Key to Asian Consumers is...European Football?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/05/2011 12:00:00 AM
And more specifically, UEFA Champions League football. Aside from attracting more global viewers than the Super Bowl, this Wall Street Journal article suggests (Western) advertisers seeking to make inroads into developing Asia can use the foremost European club competition as a vehicle:
"The global audience is huge," says David Taylor, UEFA's head of events. "Wherever you are in the world you can watch it. Research from partners, which we see when discussing renewals, shows that its value for money, although these are large sums involved."

For big advertisers, the regularity, exposure and global footprint of Champions League matches—the tournament attracts roughly 150 million TV viewers a week in 70 countries—has long made sponsoring the tournament an effective strategy for marketing to large groups of consumers.
There's also the challenge of monetizing sports viewers' attention to geerate off-the-air revenues:
All this comes as major European football teams are stepping up their efforts to draw Asian fans in the belief that the world's developing football markets offer growth potential both in terms of broadcast and other commercial rights.

Standard Chartered, the Asian-facing bank and lead sponsor of Liverpool FC, reinforced this point last month. "The market is saturated in Europe with so many clubs, how many more merchandise sales are they going to create over the next 10 years?" said Gavin Laws, the bank's sponsorship executive. "If the clubs want to do merchandise sales at an exponential rate you've got to be in China, you've got to be in Korea, getting all the people excited about the game."

Yet the biggest challenge for top clubs is how to turn fans in the world's most populous continent into profits. Tom Fox, the commercial director of 2006 Champions League finalist Arsenal, says the international profile of leading English Premier League clubs is out of proportion to their size, which should temper expectations of building a major marketing platform in overseas markets.

"Arsenal is a £230 million club in terms of revenue. Then there's Chelsea—slightly smaller—and Man United, which is bigger," says Fox. "They are all trying to build a brand independently around the world on multiple fronts, in North America, Asia and the European continent. But there are billion-dollar brands around the world trying to compete in China and failing."
As a useful comparison, the NBA itself has promoted basketball in Asia, while in football it's been down more to individual clubs. Is the NBA's effort more concentrated? Perhaps:
There is also a structural issue. While the leading European clubs are competing against each other for new fans, the task of building professional basketball in Asia has been undertaken centrally by the National Basketball Association, rather than individual franchises.

In other words, the NBA operates as a coordinating body that ensures that each of its teams benefits from the commercial opportunities available in China. "There is no duplication and there is a collaborative strategy ensuring that all franchises benefit," says Prof. Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports-business strategy and marketing at Coventry University in the U.K. Without a central coordinating body for European football, he says clubs are left to fight among themselves in what is arguably "a zero-sum game that demands a different strategic approach."

It would be much easier to develop individual club brands in international markets if Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool worked together, says Fox. "Do I think that all of the NBA clubs marketing all of their brands together is an advantage?" he says. "My answer simply, is yes."
Just as Formula One beings its races to Asia--China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea--it may be the case that physically bringing European football to Asia is what is required. Then again, friendlies in Asia would only further lengthen already long European campaigns. To be sure, there are a few bankable Asian football stars alike Ji-Sung Park of Manchester United, but my belief is that sponsoring local teams may be a better long-term route as the sport gains further traction in Asia. Certainly, major international sponsors can help pave the way for its growth there.

UPDATE: And speaking of Ji-Sung Park, sceptics thought earlier on that he only got into the Man U squad to sell memorabilia in Asia [!] His successes at the club have put paid to that, though it's taken quite some time to prove his worth for one of the world's most storied clubs (while selling lots of t-shirts and the rest of it). Maybe his example suggests European clubs taking on talented Asian players is the key to unlocking the Asian sports market...
It is not only the medals, this is a player increasingly appreciated by fans, media and teammates. Park has overcome the doubters who felt that he had been signed by the giant English club in order to help it sell shirts and do deals in Asia. The player, 30, has actually done so but only because he has been such a success on the pitch. He hasn't always been a regular starter for the club but when the big games come around, and for a team like Manchester United, there are lots of big games, his name can usually be found on the team sheet.