(Reuters) - Brazilian league champions Atletico Mineiro have tapped into a market that is already popular in the U.S. and UK so that fans can connect with the club's former players -- offering bespoke video messages from heroes such as Reinaldo and Eder.
Fans can select players from a menu and pay between 30 to 329 reais ($5.55 - $60.84) for a video message to be sent to a chosen recipient. Since it went live on Dec. 21 around 30 people have used the service, officials said.
Sobhan Daliry, the CEO of the tech company -- Polen.me -- that developed the platform called Galo Idolos (Galo Idols), said the service would allow fans to develop a more personal relationship with their heroes as social media is not that engaging.
"The relationship between ... players (and fans) is very under-explored outside fans going to the stadium,” Daliry told Reuters.
"You see them passively, on the television or on Instagram. There’s no emotion in reading a (social media) post by a player you like."
Daliry said Galo Idols could be used by other teams or sports and could also be adopted by the entertainment industry so that actors and singers can engage more personally with fans.
The initiative is the latest off-field project from the club that won three major titles last year, including the league championship for the first time in 50 years, a triumph that prompted their main sponsor to offer free Atletico tattoos to 1000 fans.
As well as pushing fan tokens and NFTs, the idea for Galo Idolos is similar to apps such as Cameo in the U.S. and Memmo in the UK, where sporting figures and celebrities are paid to send personalised video messages to fans.
Cameo brought more than one million dollars in revenue in December, according to Sensor Tower, a U.S. based company that monitors the app market.
However, Galo Idolos is clearly more niche, with seven former players available alongside a number of women’s team members -- a move designed to give the female squad more visibility.
The most expensive and most sought-after name is Reinaldo, Atletico’s all-time top goalscorer.
Known as O Rei, or The King, the former Brazil centre forward has long been a presence at Atletico games and he is regularly stopped by fans for selfies.
Now that he is on Galo Idolos, it will give fans further afield an opportunity to connect with him while providing the former player with some income.
"The platform is good because before we had this ... I got asked a lot to record a video, on the street, at parties, send a kiss to my dad and that kind of thing,” he told Reuters.
"Sometimes it wasn’t pleasant and with Polen it’s easier, we know where (our message) is going. We have a message and a text to read and it makes it easier to speak to the fans.”
So far Reinaldo has been asked to send message for weddings and birthdays.
The club refused to disclose how the revenue is divided and even though the royalties will not make him rich, Reinaldo sees the interaction as a way of staying connected with his fans.
“It’s very moving, the relationship with fans is always surprising,” he said.
“We get a symbolic contribution, we do it more for the satisfaction and for massaging our own egos. It’s not a salary, you can’t count on the money but it’s still important.”
(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Pritha Sarkar)