Why the Premier League is an exciting platform for advertisers
With the world’s most popular football property, Premier League set for an August 14 kick off, we take a closer look at the platform and examine what the property and its fans have to offer brands
The Premier League, the country’s most popular and most followed football league, is set to commence on August 14 this year, setting the field for an action-packed season over the next nine months. The new season comes on the back of a thrilling Euro 2020 tournament, where the English football team has just had a glorious run. With the tournament scheduled to begin in August this year and conclude on May 22, 2022 marketers would do well to capitalise on this extravaganza of football action over the next nine months and reach out to a highly engaged consumer base. As per Premier League, 155 million Indians track its team and players over the year, thereby making it the most watched and supported international football league in a cricket-crazy country. Top teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and recently crowned champions Manchester City have throngs of supporters spread across major Indian cities as well as across tier II and III cities.
A growing Premier League fan base
The Premier League craze is so strong that several fans have organised themselves into clubs, many of which are associated with official support clubs in England. These support clubs, irrespective of whether they are affiliated to the English support clubs, have a noteworthy membership base. To put the Premier League football mania in perspective, Manchester United’s second largest fan base is in India. Members of these clubs, prior to the pandemic, would get together for match screenings and cheer their team on at popular bars or pubs in their cities. Now even during pandemic days, members gather virtually over Zoom calls to discuss upcoming games or analyse a recently concluded game. Contrary to common perception, the fan base also includes a good number of women too, who make up about 20-30% of the fan base.
28-year-old Neil Chheda is the Branch Secretary of the Official Liverpool Supporters Club in Mumbai, and is also a marketing manager at a chemical firm. The club that boasts of over 2000 fans was formed in 2008, Chheda tells us, adding that it has now been officially recognised by Liverpool FC since 2013. Describing the club membership he says, “About 85% our members are between 18 and 35 years of age. You’ll see that even at our screenings and events. The general fan base is male though we are seeing an increasing number of female fans too. About 20% of our fans today are female.” He also adds that the supporters’ club does get a fair bit of sponsor and brand interest, with Standard Chartered being their main sponsor. “We have also collaborated with Carlsberg, Heinekin, Discovery+ and other smaller local brands in the F&B space as well,” explains Chheda. The club has been holding virtual screenings too during the pandemic, which have also seen a fair bit of brand interest. He also adds that the Mumbai club is perhaps the biggest Liverpool supporters club in India and one of the largest in Asia too. Speaking about the upcoming season, Chheda has his fingers crossed that the fans can catch up again in person, socialise, chant and sing together. “We’re hoping to see Liverpool bring their best game and walk away winners this season,” he states.
Away from Mumbai, in the city of Kolkata, Anirban Karmakar and his community of football fanatics have rallied and cheered on at every Manchester United fixture. Karmakar tells us that he set up the club in 2010 with some of his friends in college and over the years, the group grew from a small ten-member club to an 1800-strong community. “Even during the pandemic, while we couldn’t meet in person, we have kept the energy going via Zoom calls and on our social media pages,” he says. Speaking about the upcoming season, Karmakar adds, “We are hopeful that the team will have a better season this year. Watching the current Euro tournament, we are excited to see how well Harry Maguire has performed, and we hope that he will carry that same form into the League when it begins.” The community has over the years also partnered with brands like Kingfisher, ICICI and Hero Motorcorp for its screenings and gatherings, he explains. Speaking about the members in the club, he proudly remarks, “Most of the people in the club are true, die-hard Red Devil fans and that also includes women. While we started out as an all-guys’ club, I am happy to say that we have a good number of women who have joined us and we welcome them too.” He describes the average football fan as affluent, brand conscious, tech savvy and very vocal about the sport and their team on social media.
The pandemic may have put the physical screenings on hold for a while but it hasn’t dampened the spirit of Premier League fans, as Mumbai-based Liverpool fan, Stanton D’Silva tells us. D’Silva also eagerly looks forward to physical screenings this season so he can catch up with other friends in the club. “The best thing about screenings is having a bunch of like-minded people along with you all charged up and supporting the same team. The chanting, singing and banter really gives you the feel of being amongst the crowd in a stadium, even though in reality you are miles away from the game,” says D’Silva. “Like I always say, sport and football especially have a way of bringing together people who otherwise wouldn't have got along. The screenings just provide an amazing ambience and venue for this togetherness,” he remarks, adding that he has been a regular at these gatherings for over five years now.
A premier platform for advertisers
The ardent fan following that the Premier League has garnered over the years presents an excellent consumer base to advertisers across the board. The league attracts college students, young people who have just begun working and even older, seasoned professionals in their 30’s and 40’s thereby making itself the ideal platform for advertisers across segments like auto, two-wheelers, alco beverages, smartphones, ed-tech, e-commerce and fin-tech. The fact that women viewers are also adding to the viewer base is something brands simply cannot ignore. Not only does the league offer a higher affinity of premium audience, but its fans are significantly more brand positive than the general population, states a study done by a YouGov brand index. Furthermore, a report by GlobalWebIndex indicates that Premier League fans are likely to purchase brands that are advertised during the games. This brand positivity is also evident from the multiple categories of advertisers in the past to leverage the Premier League to build strong associative value. The league’s fans are also urban, ambitious and adventurous, as per a Nielsen study with 69% of this audience residing in urban India and 70% owning at least one car.
Speaking about the categories of brands that should associate with a property like Premier League, R Venkatasubramanian, President & National Head – Investments, Havas Media Group India says, “Youth and premium brands, and categories such as automobiles (two-wheeler and four-wheeler), sports, consumer durables and beverages are definitely a good fit for the Premier League.” He further adds that football has been seeing increasing popularity among Indian fans, with young people and young men in particular ardently following their favourite players. “Premier League is one of the best footballing events, which gives the audience an opportunity to watch all superstars together and witness the best players in the world compete against each other. What makes Premier League a desirable property is that it runs for almost 10 months and you can easily build your brand and capture the right audience with high affinity by associating with this event,” he observes, adding that brands should explore effective ways to use the property. One of the ways they can do this is through the picture-in-picture (PIP) innovation, which allows a split screen with live sports on one side and brand communication on the other.
Incidentally, Premier League broadcaster Star Sports had successfully leveraged this PIP technology during the Roland Garros along with auto major, Renault as well as in the recently concluded Wimbledon tournament. The broadcaster will be offering the innovation for brands during the upcoming Premier League as well.
The next season of the Premier League is poised to be a thriller with smaller, emerging teams making breakthroughs and driving up the competition. The fact that a majority of the fixtures are lined up on the weekends especially is an added bonus, since that means higher viewership too. The first 50 days of the league already has some promising, action-packed encounters lined up with big rival clubs going head to head. Fans will be in for some spectacular footballing action, something no advertiser will want to miss either. Brands will want in on this action.
(*Data sources – industry experts; Premier League)
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