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Roughly 50% of the world's population are football fans. It’s an astonishing number and it’s even more astonishing that somewhere all of them are connected with the digital thread formed by the labyrinth of Social Media networks. Social Media has since grown to become the single most important communication medium, both for the fans as well as the clubs. It helps the clubs in making their virtual presence felt in the far-flung corners and at the same time, helps the fans remain connected with their favorite clubs.
Another dimension in the importance of social media for clubs is its utilization in commercial valuations and sponsor activations. A strong social media presence across the globe can determine or affect the global or regional sponsorship valuations for any club.
That leads us to the ubiquitous question, how are the clubs placed in the social media ladder? We analyzed 98 clubs playing in the 2021-22 season from the ‘Big 5’ leagues and came up with some interesting insights below.
Reach & Strength
The primary Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok accounts (regional accounts of some clubs not counted) of 98 clubs shows a total of 1.858 billion followers. The top 10 clubs (as shown in the graphic below) together amass 1.412 billion followers having a 76.01% share showing the massive global impact of these clubs and further highlighting the gap between them and the other 88 clubs. Not surprisingly, 5 clubs are from English Premier League, 2 are from Spanish La Liga, and 1 each from Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1.
There would, of course, be some duplicate and inactive accounts, however, this gives an overall picture.
A further break down shows only 7 clubs with over 100 million followers and further 3 clubs with 80 million followers. These clubs led by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid can be understood to have a created a definitive global strategy integrated with their social media channels. At the other end of the spectrum, there are 79 clubs with less than 10 million followers which seem to have a regional-focus strategy.
In the individual leagues, English Premier League teams have the highest mass of followers at 35.8% of the total 1.8 billion followers followed by Spanish La Liga at 32.6%. This, however, is very skewed within each league where the top teams (the big ones who can afford!) have more than 80% of the followers.
Social Media & Commercial Revenue
It can be emphasized that social media plays a very important role in driving the commercial revenue of each club. The reach and area-wise strength concentration of followers often lead to regional sponsorships.
As an indicative approach, looking at the commercial revenues of top 25 clubs in the 2019-20 season and corelating them with the number of followers, it can be seen that the average commercial revenue per social media follower is €2.16. The Revenue Per Follower over 25 clubs ranges from €1.12 for AC Milan to €8.99 for Everton.
Breaking down the €2.16 average Revenue Per Follower, Facebook contributes to 44% of the followers and can be attributed an equal percentage. This is followed by Instagram at 33% share. Twitter, YouTube and TikTok combined contributes the remaining 23% share.
With the rapid growth of TikTok and short form content, this contribution can change in in the coming period of time. It will be worthwhile to watch this space closely.
With the slow/stagnating growth of broadcasting & matchday revenues, it’s the commercial revenues which would make the difference in the football clubs and therefore a strong Social Media strategy will have to considered seriously by them. A physical presence of the club through multiple fan clubs, academies, tours and other things compounded with a deep penetration of its social media in a foreign country can lead to multiple local sponsorships and other commercial revenue sources.
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