Understanding your audience is a key component to any firm’s marketing success, no matter what field it might operate in. This holds true for the soccer industry, as does the fact that just as macro socio-economic trends change our environment and how we as people interact with it, a firm’s, or club’s, audience can change depending on a host of variables. This has never been more evident than in the last several years in the global soccer industry, especially in the Premier League, the world’s richest and most popular top flight.
We have seen Asia emerge as the new battle ground for the world’s mega clubs and brands to gain traction and grow their following, as it represents perhaps the most significant revenue generating opportunity with the massive spending power of the middle classes in rising countries such as India and China, which has buoyed in recent years, along with the wealth of various regionally relevant industry partners, such as Huawei.
Clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United, among others, and not just in the Premier League, have soccer academies and school programs throughout Asia, in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and more. The organizers of the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament announced that they will be taking the competition to Asia this coming summer ahead of the 2015/16 campaign. The list goes on.
Global Web Index (GWI), a market research expert on digital consumer behavior and media consumption trends, recently released a report on the latest trends for the Premier League, which highlights why we have seen leagues and clubs target Asia as a massive opportunity market.In terms of popularity within each country and the percentage of the overall population, of internet users, that follows the Premier League, Asian markets account for 7 of the top 10, according to GWI’s study. The figure to the right illustrates just how popular the BPL is within Asian countries, and how they’re watching matches. Note that the UK, where the league is based, barely makes it into the top 10 in terms of garnering the support of its population base. Because figures are based on internet users, the data could be slightly skewed in that the UK has a higher internet penetration, so in terms of actual number of viewers, 36% of UK internet users very well may be more than 54% of Indonesia internet users. Also of note, is the fact that the US is not on the top 10 list, and given the extremely high internet and mobile penetration in the US it also shows that there is still massive potential in that market for the Premier League, and other top flights.
These trends help explain why the Premier League, perhaps more than any other league, continues to announce new regional broadcasting deals all over the world, which in today’s second-screen viewing age also includes online components, which has driven up broadcasting revenue dramatically over the last several years for the league. It also represents even more opportunity for commercial revenue growth which has skyrocketed for the league and its clubs in recent years, due to increasing internet penetration as well as online viewing via secondary devices. According to GWI, 85% of Premier League fans own a smartphone, half of them own a tablet, one-third of them watched a match via a mobile device, and 9 in 10 say they use another device while watching TV.
There are myriad ways that clubs could take advantage of these trends, and many of them already are today – but we have only begun to scratch the surface of the potential in this area, particularly in the Asian market. It is no secret that social media now plays a major role in business, and definitely has taken the soccer industry by storm. According to GWI, 30% of Premier League fans are active on Twitter, and 45% on Facebook, again highlighting that there is room for growth in this space as well, given that for these major social media platforms the penetration levels have not yet reached their potential to match the overall fan base’s internet penetration rate within Premier League markets.
As soccer strengthens its position as the world’s most popular sport, those involved in the industry, including clubs, leagues, and brands, agencies, and everyone in between, will be looking to the Premier League to set new standards, be thought leaders, and be the pioneers of the latest trends that will continue to change and grow the beautiful game.