Paul Rogers (AS Roma): “Now we communicate in 12 or 13 languages daily”

paul rogers interview as roma
Marco Iacobucci EPP /

Often considered as an innovative club on social networks, AS Roma has strongly internationalized its audience on digital media in recent years. In order to understand how the digital shift has transformed the Italian club activities, has interviewed Paul Rogers, Head of Digital and Social Media at AS Roma.

What are the key points of AS Roma strategy on social media?

At Roma, we have an overall strategy to be engaging, fun and entertaining – making our existing supporters feel closer to the club whilst also attracting new fans and followers from all over the world.

The strategy is largely driven by club president Jim Pallotta’s vision for Roma. From day one, he’s made it absolutely clear that while football and results on the pitch come first, social and digital media is going to be fundamental in helping build Roma into one of the biggest football clubs in the world.

We all live in a content-driven world now – certainly more now than ever before – and through our many different content platforms, whether that’s digital, social, radio or TV, AS Roma is in the entertainment business and we have a duty to entertain. We are not trying to be anyone else so we don’t just do what other clubs have traditionally done. We are taking a slightly different path and doing things our way.

How is organised the digital team of the club?

My role is Head of Digital Media and I’m based in Boston, working out of the club owner Jim Pallotta’s office. I will spend between seven and 10 days a month in Rome and Europe but a lot of the time I am dealing with the big tech and social / digital companies who are mostly based in America.

My digital team is largely based in the media centre of the club’s training ground – with a couple of the team based with me in Boston. The club has an extensive media operation – TV channel, radio station, magazine and programme, creative services unit and obviously digital and social, with the digital and social team reporting to me.

Around the world, we have different consultants managing different local-language content for us – for example, in Cairo and Jakarta we have mini-teams managing our Arabic and Indonesian websites and social media.

In France, we see AS Roma as an innovative club on social network (funny posts on Twitter for announcing new players, partnerships with creative partners such as Smart Replay or Fastory…). Is innovation at the heart of your strategy?

I will say that innovation is important to Roma but I want to be careful that I don’t overstate its importance. We like to innovate – whether that’s in terms of technology or content – but there has to be a reason for it more than just innovation for innovation’s sake. I could probably make a totally original song out of the sound of someone throwing empty Coke cans at a glass window in a wind tunnel – that would probably be quite innovative – but it would also be shit! Just doing something because no one else has done it before is not really what drives us or inspires us.

Ultimately, we just try and be a little bit more human – which strange as it may sound, is probably an innovative way of thinking for some football clubs. We try to do fun things; things that excite us personally or, things that, hopefully, solve a problem for our fans.

If we think that there is a gap in the market for something – and if no one else has done it or thought about, I think that’s great, we’ll try and do it. Sometimes the most simple things or ideas are what turn out to be the most successful – and then later on, they are considered to have been innovative.

Does this effective strategy on social media help the club to internationalize its audience? Does it help the club to fulfil its commercial goals?

Our digital strategy has been hugely successful so far – but we still have a lot of work to do. When I arrived at Roma in 2015, our first task was to review and evaluate all of our content platforms, rip up the ones that weren’t working and then start again.

After rebuilding our platforms, including our flagship website which has since gone on to win a number of awards, our challenge was to break down the communication barriers between the club and the fans – in particular, fans outside of Italy.

In Italy and in Rome there is no shortage of content about the club. There’s a 24-hour TV channel all about the club, a whole daily newspaper dedicated to Roma and even a multitude of talk radio stations all analysing and debating the team every single day. But if you’re a fan in Nigeria or Indonesia, Bosnia or America, it wasn’t always easy to follow the team – apart from the language barrier, there simply wasn’t enough content about the club. We addressed that by increasing the amount of content we produced on a daily basis and launching over 20 new official social media accounts – on different platforms and different languages. Where once we only communicated in Italian and English, now we communicate in 12 or 13 languages daily, including Farsi, which I believe we’re the only, or one of the only, European clubs to produce content in.

Once we’re rebuilt our platforms, starting producing more content and solved the language issue, then it was all about creating our own unique tone and style on social media. We wanted to have fun, engage with fans and be more human and if that makes us different, then so be it. Fans seems to like it and it’s not just our own fans. As well as Roma fans, we now have lots of followers of other clubs who choose to follow Roma, particularly on Twitter, as they enjoy the content and the tone.

What will be the next big project of the club on social media?

We’re always looking to improve everything we do. Over the last 12 months, we’ve really put a lot of effort into Twitter and Instagram and obviously we’ve completely relaunched our website this season, which has been a lot of work. We’re currently working on a completely new Messenger App, launching new social accounts for our new Women’s team, improving our YouTube proposition and focusing on creating very distinctive content for certain international markets. Next year, I think we will also look into how we can completely revamp our RomaTV+ video proposition – but we’ll worry about that next year!

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