23 May 2024 22:49

Advertising & Marketing

Fans can no longer be viewed as just a revenue source

Burson-Marsteller and The WPP Sports Practice launch ‘Planet Football’ report

A new report on the internationalization of sport is being released today. With contributions from fellow WPP agencies Two Circles & TSE Consulting. Major sporting rights owners such as UEFA, FC Barcelona, AS Roma, VfL Wolfsburg, FC Schalke, the LFP and Ladies European Tour also contributed. The report is co-sponsored by Match IQ.

Burson-Marsteller, a leading strategic communications and public relations firm, has teamed up with The WPP Sports Practice and international tour organiser Match IQ to get to the heart of this issue. Thought leaders from across the industry were invited to give their expert insights on how best to engage with audiences abroad. The Planet Football report highlights that football and other sports still have plenty of scope to expand their reach into new territories. 

The sports industry is rich in opportunity for rights owners and brands to take advantage of the truly global market of passionate, engaged sports fans. The growth in the global middle class, increased urban migration and growing mobile accessibility is allowing sports rights owners and brands to expand beyond their traditional, local audience bases – appealing to new geographies and demographies in the pursuit of broader long term brand relationships.

Centennial audiences – the future lifeblood of any competitive industry – will represent 40% of consumer purchasing power by 2020 and are a key target in this expansion. 

International fan engagement is increasingly important for clubs and leagues in the battle to win over the next generation of fans. As a result overseas revenues could soon exceed domestic profits for more teams – and not just those at the very top of the football pyramid. Today’s technology means the game’s audience is no longer limited to countries or even continents. The growth of a global middle class, urban migration and increasing mobility are also factors in the internationalisation of the sport, as rights owners and brands look to expand far beyond their traditional base. Also, the role of elite players becomes increasingly important to build relations with the next generations of fans.

“The same old strategies aren’t working. Centennial consumers are fundamentally different.”

But many clubs have struggled to adapt to this new reality and found it difficult to meet the demands of a changing fan base. 

“Significant international expansion requires new forms of engagement, new products, new markets, and often new employees or partners,” says William Gaillard, former Director of Communications for UEFA and senior sport adviser at Burson-Marsteller. “Finding the right balance between the traditional and the new is no easy task for any organisation – and certainly not for sport stakeholders rooted in their local communities. A tension will always be there when it comes to determining why, when, where and how international expansion should best take place to ensure success in the decades ahead.” 

But how do clubs ensure the right balance when it comes to their home and international audience? 

“It is clear from our report that every top-tier football club, indeed every sports organisation, needs to seek change if it is ambitious,” adds Gaillard. “The process of international expansion is an unstoppable force and the status quo is not an option. Embracing the new realities and engaging with the new opportunities is a strategic imperative for all decision-makers in the industry.” 

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