Chris Reed
Jul 22, 2013

English Premier League Clubs score in Southeast Asia

It may shock you to know but the UK is not where most Liverpool or Arsenal fans are located. It’s actually Indonesia. More staggering still considering that until this weekend neither team had even visited the country!

English Premier League Clubs score in Southeast Asia

Indonesia has never had it so good! First there was Arsenal visiting, then Liverpool and next is Chelsea. All seek two things 1) engagement with the world’s 4th largest country and 2) Asian sponsors looking to be associated with both the prestigious English Premier League (EPL) and Indonesia/Asia.   

Every club has realised the potential of this football mad country and football mad region. They have also realised that Indonesia is the world’s most social media savvy country despite its developing world status. This has meant that each club has more facebook and twitter followers from Indonesia than from the UK. Thailand is also in the top three not countries like America.

Manchester United were a bit late in the game to be only launching their Twitter feed this week. Not only did Liverpool and Arsenal realise the potential of Indonesia they created Bahasa language (Indonesian language) facebook and twitter accounts to feed the demand from fans.

All have been a resounding success. As Jakarta is the world’s number one Twitter city and neighbouring city Bandung is No.6 this no surprise although many clubs have been slow on the uptake on realising this & doing something about it.

Liverpool and Arsenal have also joined mig33, who I am CMO for, in a greater drive to engage users of all kinds in Indonesia. Many more football brands are looking at reaching out on all possible platforms in order to cover this vast country.

Every year during the break in football in Europe, Asia welcome’s the leading clubs from England as they try and engage with two thirds of the world’s population and the commercial benefits that will follow. This year there has been a plethora of clubs breaking new ground and engaging with new countries in what are little more than PR exercises and light training exercises as clubs build up to the new season back home.

Manchester United, trail blazers from the 1970’s when it comes to Asia tours set the standard with games in Japan, Thailand and Australia. Arsenal were more adventurous visiting Vietnam as well as Indoneisa and Japan. Liverpool also visited Australia and as well as Indonesia and they visited Thailand. Rumour has it Melbourne only invited Liverpool because Sydney invited Manchester United! Chelsea very similarly went for Malaysia instead of Australia plus football mad Thailand and Indonesia.

Liverpool have seemed to be a step ahead of their competitors by working closely with shirt sponsor Standard Chartered (SC). They were responsible for bringing them to Asia where the bank has most of its customer base.

I was in Jakarta on the Friday before they played on the Saturday it was if Standard Chartered had taken over the city. From the airport through to the stadium and beyond were Standard Chartered welcome Liverpool posters everywhere along the roads. Very impressive activation from the SC team.

This along with Liverpool’s desire to engage their massive fan base over here and recruit new sponsors meant that Asia became the number one destination for their summer tour. Standard Chartered are so happy with the relationship that they have extended their sponsorship of the club for another two years.

Standard Chartered are unique as a bank in targeting emerging markets and this Asian tour is perfect for them to communicate their services and brand in arguably the fastest growing market in the world, Indonesia. They have yet to launch a branded card in the way that Maybank have done with Manchester United but this maybe down to the fact that these never make money and are merely branding exercises.

Liverpool have also capitalised on partnering with Indonesia’s state carrier, Garuda. This deal is not just an Asian deal where I see their adverts around the ground on Singtrel’s Mio Stadium and people in the UK don’t. This is a global agreement to communicate the brand values of Garuda associated positively with those of the global brand of Liverpool FC.

Garuda have really exploited this partnership with several key initiatives. They have ensured that the plane travel across Asia in a special “Liverpool FC – You’ll Never Walk Alone” branded plane plus they have launched the Liverpool FC Garuda Frequent Flyers Card. This gives users benefits including:

- Attractive offers for Liverpool FC merchandise, available at the Garuda Indonesia & Liverpool FC Experience counter at Senayan City, Jakarta;

- Special offers for trips to Anfield;

- An opportunity to watch a Barclays Premier League Liverpool FC game at Anfield;

- The chance to receive autographed merchandise by a Liverpool FC player.

 The "Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC Experience", is the only co-branding area with Liverpool in the world apart from those in Liverpool itself. Besides offering official Liverpool merchandise, the "Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC Experience" area invites Garuda Indonesia customers to experience the unique sensation of being at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium. A photo booth complete with a "make up kit" and "face painting" tools is also available so that customers appear as if they are posing with Liverpool players and Garuda attendants.

Further north Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and bizarrely almost relegated Sunderland are playing  a Barclays Asia Cup tournament in Hong Kong but not venturing further into deeper Asia.

The battle used to be just around the English Premier League (EPL) clubs but these days La Liga’s crème de la crème, Barcelona are attempting to reach out to this market. Even Athletico Madrid toured Singapore and started a football academy. Although La Liga clubs don’t do things in quite the same way as EPL ones Barcelona are being flown by middle eastern carrier and sponsor Qatar Airways and only playing two dates, Malaysia and Thailand. Real Madrid are focusing on America and Europe for summer tour/marketing exercise…..

Some clubs like European Champions League Champions Bayern Munich have a series of football schools in Indonesia but have not ventured here on an Asian tour strangely leaving the market wide open for the English to conquer. Chelsea and Arsenal also have set up schools in Singapore and other Asian countries.

No one has yet ventured to tour India. Who will be the first to crack that massive cricket mad country where football maybe second place but is still passionately followed?

Expect to see all these clubs vying to play football mad Singapore next year when the new 60,000 Sports Hub stadiums opens up another outlet for brands to tap into a very EPL and La Liga savvy customer base. There may not be many of us but it’s the richest country in Asia in GDP per capita and ultimately clubs always think with the bottom line in mind!

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