BLOG | by Charlie Dundas

English football’s battle for foreign fans is fierce. But who is winning?

While the English Premier League is one of football’s most competitive leagues, its fiercest fight may well be to win the hearts of fans in foreign markets.

The top sides have long understood the value of nurturing their overseas followings. While collective overseas TV deals bring each of the clubs £41m a season, foreign sponsorship deals and merchandising can make the difference between securing success on the pitch or being this season’s bridesmaid – as well as being in the black or the red while doing so.

For some time, the bigger teams have invested heavily in building engagement in key markets so we thought we’d use our new SportsIndex service to see how successful they’ve been.

The graph above looks at four major clubs – Manchester City and their cross-town rivals United, as well as recent champions Chelsea and resurgent Liverpool. It charts one of the 16 metrics we track as part of SportsIndex – Awareness – across four very different markets – the US, China, Indonesia and Germany.

As you can see, Manchester United perform best in three of the four markets, with Liverpool enjoying ascendancy in arguably the most important of all, China.

Our SportsIndex data shows that the Premier League is only 15th in the ranking of our Current Customer properties in China, something reinforced by the fact that Awareness of our four clubs is lower in China than in the other three markets.

But its sheer size – and the growth of its economy – places it high up the list of favoured territories for football marketers, something contributing to speculation that the Reds will play in the country again at the end of this season.

Perhaps the team keenest to improve based on this data will be Chelsea FC. They come behind their rivals for Awareness in all but one of these markets. But since Awareness is not the same thing as favourability (as we can show another time), they may not be concerned.

What we can say is that, apart from in the US, the battle for market share is being closely fought and like the Premier League title, global supremacy is still anyone’s game.

Photo Liverpool FC website

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Commercial Director

With over 15 years’ experience in the sports and sponsorship field, Charlie’s role at SMG Insight is to develop new market opportunities as the company continues to grow internationally. He also assists established and future clients to get the most from SMG Insight’s market-leading tools and research techniques.


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