Football leagues and clubs across Asia are in a constant battle with their wealthier and more established European counterparts to capture fans’ attention. Over the years, Asian football fans have taken on a near mythical status in the eyes of the Premier League, La Liga and their flagship clubs who see an increasing opportunity to monetise a seemingly untapped, sports-mad and digitally native audience of APAC football fans.
The truth is that it is nowhere near a fair fight in terms of resources and strength of brand. However, as the challenges posed by the pandemic ease, football leagues across APAC understand that by embracing innovation, they can deliver personalised and highly engaging fan experiences.
Across multiple industries, the Covid pandemic has accelerated pre-existing digital shifts and trends. This is especially true in APAC football where almost overnight, in-stadia marketing such as sponsorships and activations became far less valuable, making fan relationships and a sport’s fortunes entirely reliant on the quality of a league or club’s digital product.
Digital transformation across APAC sports has been enjoying solid progress for nearly a decade, mainly driven by major projects such as the Asian Football Confederation’s competition management initiative and FIFA Connect.
But in the last two years, this ongoing switch to digital delivery platforms has homed in on the fan experience and how leagues can effectively capture and retain their audience’s attention. From launching new OTT platforms, to investing in their live data ecosystem or growing the suite of tools that fans can access, APAC football leagues are undergoing a rapid digital development.
This shift is essential for leagues and clubs to grow their audience but also create new revenue streams. Whether buying tickets, merchandise, OTT subscriptions or a sponsor’s products, fans provide the data points and human capital fuelling the global phenomenon of football. And particularly in APAC, monetising a highly engaged and connected audience is only possible with a first-class digital offering.
For those leagues with an established digital infrastructure, the scope for innovation is huge. Team and player statistics, which provide essential context for fans to every game, are a central part of this.
Two years ago, many APAC football leagues were focused on implementing new technologies that could enable them to capture and distribute their live data to fans. Therefore, they could provide a regular stream of live content and updates that would provide valuable insights to fans while increasing the popularity and value of their own platforms.
Now though, leagues across the region are taking this to the next level. While continuing to increase the levels of content they produce, leagues and clubs are now looking to build more meaningful connections with their fans.
Live data collection technology enables rights-holders to offer play-by-play updates and publish them across multiple channels. Fantasy tools can provide a platform to test fans’ knowledge and assess the top performers across every game week. Meanwhile, interactions and the behaviour of the audiences for these new platforms can be used to learn more about what fans want and expect.
While locked in a constant battle with the European heavyweights, leagues and clubs across APAC football are using technology to remain competitive and stay ahead of the curve.
Leagues want to capitalise on their greater knowledge of the Asian football fan by understanding their digital behaviour and tailoring their product accordingly. Up till this point, personalising the fan experience has been rare amongst APAC football leagues, but I expect this to change in the years to come.
Those leagues who can tailor their offering to an individual fan’s expectations, will not only increase the time they spend engaging with their platforms, but will also provide valuable new insights to their sponsors and partners.