Re-thinking sports marketing now that fans are in charge
Move fast the Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United juggernaut is at your door steps
If you are team owner and you continue to operate your fan growth and marketing casually, you are in for a rude awakening, the Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United juggernaut is right at your door steps. They do not only want to take all your fans away from you, but do want to control the purse of these fans in totality. It is true as it is sad and they do not care about you. They do not care whether a stadium in Kenya or Beijing remains empty or not. They do not care whether your players go unfed and unpaid. That is your baby. What matters is how they can expand their influence to the rest of the world and be able to pay their already over paid superstars.
Football capitalism is like any other type of capitalism. It is about taking it all if possible. You slack, your fan share is taken by your competitor and this time a well organized one in the business of football. Stand warned.
Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, and Manchester United having maximized their reach at home, have decided to fan out to the rest of the world with the same marketing gusto they did at home. That is what the off season tours are about. Manchester United will be in South Africa playing Ajax Cape Town a team that is found in a community that loves football but is never at the local stadiums. Yes, they watch Manchester United on TV. This is an opportunity for Manchester United to cement this relationship. Manchester United is giving the Cape community an opportunity to see their heroes in real life and make this community believe that it truly belongs to the Manchester United family.
The Cape sides are going to lose even the little support they have in these communities as every one would want to be associated with this behemoth of a football brand. Remember human beings have a sheep mentality, they follow the crowd. So, do not be surprised if the stadiums in the Cape become emptier in the coming season.
Manchester United will also play with Amazulu on the Eastern Coast of South Africa. This is a team steeped in a lot of tradition, located in a highly populated area but with no visible fan base for Amazulu, at least not in the stadium. Manchester United with their clout and brand will sweep many of the people in this region into their fold. Amazulu's fan base is not going to improve in the least, this game may be the last they see a full stadium. When you next walk in Durban in summer do not be surprised to see so many people in Manchester United replica shirts. Manchester United is working on this stealthily but very effectively as usual.
Arsenal on the other side will be in Nigeria. Arsenal is very well supported in this most populated country on the African continent. The stadiums and the streets of Lagos will be filled with Arsenal memorabilia and jerseys. The stadium will be filled to the brim. Nigerians will have an opportunity to see their heroes in the fresh. This visit is going to cement the relationship between the Gunners in Nigeria and their heroes from the Emirates stadium. Arsenal is also going to recruit many new converts and swell their already over flowing fan base.
How is Nigerian football and teams going to benefit from this visit from Arsenal? I think it will be between 0 and 1%. This visit is in no way intended to add value to Nigerian football. It is all about Arsenal and their marketing expansion. They know what football business is all about. They know that football business is about fans and the more fans you have the more you will earn from sponsorship, TV pay out and replica jersey sells.
Barcelona will be in Morocco to play Raja Club Athletic in Casablanca and Dynamo Bucharest in Romania. Real Madrid will be in Mexico and the USA. All these clubs have one thing in mind, how to grow their support base and increase their sponsorship and jersey sells.
Garuda Indonesian Airlines has already inked a sponsorship deal with Liverpool FC. This sponsorship would have gone to a local club. But, it did not, because Garuda wants to be associated with a huge brand in Indonesia and globally and it is not a local football club, it is Liverpool. Liverpool most likely has a bigger fan base in Indonesia than any local football club there.
In East and Central Africa, Arsenal signed a sponsorship deal with Airtel, giving Airtel the authority to spread Arsenal content in the region. This sponsorship deal did not go to TP Mazembe of DRC, AFC Leopards of Kenya or Express FC of Uganda. Why, because Arsenal has a greater support base than all these teams in their own countries. Airtel will do better sponsoring Arsenal than any of these teams. That is how sad it is.
The sole reason why this sad situation is happening globally is that football in the rest of the world has not realized the need to market and manage itself like a proper business. Football in the rest of the world must know that what matters most is the fans and the rest will fall into place. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United know this very well and they will stop at nothing to grow their fan base globally. This may unfortunately mean that the local game stagnates with little on resources. But, that is not their problem. It is your problem.