How football clubs can connect with fans at home

With fans unable to cheer on their teams in large numbers during the pandemic, football leagues and clubs have needed to find other ways to connect with them.

Sport is integral to many people’s lives and the experience of attending matches is incredibly popular. The 2019/20 A-League season had a total attendance of more than a million people. Until full crowds can return clubs need to find digital and virtual ways to engage with supporters.

Social media campaigns have been one opportunity for football organisations to connect with fans. Earlier this year FIFA created the #WorldCupAtHome campaign in response to the pandemic.

“When the scale of what was happening became clear, we had to quickly ask ourselves ‘what does the world need from FIFA right now?’,” FIFA’s Chief Commercial Officer, Simon Thomas said about the #WorldCupAtHome campaign.

“We have an incredibly rich archive, full of treasured football moments, and this campaign gave us a platform to experiment and innovate, as well as to support critical health messages and entertain our fans in this time of uncertainty.”

The campaign featured digital content over a range of social media platforms. Part of the campaign allowed fans to vote for which world cup matches they wanted to be streamed on FIFA’s YouTube channel.

FIFA’s campaign was incredibly successful reaching 300 million fans in 126 countries. FIFA also won the Content Creation Award from the Leaders Sports Awards for the #WorldCupAtHome campaign.

Manchester United now offers digital editions of its matchday programme United Review. The club has introduced the programme at an introductory price of $1.67 (AUD) however this will increase to $4.62 (AUD).

The current edition includes articles about the club and their opponents as well as interactive content such as videos. An interview with Manchester United’s forward Anthony Martial is paired with a video collection of all his 51 goals in the Premier League.

“With fans still not allowed in stadiums in England, the cover for this special edition – and all of our Champions League programmes this season – is dedicated to the part supporters have played in European nights over the years,” Manchester United said on its website.

English League One side AFC Wimbledon have also started using the digital magazine platform MatchDay Digital.

“Digital is a much more cost-effective and time-effective way of operating and clubs need to challenge more fans to move to digital we move into the future, because it’s better for us as businesses, and it’s better for fans as consumers,” AFC Wimbledon CEO Joe Palmer told fc business.

Official club/league websites and apps provide yet another option for organisations to provide content directly to their fans that can be accessed easily.

West Bromwich Albion have decided to move away from the Football League interactive platform and have instead decided to launch their own digital platforms to control their app and website.

West Bromwich Albion’s Head of Marketing, Laura Gabbidon spoke to fc business about the digital experience for supporters.

“Fans expect a good experience with the club whether it’s digital or physical. Fans want to be proud of the club they love, and we hope the launch of the new website and app has made them proud,” she said.

“We were well underway with this project before the pandemic hit. It’s made digital even more of a priority, if that was possible, as the primary way we can engage with fans now.”

English Premier League’s Manchester City has its own streaming service.

Although it was launched before the pandemic City+ allows specialty and exclusive content to be delivered straight to the club’s fans.

The subscription service includes live Manchester City matches and full-match replays (available for 24 hours after the game).

Feature length documentaries created by CityTV are also included on the platform. One documentary on the CITY+ ‘Made in Gran Canaria’ about former City captain David Silva.

Manchester City offers a 30 day free trial and then a $3.67 (AUD) fee per month which can be cancelled at any time.

The subscription is also easy to access and is available across online, app and tv platforms.

“Following the launch of our OTT platform last year, we wanted to continue enhancing the viewing experience for fans and offer greater flexibility to consume our content. We’re now rolling our exclusive content out across our digital estate,” Nuria Tarre, Chief Marketing Officer at City Football Group, said about City+.

“CityTV was given unprecedented access to David’s inner circle who provided a rare insight into the rise of one of the Premier League’s greatest players. Producing original and never seen before content for our fans is at the heart of our strategy and ‘Made in Gran Canaria’ will bring fans even closer to the stories of one of City’s most decorated players.”

There are many options for football clubs to connect with their fans during the pandemic.

Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

UEFA EURO 2020 reaches global audience of 5.2 billion

Euro 2020

UEFA have announced that the recent EURO 2020 tournament was a landmark global success with over 5.2 billion people tuning in from continents across the world.

