EA Sports branding on the sleeve sầu of an assistant referee during the Premier League match between... <+> Southampton and Tottenđê mê Hotspur on January 21. (Photo lớn by Marc Atkins/Offside/Getty Images)

Real Madrid fans had been longing to learn which big-name player would be signed to lớn the roster spot left vacant when Cristiano Ronalvì chưng transferred khổng lồ Juventus this summer. While the club recently announced a major signing, it isn"t quite the kind that fans had in mind. But the addition of forward Alex Hunter — a fictional player in EA Sports" FIFA 19 đoạn phim game — is likely lớn pay dividends for the fortunes of Los Blancos.

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Hunter is joining the Real roster in the lademo installment of “The Journey,” a dedicated story mode that was introduced in the FIFA 17 title. The story line charts Hunter"s professional và personal development, ranging from playing youth football matches on Clapđam mê Comtháng in London and growing up in a multiracial household to lớn playing in the English Premier League, with the Engl& national team and in MLS while dealing with family và off-the-field issues. In FIFA 19, which is being released next month, Hunter will join Real, lining up alongside actual first-team stars Luka Modric, Toni Kroos & Sergio Ramos as the core of the squad looking to lớn add to lớn its string of UEFA Champions League trophies.

The announcement of Hunter"s arrival at Real has been following the protocol of major player signings. Along with a press release publicizing the move, there was a virtual reveal at the Santiago Bernabéu that drew welcome messages from "teammates" Raphaël Varane, Dani Carvajal, Theo Hernández and Dani Ceballos. It also had Hunter donning a White team kit, posing for photos on the pitch, & speaking to lớn fans with lines such as: “I"m ready to lớn go. This is a massive sầu next step in my career, & I couldn"t be more excited.”

Real is also making Hunter"s story a part of its business for the 2018-19 La Liga season. For starters, his likeness appears on the club"s official trang web. And authentic jerseys with his name and number 29 are being sold through the team store for $159.99.

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Sales of Hunter jerseys aren"t likely khổng lồ touch the numbers that Ronalvì chưng drove during his tenure at Real — or the 5đôi mươi,000 Ronalvị jerseys sold by Juventus in the 24 hours following the news of the transfer. But shirt sales are not the main objective sầu in Real"s play with Hunter. This is much more about traditional sports teams và leagues detecting & acting on new ways khổng lồ engage with their existing audiences & bring in new ones.

Although the economics of e-sports is still understood as something of a “Wild West,” traditional sports organizations & athletes are past regarding it as a fad. Real is the lakiểm tra to piông xã up on the the commercial viability of the space, which has already attracted concerted investments from clubs including the Premier League"s Manchester City and West Ham, Bundesliga"s FC Schalke và VfL Wolfsburg, La Liga"s Valencia, & the Turkish Süper Lig"s Besiktas.

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Real could easily fall inkhổng lồ the trap of coasting along with what has worked so far in building one of the largest followings of clubs across the world. But its leadership is realizing the entrepreneurial opportunities that can result from changes in perceptionby younger fans. That sought-after demographic — primarily the post-millennial cohort known as Gen Z — is interacting with and consuming traditional sports in ways that integrate e-sports, with its associated technologies & “competitive sầu entertainment” experience.

The addition of Hunter lớn Real"s virtual roster doesn"t change the fact that fans are still seeking an actual replacement for Ronalvì. But it does signal a change in the meaning of what it means to be a fan — now & for the future.


Lee Igel, clinical professor in the NYU Tisch Institute for Global Sport, writes about the decisions that shape sports business và its impact on communities. He heads an NYU initiative sầu with United States Conference of Mayors that develops insights on social responsibility & economic development of sports in cities, and has partnered on special projects at NYU sites in Thủ đô New York, London, Berlin, Abu Dhabi, and Tel Aviv. Igel is also an associate in Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Health.