EPL clubs must be versatile to win global fans

Above: Charles Allen, Arsenal's head of marketing, is overjoyed with the response to the Junior Gunners app. Left: Matthew Baxter, chief media officer of Liverpool, says social media is critical to the club's success.
Charles Allen, Arsenal's head of marketing, is overjoyed with the response to the Junior Gunners app.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Above: Charles Allen, Arsenal's head of marketing, is overjoyed with the response to the Junior Gunners app. Left: Matthew Baxter, chief media officer of Liverpool, says social media is critical to the club's success.
Matthew Baxter, chief media officer of Liverpool, says social media is critical to the club's success.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

Football may be a universal language, but English Premier League (EPL) clubs Arsenal and Liverpool are adopting more global tongues to engage their fans in Asia.

Both teams have stepped up efforts to increase contact with their fans through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Three years ago, Liverpool's website and one Twitter account made up their entire online presence. They now have 54 digital platforms in 22 different languages. The Anfield side's official opening of their new Main Stand last week was broadcast on Facebook live.

Such steps are "critical to the success of the club", said the Reds' chief media officer Matthew Baxter on the sidelines of the Sports Matters conference at Marina Bay Sands yesterday.

"The team can't be here all the time. So when they are not here, we need to make sure that the fans could feel Liverpool's presence.

"We need to be omnipresent in this market... We need to make sure there is a constant feed of noise."

Based on figures from 2013-14, the EPL claims it has 469 million followers in Asia and Oceania.

  • CATCH THEM ALL

    469m Liverpool supporters in Asia and Oceania in 2013-14.

    CATCH THEM YOUNG

    27,000 Downloads of Arsenal Junior Gunners app since last month's launch. The club were targeting 5,000 in a year.

Reaching out to audiences in this region is also a key focus for Arsenal, who produce content in 10 languages, including Chinese, Malay and Vietnamese, on its various digital platforms.

The north London club want them young too. They successfully launched the Arsenal Junior Gunners app, for children aged six to 10, last month and were taken aback by the response.

Initially expecting 5,000 downloads for its first year, the app was downloaded 6,000 times on its first day and 27,000 times to date, said Arsenal's head of marketing Charles Allen.

He added: "What's critical about this is the re-engagement - 52 per cent of people are using the app more than once, and that's a huge number."

There is, of course, no better way to connect with supporters than letting them get up close with their heroes in person.

Arsenal, with stars like Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, were in the Republic last year for the Barclays Asia Trophy and Allen hinted at the possibility of Singapore fans catching a glimpse of their favourite Gunners next summer during the 13-time league champions' pre-season tour in Sydney in July 2017.

He said: "We have to stop somewhere on the way to Australia, so who knows?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'EPL clubs must be versatile to win global fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe