‘I want to walk through the Liverpool stadium one day’
With the new season of the Premier League starting on August 14, we speak to passionate followers of the game, marketers and fans alike to understand how deep-rooted is the PL craze in India
It is hard for marketers to look beyond the ‘marketing mix’ on most days, but when it is the Premier League in question, the ‘mix’ of great football, intense competition and the stature of players is a strong distraction. Considering the growing popularity in India of this most-followed football league in the world, we decided to bring to its viewers a Premier League special feature. Through this seven-part series where we will reach out to PL fans within the marketing community and official fanclubs spread across the country, we hope to identify why the nine months of great footballing action can be a wonderful platform for building brands, and why the passionate followers of the PL can’t wait to see the power-packed league kicking off on August 14.
In this edition, we spoke to one self-confessed PL fan, Nitin Khanna, Senior Director, Marketing, ACKO who has been rooting for Liverpool for well over a decade. Khanna says, “I normally get my jersey on for every Liverpool match that I'm watching. I get both the jerseys from the season--the ‘home jersey’ and the ‘away jersey’, and make sure that I get the feeling of watching the match in the stadium with the other fans.”
Talking about what sets the Premier League apart from most other leagues, he says that in the others there are just two or three teams that are top-notch. “In LaLiga, you have Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid but there is a big gulf in terms of quality between them and the others which makes viewing really attractive for only select matches, they are largely one-sided so you lose interest as a football fan. That is definitely not the case with the Premier League. Over the years there's a really nice competitive set of six eight teams which makes every match well contested and thus a delight to watch. The last season is a testament to that fact. Till about a week or two before the Premier League ended, you had no idea who was going to be fifth in the league and who was going to be second. There was a difference of just a couple of points between the two spots.”
The onset of Premier League is almost like a declaration of war for Khanna’s circle of friends each of who has his loyalties etched on a stone for a particular club, be it Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool etc, starting from WhatsApp battle of wits, to memes on social media to sharing articles which rub the other team’s followers the wrong way and finally celebrating the defeat of a rival club ostentatiously, Premier League in those nine months is always a buzzing topic for them. Khanna elaborates, “In the past 8-10 years, each club has had a period where they've not been doing so well. So, we've all had our chances for really making sure that we are giving the supporters of those teams a hard time. Arsenal, for example, has had a rough patch in the past six years and we have all ensured that my friend who is a true blue Arsenal supporter definitely realizes that every step of the way. We have not missed even one opportunity to mock her and tell her just how badly the club is performing.”
Talking about pre-Covid times he says, “My friends and I would organize a house party to watch the game together or hit a sports bar especially when Liverpool was locking horns with Manchester United, those were big draws. In fact, a permutation or combination of matches between Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea was always a ready excuse to catch up and watch the match together.”
So high is the Premier League mania for Khanna that he has conditioned his five-year-old son to watch the Premier League with him. Khanna jokes, “Right from the time when he was three years old, I've made sure that he sits beside me and watches the matches. I've tried my best to coax him into being a Liverpool supporter as well. But his loyalties seem a bit divided at the moment because my brother is a Manchester United fan. He's doing his best as well, to make sure that the youngest male member in the family is pulled to the Manchester United side. But me being the father, has had the strongest influence so far and I see our little one tilting towards Liverpool now.”
He also has quite a collection of the Liverpool merchandise, he emotionally blackmails his friends into getting something for him every time they are visiting the UK, be it scarves, or a giant poster of Anfield stadium in Liverpool which is pasted right next to his bed and one he happily wakes up to every morning.
The passion associated with the game is what according to him makes the Premier League such a great marketing property. “The banter on PL was alive even during the Covid times, that is why I feel it is way ahead of other football leagues. From an advertising point of view, we get a sharp, affluent male audience watching the Premier League. There is a certain age and income demographic that's more clued in with the Premier League. It is not like IPL, which has a mass following. The Premier League is still in a niche of its own. So, if a product is aimed at that target audience then it's probably one of the highest impact properties to advertise your brand on. Hence you see a lot of auto-related companies, like car manufacturers or bike manufacturers advertising on it,” says Khanna.
Premier League is most certainly growing its fanbase and viewership in India in addition to being one of the richest sporting leagues in the world. Signing off Khanna says his dream is to be able to visit the Anfield stadium one day. “I want to walk through the players’ tunnel, watch a game and be able to sing the anthem, ‘You Never Walk Alone’ with all the fans in the stadium- that's a bucket list item,” the Liverpool fan adds proudly.
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