As the first major sporting event to be staged since the COVID-19 pandemic put the world in its entirety on hold, the popularity of UEFA EURO 2020 was a reflection that the power of football has in uniting people.

The hugely successful tournament – which saw Italy beat England in penalties in the final – left its mark in viewership history, ranking amongst the most viewed moments of all time and breaking live streaming records along the way.

The Final was watched by 328 million fans, on par with the record set in 2016. The match between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium was the most-watched TV event in the United Kingdom in 24 years and in Italy since 2012. The match also set all-time streaming records for any type of programming in both countries.

“The incredible TV audience figures show the massive appeal that EURO has, not only in Europe but worldwide,” UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein said.

“The tournament has a global audience which continues to grow, in particular in North America and Asia, where the fan base following EURO keeps expanding.

“We also note that there is an ever-increasing number of fans accessing matches through streaming services.”

On average each live match was watched by over 100 million viewers with impressive increases in viewership in global markets such as China, where a growth rate of 43% was registered compared to 2016, with a cumulative audience of 352 million.

The event saw more Chinese fans accessing matches through streaming services than through traditional TV. In the USA, audiences grew by 32% with a cumulative TV audience of 87 million. India registered a growth rate of 229%, and a cumulative audience of 107 million.

On social media, there were 7.5 billion interactions and views of which two billion were generated by official UEFA accounts, making it the most engaged EURO ever.

“Digitally, we have seen incredible engagement during the tournament, and we are extremely satisfied with the performance of our own UEFA platforms,” Epstein added.

“The UEFA.com website and application has seen a 250% increase in traffic compared to 2016. It shows that our content offer has been extremely well received by fans and that our digital set-up is amazing.”

Ronaldo’s Manchester United return breaks social media records

With the summer transfer window complete for clubs across Europe, Cristiano Ronaldo re-joins Manchester United following 12 years away in a true homecoming moment for the Premier League side.

A household name, Ronaldo’s exceptional career has seen him return to a club that played a major part in his development towards becoming one of the greatest players we’ve seen.

Arriving from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, Ronaldo was a club-record signing for Manchester United at the time for a teenager in English football, and he certainly disappoint, netting 84 goals from 196 appearances.

His time in the game is most famously for La Liga’s Real Madrid, where in the 2009-2018 period he dominated with 311 goals from 292 games, and most recently spent the previous few seasons with Serie A’s Juventus showing no signs of slowing down in his veteran years by scoring 81 times from 98 appearances. Ronaldo’s lengthy international career dates back to his Manchester United debut year of 2003, with 179 caps and 109 goals to his name.

When you add his long list of trophies and accomplishments notably as a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, five-time Champions League winner, four-time FIFA Club World Cup winner, three-time Premier League champion, two-time Best FIFA Men’s Player and 2018 European Championship WInner it’s easy to see why he’s held in such high esteem and widely regarded as one of the greats of the sport.

It should come as no surprise to see the level of engagement on social media when the transfer was confirmed by Manchester United. There was a staggering number of people liking and sharing the huge summer transfer window move, as discovered by Global Head of Social Media at Manchester United, Nick Speakman.

He confirmed that Manchester United’s ‘Welcome home Cristiano Ronaldo’ posts for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all reached uncharted territory, setting new records across each of the three prominent platforms. The upcoming figures have already grown from when Speakman updated, with Ronaldo having a significant impact even off the pitch.

Instagram’s 12.3m likes & 537k comments makes it the most liked Instagram post from a sports team, Twitter’s 1.9m likes & 850k retweets makes it the most liked Twitter post from a sports team, while Facebook’s 1.3m likes & 161k comments makes it the club’s most liked Facebook post.

“It’s often said that “nothing can surprise you” when working within sports. However, unexpectedly being presented with the opportunity, and arguably privilege, of announcing Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United after 12 years away from the club is a rare exception to the rule,” Speakman said.

“24 hours later, the announcement post has surpassed even our own predictions for social numbers cross-platform.”

It marked Manchester United’s biggest ever day for social interactions, which can extend further to other Ronaldo-related posts as the hype continues for a potential return in Manchester United colours at Old Trafford against Newcastle United in Round 4 of the Premier League, following the upcoming international break.

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