Football fans across Europe and the United States are turning their attention to online platforms to follow their favourite teams. Between May 2016 and May 2017, 23 billion football-related videos were viewed online.
But the biggest surprise is, fewer fans are watching live matches for the full 90-minutes.
Football has been the champion of sports broadcaster since Rupert Murdoch famously gambled his farm to attract subscribers to Sky Sports. But the early season ratings suggest the unthinkable could be happening: football fans are switching off the football.
Ratings for live Premier League matches on Sky Sports are down by a fifth. Although this is largely due to younger generations tuning in to live games online, the number of games being watched in full has declined as well.
A report published by Tubular Insights indicates the number of minutes watched per game has dropped from 1 hour to just 12 minutes. Yet soccer related video content on social media networks has grown 36% year-on-year.
Football-related video content on social media
Tubular Labs report that soccer-related views in the US has increased on Facebook by 19% whilst the social network behemoth has pulled in an audience to watch live streams that is six times the size it was last season. Football videos have the highest engagement ratings – only comedy and gaming are more popular.
YouTube is also a popular platform, attracting over 2m views a month whilst Instagram pulls in just over 31,000 viewers. With such a huge demand for football-related content and a decline in interest during games, brands have the opportunity to capitalise on fan obsession by actively engaging them before, during and after live games.
Although there are more sports from Generation X demographic, the gap between Gen Xr’s and Millennials disappears among European football and US soccer fans. Viewers of all ages want to interact with content that features news, pundit analysis and behind-the-scenes features.
In April 2017, Manchester City received 55K views for a behind-the-scenes look at the Manchester derby plus a video profile of former legend, Georgi Kinkladze. Real Madrid are the most watched team with 412m views followed closely by Barcelona pulling in 390m. Manchester United is the most viewed team in the EPL with 153m views.
Trends that target digital football fans
As the wheels start to fall off traditional football channels, online broadcasters are looking to capitalise on new digital trends of football fans. On Friday 29 Sept, a new video series titled “Copa90 Kick-Off” on Verizon’s Go90 aired for the first time.
The show is headed by former Fox Sports social producer, Aaron West and former MLS All-star, Heath Pearce and delivers weekly soccer news, culture and preview shows to digital viewers. The show is destined to secure streaming rights which will include more than 1,000 live soccer matches per year from European leagues and international tournaments such as CONMEBOL and CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers.
Brands are being urged to join the party by producing content that improves the online experience of digital football fans.
Experts recommend the following five marketing strategies:
- Target mobile viewers of live streams
- Convert pirate streaming sites
- Target parents
- Promote tickets on social media
- Highlights are the gateway to subscription video
Digital technology promises exciting times ahead for both football fans and businesses in the sports sector. With football fans driving the switch to online channels, sports brands that leave it too late to develop a digital strategy are in danger of being dropped to the bench.