Earlier in January, Portuguese startup Full Venue announced the completion of a successful seed round that saw it generate €2 million ($2.2 million) in investment funding.

The success of the seed round means the company can expand its core operating team and boost its international presence. Just as importantly, it showcases the confidence investors are placing in one of a new round of startups focused on integrating artificial intelligence (AI) solutions in marketing and consumer optimization solutions.

At the time Tiago Costa Rocha, Full Venue chief executive, used the seed round to reiterate the firm’s mission statement, saying: “We are thrilled to have the support of strategic investors and partners who share our vision for reshaping the sports and events technology landscape. With our unique approach, integrating AI for audience generation and a focus on simplicity, we are aiming to revolutionize how companies monetize their audiences."

Full Vision’s proprietary software aims to improve the ease at which businesses, and in this case soccer associations and clubs, monetize their digital presence. All this happens through AI segmentation. Effectively, using AI to identify higher potential consumer segments, in turn growing sales reach.

Speaking to GlobalData Sport, Costa Rocha says: “When you think AI and you think about everything on the brand and the agency side, you think about something complicated, and you don’t know what to do with it. We just want to add a small piece of AI segmentation. We’re focused on a niche that’s really easy to use and not so expensive.”

The inexpensive nature of the service is a facet of the business that Costa Rocha points out will all but ensure the growing uptake of AI marketing solutions.  “If you consider hiring a consultancy company to build a data science team, or if you want to hire a data scientist and build a team internally, it will have much higher costs than just subscribing to Full Venue and start doing AI segmentation automatically.”

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Although Full Venue also works with events companies such as the popular Primavera Sound and MEO Mares Vivas music festivals, much of its focus has been directed to sports organizations, primarily national soccer governing bodies.

Costa Rocha revealed that the company’s initial foray into soccer was not initially a deliberate effort, but the identification of a gap in the sports market has allowed Full Venue to expand in the space.

“The tech teams [at FAs and clubs] are not so developed because there is constant work going on with all the business around the sports industry, and what they have to be focused on is performance [on the pitch],” he says. “So, there was this place for a company like Full Venue to enter and provide real value.

“Our first client was a Football Association (FA), but that was not on purpose, they were at a conference where we were showcasing,” he explains, continuing: “There were a lot of businesspeople from different industries, and also a lot of people from sports, and the one that focused on our solution that was just the pitch of an idea, were the guys from the Belgian FA.”

Full Venue currently partners with several soccer bodies, such as Belgium, Wales, and Romania, and the growth of this sector of the company’s business is at the forefront of the work Full Venue is doing to expand.

The business strategy is already paying dividends in terms of breaking through to top-level soccer clubs in Europe, with 2020-21 Europa League winners Villareal most recently signing up as Full Venue’s latest partner.

“What we want to have in one to two years is a solid presence in the key championships of the European continent and start doing business in the US.”

Importance in the market

Costa Rocha had previously worked at the Portuguese FA, as well as several tech companies, with the combination of those experiences key to driving Full Venue in the sports market.

Full Venue was founded off the back of this experience in the Portuguese FA, where opt-in rates for data analysis were much higher than averages in other industries, opening Costa Rocha’s eyes to the potential for a new marketing solution to capitalize on this.

“In the sports industry, it's easier to have the [consumer] data as the fan gets delighted when he has the right communication from the brand he loves. So that was one of the triggers when I left the Portuguese FA to start Full Venue. It came into my mind that all these clubs and their FAs need this awareness.”

“So, you have the data, and the data is from the brand, so even if you have a third-party company managing all your tech stack that [data] is yours. So that's also important to manage within clubs and FAs. Going over this data, applying some intelligence, and giving the fan the right message at the right time is key for the sports industry.”

He adds that the commercial nature of the sports industry, one where the line between fan and consumer is blurred, makes the prospect of AI segmentation for marketing one that is much more viable.

“We have the benefit of having an industry that everybody loves. If you receive a message from a telephone company on your email, you will not even look at it, but if you receive a message from your club showing some product that you love, you have looked at it probably more than 10 times.”

The company has already begun to apply its proprietary AI solution on the commercial, ticketing, and merchandising sides to drive revenue growth for FAs and clubs.

Seed Round & AI future

Costa Rocha has already mapped out the company’s plans for the seed round money, with its allocation key to their goals of expansion. He identifies the expansion of the company’s current portfolio of sports partnerships and the development of its proprietary product as the key aims for the funding round, with the expansion of the company’s current operating team a vital precursor for doing so.

Costa Rocha explains: “We will focus on two big areas. One of them is product development, [to] build this democratic product that will be open to everyone inside the marketing industry on the verticals that we are working at, to use Full Venue AI segmentation to increase marketing results.”

He continues: “On the other side, also in terms of business development, we want to achieve partnerships with the biggest sports competitions of the world and bring on the biggest music festivals. For all of these, we need people, so we will hire some people. It won't be huge, we want to be strict on the way that we make our hiring, but the goal is that in the next 12 to 18 months we can build on this path of having the product live.”

While clients will already possess data on impressions from their own digital channels, Full Venue AI generates models for increasing different metrics, be it sales or impressions for example, and generates new potential targets for the marketing team or its preferred advertising software platform such as Google Advertising or MailChimp.

It’s a technological feature that Costa Rocha only sees as becoming more popular as FAs and clubs adopt the cheaper, more efficient marketing method.

“In the end, Full Venue will stand in the middle, helping the marketeers to market [regardless of] if they are on the brand side or the agency side,” he states. 

“With all this information it does not make sense to market just because, we need to be focused on data and if we have the data let’s put some intelligence behind it.”

The software capitalizes on what Costa Rocha sees as an area that soccer has yet to fully catch up on, but also an area that will become pivotal.

“Everyone will have to take the capacities that AI is delivering to understand who their audiences are, who are the [consumers] that are engaging with you and launching communications,” he says.

“We really believe that in three to five years there won’t be any digital marketing campaign targeted to an audience that you don’t know.”

Costa Rocha believes that in a few years, “everyone will be at least touching AI for marketing purposes.”