Opinion: Times are changing, and so is football - Commercially
The game as we see today is evolving at a tremendous pace. The game and its commercial structures of just a decade ago seem like a distant past now. Earlier there were players who played top flight football and earned 500 pounds a week, and in comparison, the transfer fees and wage structures in place today are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Football as a sport is one that holds importance across geographies and continents with a widespread fanbase. Slowly and steadily major European clubs and sporting entities are starting to realise the potential of a modern brand in a commercial sense.
Just to illustrate the above with an example, Real Madrid, one of the biggest clubs in world football, allowed their middle eastern partners to remove the cross from their crest in club merchandise to appease supporters based in those particular regions.
To tap the potential of these newly emerged revenue sources, there are various measures being taken by the clubs and the leagues to grow their foothold in these markets.
One of the measures being taken proactively is looking at clubs from a brand’s perspective. Football clubs and leagues are placing an emphasis on their tangible identity and increasing brand visibility in such markets.
For clubs, it is in the sense of their club crest, stadiums, sponsorships and activations. Several clubs and leagues have taken steps towards rebranding in recent years to make a more visually appealing statement in the modern setting such as the Premier League, Manchester City, Juventus, and most recently FC Barcelona as shown in the image below.
These changes play a significant role in increasing the brand value of the sporting entity and help them keep up with the changing pace and trends of the society. For example, Manchester United is utilising their global fanbase with innumerous regional partnerships.
For football leagues, there is an emphasis on activations to grow the fanbase and to increase viewership globally.
To accomplish the same, for instance, La Liga wants to be the first to organise a Spanish league match i.e. Girona vs Barcelona in Miami, US to follow in the footsteps of other major sports such as NFL and NBA who have been doing this for years i.e. playing regular-season matches in other countries. Premier league organises fan parks on key match days in major cities all across the world. La Liga has made television commercials pertinent to regional markets.
The leagues even take into account their key markets while organising the schedule and the time for the football matches before the start of every season to appease their viewers.
All of this has led clubs giving nearly as much significance to success off the pitch than on the pitch. And this is only the start.
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