Paris Saint-Germain may still be playing catch-up with Europe’s traditional giants on the field, but they claim to have already become “the hottest club in the world”.
That is the boast made by Russell Stopford, the 47-year-old Englishman who joined the club last year as their Chief Digital Officer, having previously worked at Manchester City and Barcelona.
In an age where clubs seem to be as keen to grow their brand and increase their digital fanbase as they are to win trophies and generate income, there is no doubt that PSG have been transformed this decade under Qatari ownership.
PSG have more than 62 million followers across the major social media networks of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
That leaves them a long way behind the very biggest names on the continent — Real Madrid and Barcelona each have well over 100 million fans on Facebook alone.
PSG, the reigning French champions, had four consecutive runs to the quarter-finals of the Champions League before losing in the last 16 in each of the last two seasons, to Barcelona and then Real Madrid.
However, a defeat against Liverpool on Wednesday could even condemn PSG to a group-stage exit this season, which would be disastrous for a club who spent more than 400 million euros ($451.6m) to sign Brazilian star Neymar and prolific teenage striker Kylian Mbappe last year.
Liverpool — last season’s runners-up — carry an aura having lifted the European Cup five times and been English champions 18 times since being founded in 1892.
In contrast, PSG were only founded in 1970. Yet they seem to be adapting better to the demands of the digital age — Liverpool’s social media followers lag behind their opponents at under 55 million.
“Social media is a new phenomenon and the hottest club in the world is Paris Saint-Germain. That’s why we are growing so far,” Stopford told AFP.
PSG have Twitter feeds in seven languages, including English, Arabic and Portuguese, but also Indonesian.
“When we create contents in these different languages, it gives the opportunity to connect directly with our fanbase,” says Stopford.
“It is also bringing the fans closer to the club, so they can feel part of Paris Saint-Germain.”
Stopford has a team of 30 people working for him, and the club says it has increased followers in countries like Indonesia and Algeria than in France.