Great Expectations: Fans are choosing new ways to follow football

In this second insight article of the Great Expectations: Football series, we reveal how fans are driving new ways of engaging with the beautiful game.

Fans want more and will pay less for their football fix.

In the 2017 National Supporters Survey run by the Football Supporters’ Federation, 39% of fans admitted illegal streaming in the last year, rising to 58% of under 30s.

Football may still be the most watched live sport on TV, but increasingly fans want it their way and in their time. People have less time but more choices than ever.

There are new ways to consume football, and young people in particular, have become disconnected from a lot of traditional media. It’s just not appealing to them. It’s considered an outdated format, too expensive and fake by many fans. Average viewing on Sky’s live TV channels fell 14% over the 2016/17 season.

“We don’t believe that a diet solely of old media can any longer satisfy the appetite of a modern football fan.” James Kirkham, Head of Copa90

Whilst younger fans in our survey (aged 30 and under) still follow football in traditional media at similar levels to older fans, they supplement this with an even higher consumption of new, unofficial channels.

Fan channels such as Redman TV, ArsenalFanTV, Spencer FC and Copa90 are more real, edgy and opinionated, and they resonate with fans. They’re more accessible than the glossy feel of TV and fans feel like they’re part of them.

“A lot of young people find that they can relate more to someone speaking very honestly with them, even if the angle is funny, the pitch is not very good and the person is not famous.” Matt Wilson, CEO Ball Street

Beyond simply being content publishers, fan channels are more like a community, generating thousands of comments for every video, propelling their presenters to celebrity reverence and encouraging high levels of fan participation.

In addition to online influencers, an increasing number of football players also command a sizable social following, outgrowing the clubs they play for in reach and engagement with fans.

Football fans aren’t just putting up with old media. They are voting with their feet, eyes and fingers to follow the wealth of new and unofficial channels that now exist.

Do you represent a brand looking to reach and engage with a share of the world’s 3.5bn football fans? We can help to you partner with publishers who have already developed an engaged audience, and help to fuel the content and experiences that fans want. Get in touch with Miranda to discuss further.

This is the second of six articles featuring a key aspect of football that is evolving and what this means for brands.

Next week, we turn our focus to gaming and how eSports is carving a significant new role in the football sector.

Download our full exclusive report here.