Digital fan engagement: Why Football’s traditional shirt sponsors are missing a trick

For sponsors of the beautiful game, it’s time to start thinking beyond traditional mediums and embrace the ‘mobile-first’ generation.

Earlier in August, advertising best practice agency, Warc, highlighted the potentially wasted investment of shirt sponsoring in the top two divisions of English football – a £220m a year business.

While shirt sponsoring from the likes of Emirates (Arsenal), Chevrolet (Manchester United) and Samsung (Chelsea) has become synonymous with the game, statistics show that a large percentage of brands – as much as 46% of them in the case of the Football League Championship – show little evidence of actually engaging with fans (Aberfield Communications 2015).

Fans need to know more than just the brand’s name, say Aberfield, they need to understand how and why the brand fits into their lives.

This is of particular relevance when considering the rise of the ‘millennials’ – a youthful consumer group, born between the early 1980s and late 1990s – who have grown up in a world filled with electronics, and live in one that is increasingly online, mobile and social-network-driven.

The number of mobile-connected devices now exceeds the world’s population, and more than 10 billion devices are predicted by 2018. These statistics reflect the ever-increasing shift towards a ‘mobile-first’ mentality – a state where mobile devices are the primary means of accessing the internet.

Sponsors of football need to have this step-change firmly in their minds when considering opportunities to connect and engage more effectively with today’s fans.

Every football fan who owns a smartphone is now believed to look at it more than 150 times a day.

Both inside and outside the stadium, football fans want to be on the pulse where it comes to content about their team – able to access the latest news and announcements, results and highlights, as well as the best merchandise available, all directly from their smartphone.

Crucially, too, the social conversations about the club and the melting pot of insight and opinion from fans, players, management, analysts, etc. is moving away from the terraces, pubs and even broadcasting outlets, to be carried out over social media channels.

In order to harness this need for digital content to more effectively reach their target audiences, football sponsors should be looking to put their brand – and money – into the go-to solutions, such as club-specific smartphone applications, which hold the power to pull the best and most relevant content into one easy-access location.

The future is bright and digital for football sponsorship, and you’ve found the right place to start making it happen.

Natalie Duffield

Natalie has spent 20 years working in the IT and Telecommunications industries alongside leading tech entrepreneur Peter Wilkinson. A confident, tactical, strategic thinker, and a dynamic CEO, Natalie has experience in a wealth of areas, including managed services, cloud computing, hosted services and outsourced infrastructure, data centre space, virtual server storage environments, telephony and networks.

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