Sticking with the sportingtheme, and in deference to the European Championship currently in progress in Austria and Switzerland, our latest look at mainstream use of web 2.0 is a football (i.e. soccer) website. OleOle is a fully featured social media platform for football fans – and it has shown impressive growth since its launch on 28 April ’08 (although it has been in public beta since last year). Already the company claims 2 million monthly unique visitors, a great stat for such a young site.

Another thing that jumps out about OleOle is that, like soccer itself, it is a global website – with 10, count ’em, 10 language versions.

I discovered OleOle at a taping session for a reality tv show about startups that I’m participating in. I’m one of the judges and one of the 20 startups competing for the grand prize is OleOle. OleOle is based in both New Zealand and the US, with its software development and technology HQed in NZ and marketing and sales in Los Angeles. It has 28 employees in total. The website has been in development for 2 years and the full launch was April.

OleOle has a full complement of social media features – personalized start page, blogging, photo sharing, videos, profiles, groups, news, voting, podcasts, forums, etc. It also features more traditional soccer website fare, such as fantasy leagues, live scores, tables, stats, and more. OleOle is going after a potentially huge vertical social network market – football fans. Football (soccer) is by far the world’s most popular sport, and one of the few truly global football codes. There are an estimated 1 billion fans worldwide, according to OleOle.

OleOle has big plans. It wants to be “the future of football online” and already claims to be the leading social media site for football. I had some questions about that in the tv show taping, as sites like EPSN Soccernet and Yahoo Sports are also enormously popular online soccer sites. However OleOle does differentiate itself by being a purely social media site – they pointed out for example that the content is 100% fan generated (FGC instead of UGC?). Although not all of that is amateur content, as we shall see below.

OleOle has acquired some of the leading football blogs, such as the Chelsea Blog and the aptly named ArseBlog – a fan blog for English football club Arsenal. I say aptly named, because I’m a Manchester United fan – arch rivals of Arsenal 🙂 The one-man ArseBlog was acquired by OleOle a month ago. I have to admit, it has an awesome byline (see image). And you can see the potential payoff for OleOle owning ArseBlog in this post, about a player Arsenal may or may not be buying, which garnered over 1,500 comments (or “arses” in the site’s lingo).

OleOle’s revenue model is advertising, but it also plans to get into sponsorships, merchandising and ticketing. This is one of the advantages of using social web technologies for a mainstream audience – there is a potentially big and lucrative market, and soccer brings some added revenue options (match tickets, team jerseys, etc).

Right now the company isn’t cashflow positive though. It’s taken NZ$6 million in series A funding so far (mostly from its founders), and is currently shopping around for a Series B. OleOle aims to hit profitability by 2010, which not coincidentally is when the next football World Cup is on. Ultimately, OleOle could become an acquisition target itself, for a mainstream media company that covers soccer such as ESPN or any of the US television networks.

Overall OleOle is an impressive site and a great example of how the Social Web can be utilized in the real world. I’ll be watching OleOle with interest, not only for the tv show but as an example of what can be done with web technologies for a mainstream audience. Another thing to watch is whether they use the platform they’ve built for other sports.