Swedish football marketing is all about the fans!
The taste of success has forced all the sporting organizations’ to evolve into a corporate business with professional competencies, especially with the players, but also in finance and marketing to compete with the best.
In 2012, the Swedish elite football association noticed that Allsvenskan was weak in comparison with other premier divisions and they’ve set up a goal to be the best league in Scandinavia by 2017. By looking at the last three years we can see great progress. In comparison to other Scandinavian leagues, the Swedish teams are on top when it comes to attendance.
The report by Deloitte regarding the economy of Allsvenskan and the clubs is showing that the clubs need to become even more professional than they are today and marketing should focus more into digital and new media. Another aspect of the report shows that the Swedish clubs are developing their facilities with more hospitality programs just like teams in the bigger European leagues are doing.
The rule regarding minimum 51% ownership of a football club by members has always been important in Sweden but is blocking external investments that could enable big revenue streams and help attract greater players. Despite this, the Swedish elite football clubs have turned more and more into the commercialized structure within the organizations. However, much more needs to be done continuously but there remain big continuous to both keep up the revenue stream and to survive and compete at the top.
We already know that within sports, it is hard to predict the final outcome of the game, so satisfying the audience is a big challenge. Fans/consumers want different things from a game – some are there for the live experience, some brought their business partners, and some prefer the technicality of football.
To be able satisfy most, if not all of them, market segmentation is required, and I doubt that all clubs have the resources for a CRM system, and that’s where the Swedish elite football association comes in to help out. They have planned to implement a CRM system solution in collaboration with Norway to provide each club inputs to target each individual with a custom made offer. This is part of the process to become the best league in Scandinavia by 2017 and this could ease up the challenge of targeting individual needs at games. A better understanding of each visitor will increase chances to attain stronger relationships, returning visitors and gain more revenue from tickets and line extensions.
But hey, the Swedish fans are already passionate about football – about one third of the population are involved within the sports movement. They donate money to clubs’ fan associations and create tifos during games. According to fans themselves, it is very important for them to become the best fans in Sweden. Even though their team lost the game, the fans might have won at the stand and this detail might push the team to perform better next time and could also attract new players for the team.
So what am I trying to say is that fans want to see their team perform well and stay in the top of the league and they are very committed to the cause. They pay for tickets and additional souvenirs and food at the game, and they play a key role for every Swedish football marketer. The clubs need the money to stay well organized both on and off the pitch and they’re getting a great support, both financial and in numbers, from the fans. But the largest revenue still comes from media and sponsors who would love to expose their brand to fans. This relationship goes around and can be viewed as “A Golden trinity”.
Obviously a great performance during the season with qualification into the European cups will give an economic boost by greater revenue stream from both ticket sales, sponsors and media, which Malmö FF is a proof of with possessing around half of the league’s entire capital in 2014. For marketing reasons it´s such a big advantage to market a football club that appears in Champions League than only a club in the national league. But even though they’re performing well on and off the pitch, Allsvenskan is a league where the turnover rate is high regarding football players, which impacts the clubs long-term goals and sponsor deals. By strengthening one part of the trinity, the others will get stronger as well. This makes the fans more important than ever. The league has a few good teams who can attract good players and a great audience for sponsors and media, but a greater focus on marketing strategy/implementation could be used on all football clubs in Sweden in order to engage even more fans, which would then attract more sponsors. It’s a win-win deal.
The trend for increasing the ticket revenue is looking good. It was an increase of 40% in Allsvenskan’s attendance last year. The chairman of the Swedish elite football association said: ”One reason for this is because the Swedish facilities are now getting better in quality, people enjoy being at the stadiums because of their quality”. But an increase of attendance could still be improved just like the report by Deloitte stated. The following table shows the social media accounts in contrast to their members and attendance from the Deloitte report.
We can clearly see that the clubs have a huge potential to increase their members base. Another research shows similar results and is also mentioning the goal to increase the cooperation with fans, and in order to succeed with that the atmosphere at the stadiums could be improved, which could result in a stronger bond both between fans and the clubs and their sponsors.
The research also shows that media has a big role as a gatekeeper, and to show off your brand, especially when it comes to smaller clubs, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a great way to get media attention.
One finding that fits well with the table of social media (above) is the discovery of social media importance today; social media is one of the top marketing tools to engage your fans to attend games. The study also shows that social media has become an important source for advertising/promotion of the club. Despite the paradox in Sweden, to be an elite club or not, we can see that media is an important aspect of revenue and has a key role in the golden trinity.
In this case with the help of the Swedish elite football association, the elite football clubs seem to be enhancing their marketing skills together. But when it comes to what each sports marketer can do to maximize the number of fans at their games, it is crucial to develop a strong marketing strategy and brand awareness. In order to achieve this the clubs need to provide their audience with frequent content and information about every game to keep it in their minds and create a buzz.
In general, Swedish football clubs should more often visit schools and city centers, get students involved in some kind of community outreach and use social media accounts (have quizzes, giveaways and a lot of other content) to inform fans and promote activities to ease the involvement level. Social media can also be used to create brand loyalty and a closer relationship fans to have them engaged at all times.
Despite the rough economy and expertise in some elite football clubs, I can make the conclusion from the reports and research that social media is more important now than ever. No matter if you are a non-profit organization in Sweden or the elite club, the working forces should be placed to social media to create a long lasting relationship with the fans and increase entertainment and passion.
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John Wiley & Sons, Inc 2014, Sports Event Management and Marketing Playbook
Smart, B. (2005). The sport star: modern sport and the cultural economy of sporting celebrity.
Deloitte, Penningligan Allsvenskan 2015