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Kits and Clicks: How European Football Clubs are Using Social Media to Boost Sponsor Exposure

4 minute read | March 2018

Social media is becoming an increasingly vital part of teams’ and sponsors’ exposure to sports fans around the world. But don’t take our word for it. Just take a look at the importance of social media in European football, which is home to the biggest social media community of players in the world. At the halfway point of the 2017-2018 season, the kit (team uniform) providers of the top 40 football clubs received more than 80 billion social media impressions, providing $70.6 million in QI (Quality Index) media value, according to Nielsen Sports Social24.

The value generated by sponsor exposure on kits, including shirts, shorts and socks, means they’re sought after assets that sportswear companies compete against each other for. This gives them access to exclusive rights—like player appearances—which receive increased global brand exposure and product sales.

But while almost $71 million in media value is a very large sum, two brands benefited the most from their inclusion on football kits. In fact, a recent Nielsen Sports analysis of 1.5 million posts across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram featuring the top 40 clubs in Europe found that the top two brands accounted for 89% of all impressions.

Nielsen Sports tracks and assigns values to sponsorship exposure through Social24, the industry’s leading syndicated social measurement of sponsorship appearing in social media content.

Video content was key in driving value for all sponsors, generating over 7.5 billion views containing logo exposure for one of the five apparel brands tracked in the first half of the season. Brand A and Brand B again drove the lion’s share, with a total of 6.5 billion combined views.

In looking at social media platforms, Instagram drove the most interactions for all of the kit supplier brands, followed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. At the halfway point of the season, demonstrating sports’ fans love of Instagram, content containing Brand A drove over 630 million interactions.

Our analysis showed that teams sponsored by Brand A posted more content that included the logo than the other four brands (110,000+ posts vs. 70,000+ for Brand “B”). Brand A was also most active in collaborating with clubs to use their social profiles for branded activations. For example, Brand A used club posts to advertise a new kit design launch and drive fans to an online store. It also created branded “goal of the month” contests.

Location, location, location

Traditional sponsorship assets like LED boards and interview backdrops receive relatively little value within social content. Out of all sponsorship asset locations tracked in Social24, the jersey provides the most exposure for kit sponsors, making up between 38% and 54% of the total impressions for the top five kit providers. Game-related content (e.g., highlights, photos) is king. However, due to the 24/7 nature of social media, three assets stand out in driving impressions:

  • Sportswear/training kits: Training and practice content is especially popular with fans on social media
  • Player warm-up apparel: Game day arrival and travel pictures and videos are one of the frequently posted content themes
  • Team line-up photos: Kit sponsors receive significant exposure

Value delivered

The value of exposure kit supplier brands received via social media channels ranked right up with jersey sponsors. Four of the five kit supplier brands ranked among the top 12 sponsors by QI Media Value during the 2017-2018 European Football season via Social24. In total, 845 sponsors tracked through the halfway point of the season garnered $250 million in QI media value via social media exposure alone. The top two kit suppliers earned a combined $60.7 million in exposure.

What’s Next?

Expect social media content teams to use more of a commercial lens when posting content to deliver more exposure value to kit suppliers. Commercial teams can and will be expected to report brand reach via social media channels in addition to traditional television QI Media Value. Rights holders can develop “Fan Stories” like game day travel, training and behind the scenes video to drive exposure for brands.

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