Babar Khan Javed
Aug 21, 2017

To reach football fans, brands need to think local

Three key takeaways from a discussion of the Football Inc. 2017 Fan Index, presented by FourFourTwo and YouGov.

Selected stats from the Fan Index report
Selected stats from the Fan Index report

The ways football fans get their news, watch their favourite clubs' matches and share their excitement about the sport vary on a market-by-market basis, so brands need to think beyond basic sponsorship and work with strategic partners to build engagement with them, according to a panel discussion marking the release of the 2017 Football Inc. Fan Index.  

Launched in 2016 as an opportunity for brands, businesses, and clubs with an interest in football to gain global and local insights, this year's Fan Index, in association with YouGov, is based off a total of 8,638 online interviews, carried out across nine countries during January and February.

Respondents were recruited for the research from YouGov’s global online panel of 4 million-plus consumers. Quantitative surveys, with a range of question types, were conducted in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, UK and United States.

Across APAC markets, the club that appeared most frequently in the top five were Real Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan, and Barcelona. In China, however, the top club was Guangzhou Evergrande, a professional Chinese football club that participates in the Chinese Super League under the license of the Chinese Football Association. For fans in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, the top club was Manchester United. Indonesia and Thailand chose Real Madrid and Liverpool, respectively, for the top spot.

Here are the prime takeaways from a panel session led on August 11 by Faaez Samadi, marketing editor for Campaign Asia-Pacific, interspersed with a few infographics from the report.

1. Real time news is eating print

As a source of news around football, more people in the APAC region, more fans are turning to social media as their first touch point of interest due to a desire to have real time stats.

“When you look at markets like Singapore, there were fewer people getting their football news and info from print in 2017 compared to 2016, and a lot more from social media,” shared Stephen Tracy, managing director for YouGov in Singapore. He called Hong Kong and China the most interesting markets in this aspect due to its near abandonment of print as a source of football news, fueled by the need for real time news instead of dated analysis.

Tracy said that brands looking to align themselves with football need to do so with publishers that have access to fresh data.

2. Strategic alliances are a game changer

In China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, over 56% of respondents chose “At home on my own” as the preferred location for watching the 2018 games, a choice the report analysis shows is related to media deals on where content can be live-streamed, with desktop taking the prime spot.

“We’ve had a phenomenal last 12 months,” shared Damien Willoughby, senior vice president of partnerships at City Football Group. “Our business continues to resonate and generate jobs for our commercial partners in the region and globally. We are seeing our partners activate more heavily in the region and have been successful in bringing on board new strategic partnerships with brands such as MundiPharma.”

3. Localization is key

Sponsors are learning that the value in visibility doesn’t stay the same in all markets, with some finding that a logo on a jersey is less effective whereas a presence on social and digital publications results in better brand recall and sentiment.

“The biggest trend is that everyone’s a media owner now,” shared Andy Jackson, global brand director of Football Inc/FourFourTwo. “City Football Group is probably at the cutting edge of content and has been for a while, but other clubs are starting to catch up.”

Brand marketers would do well to work hand in hand with local football media owners as a segue to understanding the best culture fit sponsorships opportunities, as well as, watching closely where football fan eyeballs are instead of looking at legacy partnerships in apparel.

Disclosure: FourFourTwo and Football Inc are properties of Haymarket Media, which also publishes Campaign Asia-Pacific.

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