KPMG tool highlights value of social media in the business of football


In the competition to win over customers, providing the right customer experience is the “front line” in today’s business world. Sport is no exception – top sport entities are moving towards an entertainment company model, transforming their organizations into real global brands and attracting audiences from all over the world. Football is leading the way in building worldwide audiences: top football teams are winning over fans in China, India, Indonesia and the US, countries that account for around 45% of world population. Social media provides convenient and efficient channels to reach and engage these people.

Data from the upgraded KPMG Football Benchmark Social Media Analytics tool – which helps examine the social media performance of 1,000 clubs, leagues and sporting competitions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – show that players, clubs and associations are all focusing on improving and growing their social media presence accordingly.

Our chart below shows the top sport competitions with a global reach via social media. The UEFA Europa League just missed the top 10, ranked 11th in our findings.

The impact of such increasing global reach and popularity in social media on the business of football has been ever growing. A player with a huge followership may have a higher value in the transfer market, as he can bring his fans to his new club as well. In parallel, a club’s growing fame and the high-level of engagement of followers on these channels will increase their negotiating power with investors, sponsors or kit suppliers and thus help a club grow their matchday, commercial and TV revenues.

Data from the tool also reveal that success on the pitch remains the core attraction for building an audience. UCL performance, for example, helped last season’s semi-finalists Barcelona gain 14.6 million new social media fans, and title winners Liverpool could add 11 million new followers on their social media channels from the group stage to the end of the tournament. Ajax’s fantastic UCL campaign helped them grow their followership by 3 million, while runners-up Tottenham gained 4 million new social media fans (20% growth) from September 2018 to June 2019.

In addition, major clubs are investing massively to enhance their creative presence on social media. Some are also providing exposure for sponsors through standardized messages around major moments, like starting line-ups, goals, half-time/full-time updates, substitutions, etc. Manchester City’s, for example, launched a YouTube series this year entitled ‘Inside City’, partnering with Nissan, to engage fans, while they announced their team starting line-ups on Twitter in a “Here’s how City line up today!” series, in partnership with Hays Recruitment. Another spectacular example earlier this year was how the England Women’s Football Team revealed their 2019 World Cup squad on Twitter, with celebrities naming the players one by one in a thread of posts for a full day’s engagement. Several clubs also operate multiple foreign-language Twitter accounts to personalize their fan experience beyond their home market. Manchester City has over 10 such accounts, many in Asian languages, while AS Roma has created a Pidgin Twitter account in March, run from Lagos, Nigeria to serve their West African fans.

Beyond sporting performance, superstars can also help a club grow their followership. Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus was a unique example. Since the most followed athlete in the world joined the Old Lady last summer, the club have been able to grow their followership by 62% on the four main social media platforms and could establish themselves as the 4th most popular club in terms of the number of total followers. A transfer can work the other way too – when 21-year-old Serbia striker Luka Jovic joined Real Madrid from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, his personal fan base grew radically overnight, profiting from the popularity of the most followed club in football, gaining almost 400k new followers on his Instagram account, an 80% increase in less than a day.

Ronaldo’s arrival to Juventus was also a key factor in helping the club grow their overall income by EUR 46.3 million in 2018/19, an increase of EUR 32.1 million in commercial revenues and a growth of EUR 14.2 million in matchday revenues. (Although that increase in income was not enough to cover an explosion of costs, primarily his transfer fee and salary as yet; the “Ronaldo effect” on revenues will be seen mainly in future budgets, when several commercial agreements and contracts may be renegotiated or signed with new counterparts.)

Athletes themselves are also keen on improving their social media presence, knowing how it can increase their market value, and also their personal marketing value to attract potential sponsors, as well. While players may be advised by marketers to be personal, light-hearted and funny via their social media communication to engage fans, Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva’s current Twitter controversy showed how thin the ice can be and how cautious players need to be.

Nevertheless, social media is definitely one of the most spectacularly developing tools for all stakeholders in football to raise their profile, grow their audiences, increase fans' engagement through personalized brand experience, and ultimately, monetize their passion.

About the KPMG Football Benchmark Social Media Analytics tool

Understanding the importance and value of social media in the football business, the KPMG Football Benchmark team have been running their Social Media Analytics tool, which helps analyse the social media performance of 1,000 clubs, leagues and sporting competitions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The focus is on football, with 400 clubs and over 300 well-known active players featuring in the tool. Other sports are represented by close to 300 entities, including major American leagues and a selection of today's most popular athletes.

The tool is updated daily with up-to-date figures from the accounts tracked. There are two main data types: the number of followers of an account and the engagement metrics their posts generate. The tool provides comparable information, for example, on a player’s daily SM activity, daily posts’ engagement rates, and on how a player's followership changes from day to day.

The structure of the Social Media Analytics dashboard consists of several pages dedicated to different aspects of social media performance. Each page has a range of filters (account type, country, league, etc.) that enable users to target a subset of data relevant to them.

  • Followers: On this page users can look up the ranking by follower count for the selected reference date. Changes over time on different platforms are also displayed here.
  • Analysis by platform: There are four separate views on this page, each focusing on one of the tracked social media platforms. Engagement metrics are summarized and visualized for the selected platform across all accounts. This allows for quick and easy comparisons. Users can also manually set the date range of the analysis.
  • Club Analysis: This page provides users with a comprehensive overview of one selected (football) club at a time.
  • Player Analysis: This page gives users a comprehensive overview of one selected (football) player at a time.

More on the tool and the methodology here: