In recent weeks, Sky Sports has had David Beckham running through the streets taking in 10 months of Premier League footballing drama. But the UK’s top flight tournament is no longer seasonal. Over the summer, fans have been assiduously following transfer news and international friendlies with a new level of fervour. And Premier League clubs have been tapping into it.
Premier League clubs are realising that their value lies not just in their players and team, but in the content they are creating around them, taking on the traditional broadcasters with a more digital focus. Liverpool and Manchester City have engaged fans using virtual reality, and Manchester United and Chelsea have invested increasing sums into their TV channel content, with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage which Sky, BT and the BBC would eagerly compete for.
Since the Football League, which comprises the second, third and fourth flights of English football, announced that it is reviewing its digital platforms, a raft of new club websites have launched which can be geo-targeted and gated for an international audience, while simultaneously delivering local content for the UK.
With huge global interest in the Premier League, clubs are looking to go much further than their annual television revenue. They have been busy growing and monetising their brands beyond the 10 months of the season – and far beyond the confines of the UK market – developing their digital platforms in new and innovative ways. Their websites have been translated into Chinese and Arabic, and branded content has been provided on Facebook. Apps give exclusive access to fans on the move.
This strategy is pulling traffic away from traditional broadcasters. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid are now all inside the top 20 websites for football, according to the Amazon-owned Alexa.com.
Digital is the ideal channel for clubs to build a global fan base by offering 24/7 access, bringing with it revenue opportunities for subscription-based content services and sponsored delivery platforms. Driving engagement on these owned channels through exclusive content gives clubs the opportunity to increase the conversion rate of passive fans into paying customers of tickets, memberships and merchandise.
This strategy is pulling traffic away from traditional broadcasters
Of course, without the digital technology in place to fully support this always-on philosophy across all devices in all languages, execution can fall short. With clubs launching their own apps, social channels, marketing campaigns and in some cases TV channels, an effective digital strategy is required to ensure the content is supported and optimised.
All this means David Beckham doesn’t have to run through the streets of London checking every TV screen or mobile for the football score. He could have simply accessed his favourite club’s website (presumably Manchester United) for a far more exclusive and up-to-the-minute experience.