online audience out of interest in soccer, a strategy that depends largely on the passion for the game, Spira said.

“You can form a social network around any area of common interest,” he said. “The ones that will be the strongest will be the ones where passions run high.”

Similar efforts to build a community around a common subject online, such as that of auto maker BMW, have been successful, according to Spira.

Brand Behavior

The biggest challenge for big companies such as Nike and Google when they are attempting to launch such a grassroots initiative is to keep their brands from being an imposition, Spira said.

“That’s why most fan-based communities are generally independent and not sponsored or derived,” he said.

In the end, the Joga.com site will be a test of what makes for a successful social network and community, and only time will tell, Spira added.

Digital Market Duo

Together, Nike and Google represent two important parts of the emerging digital marketplace, which has been heavily influenced by Google already, IDC analyst Sue Feldman told TechNewsWorld.

While Google serves as a gateway to attract and build the online community, Nike serves as a hub or a node at the other end of the network, where content, goods and services are provided for the community, the analyst added.

“What does Nike need? Compelling tools — tools that create a community,” Feldman said. “Google is providing those tools.”

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