SBC News Sofascore CEO Talks Vision for Supporting Emerging Players and Leagues

Sofascore CEO Talks Vision for Supporting Emerging Players and Leagues

As we gear up for the SBC Summit and Affiliate Leaders Summit in Lisbon, SBC News is thrilled to present an exclusive interview with Zlatko Hrkać, CEO and Co-founder of Sofascore.

Along with his business partner and friend Ivan Bešlić (COO and Co-founder), Hrkać will be featured in the highly anticipated “Sofascore: A Tale of Two Founders” session at the Super Stage in the MEO Arena on Wednesday, September 25th, from 14:45 to 15:30.

In an open 30-minute discussion, the two business partners will share insights from their journey in building Sofascore, a global platform renowned for providing detailed sports insights to fans. 

They will delve into the future of live-score platforms, the essential industry shifts needed, and their strategic vision for Sofascore’s growth. The conversation will highlight the importance of creating opportunities for emerging players, overcoming data barriers, and sustaining efficient monetisation strategies. 

SBC: Can you share the story behind the name ‘Sofascore’ and what was the inspiration behind founding the company?

Zlatko Hrkać: Originally, when we thought about the name for the initial live score data app we created from a blog, we knew it had to be something global, something unique, and with the same meaning across the whole globe. We agreed on “Sofascore,” inspired by the idea of sitting comfortably on your sofa while having instant access to comprehensive sports scores and statistics. 

Even our logo was a visual representation of this idea, and it served us for more than a decade. Now that Sofascore has evolved to something much bigger than what we initially envisioned, we decided to “throw the sofa away.” We have introduced a new logo and updated the name to represent the new Sofascore, which today is a global sports platform that captures every move on the pitch and offers detailed sports statistics. 

SBC: Sofascore has a large and engaged user base, making it a valuable affiliate partner for a lot of operators out there. What features do you believe have been most instrumental in driving user engagement and retention?

ZH: I would say that our relationship with our users has progressively grown over the last decade. 

While ten years ago it would have been enough to be the first provider of simple information like what is the result and who scored, today’s users seek much more than that. It’s not just about the information, but the context of the information.

Users want to know what all of the shown data means to the game and how they can leverage the information we provide. Ultimately, they are less likely to compromise the accuracy or speed of delivery. 

We are always finding new ways to give our users more, provide something they need, and satisfy the curiosity of any sports fan eager to know more about their favourite player, club, league, or sport. We have developed features that have been adopted by our competitors as well, underscoring the value and intuitiveness of our innovations. 

Features like the Sofascore Rating had a rough start, but today they serve as a benchmark in the sports industry, among players, and in the media, used as a non-biased, completely objective valuation of a player’s performance.

The Sofascore Rating is the basis of our Player of the Season award, which we decided to revamp this year. In partnership with the legendary Zico, we will reintroduce the award, which celebrates the best football players from 50 leagues worldwide. 

SBC: Personalisation seems to be a key trend in many digital products. How does Sofascore personalise the user experience to cater to individual preferences and interests?

ZH: At Sofascore, we leverage our internal AI department to analyse user interactions across our platform and extract meaningful insights from this large data pool. 

With the help of internally developed machine learning models, we know which stats and content spark interest among our users and which sports, teams, and players they prefer. Those findings are then used to make new data-based decisions, anticipate user needs, optimise engagement, and stay attuned to what our users find most valuable.  

SBC: The sports analytics market is becoming increasingly competitive. What do you believe sets Sofascore apart from other competitors in the space?

ZH: Our product roadmap isn’t focused on projects others already implemented; rather, we focus on listening to our customers and their feedback. Our team consists of sports enthusiasts with valuable experiences and insights, so we filter every shared idea and create our future product development accordingly. 

Our industry moves fast, and sometimes it’s hard to plan in detail for longer periods of time in the future, but we believe that our role is larger than providing insightful information to sports fans. 

This is why we have developed a product within our platform, the Sofascore Editor, which is oriented towards lower leagues, amateur and youth leagues, and any professionally organised competitions. We encourage organisations to leverage our 25 million monthly active platform users and give young athletes the deserved spotlight that can boost their careers. 

SBC: What role do you see Sofascore playing in the broader context of sports education and fan engagement?

ZH: We will continue our efforts to collect even more data, further developing the width and depth of the data provided on Sofascore. While doing that, our focus will be on young players who will shape the future of sports in the upcoming years. In the future, fans will be able to contribute to that goal with data that is usually hard to collect, through a special crowdfunding model. There should be no obstacles when it comes to access to advanced sports data, no matter what league or sports we are talking about. 

SBC: As a leader, what has been your most valuable lesson learned while building and leading Sofascore?

ZH: My friend and business partner Ivan Bešlić and I have repeatedly said that our “secret” lies in the patience we had during the first years of Sofascore. 

We never expected things to become viral but rather watched patiently as our user base grew and we learned to deal with the challenges of a growing team.

We still have pictures from the very beginning when we celebrated hitting 100,000 live users for the first time. 

SBC: As you and Ivan prepare for your joint presentation at the SBC Summit in Lisbon, what are the core themes and messages you plan to highlight to your audience?

ZH: We look forward to a relaxed and open 30-minute discussion on the future of live-score platforms and the essential shifts the industry must embrace. Our session will highlight the importance of providing opportunities for emerging players while exploring effective ways to overcome data barriers and sustain efficient monetisation strategies.

SBC: This year marks the introduction of the Affiliate Leaders Summit as a standalone and more highlighted part of the event. How do you feel about this development?

ZH: Looking forward to experiencing the first Affiliate Leaders Summit, as it promises to highlight the importance of affiliates in the industry and provides a dedicated space for networking and knowledge sharing among leaders in the affiliate marketing space.

SBC: What are your overall thoughts on the upcoming SBC Summit in Lisbon? 

The SBC Summit has become an inevitable part of our networking strategy. We are very excited about the opportunity to connect with industry leaders, share insights, and learn about the latest trends and innovations in the sports and gaming industry. 

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