Love Premier League joins JDG stable of sites

JDG Sport has secured investment to launch a new in-house publication, Love Premier League.

Lending branding from Love Rugby League, the leading independent rugby league website in the UK that has been established for 11 years, the move is the next step towards developing a thriving network of websites focused on providing quality content and reaching a passionate fan base.

As part of the launch of Love Premier League, a partnership has been made with Press Association Sport, meaning the highest quality breaking news, content and features will be available to fans from the outset.

Searching for football’s content business model

In the ever increasing battle to successful monetise quality content, Trinity Mirror has launched a couple of paywalled football sites.

The two sites – produced by Liverpool Echo and Middlesbrough Gazette – will be targeted at fans of Liverpool and Middlesbrough football clubs using existing staff to create the additional content.

Subscribers will be able to view “exclusive content” including “in depth analysis, additional comment, guides and opinion from well known names and additional podcasts and video”.

It’s an interesting move, but not one that I can see taking off.

Ultimately, fans are too used to getting content for free. They will simply go wherever they can consume what they want.

That being said, there is an appetite for more in-depth content somewhere – and this is something that the new network Dugout is trying to take advantage of at an elite level.

The question is can external publications compete with a club’s in-house channels to deliver this premium content?

Elite clubs are publications in their own right, often running with multiple staff in roles ranging from club journalist to videographer.

It’s more than the media now. There is a marketing value to all the media content that is produced, and the best clubs know this.

That means behind the scenes content and exclusive access has even greater value to clubs, meaning they are more than likely wanting to keep control of that themselves, and push it through their channels, rather than enabling it to go out to external publications.

There is of course always a place for impartial and objective outsiders – clubs naturally only focus on positives or at least issues that aren’t damaging to their brand.

But my inkling is that Trinity Mirror are going to struggle to get the behind the scenes content that is going to warrant a significant number of people to pay – I hope to be proved wrong.

It is a wider issue relating to sports content. There are so many sports, teams and players to consume, and now so many ways of doing so – whether it’s newspapers, radio, TV, magazine, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, live streaming, Snapchat, What’s App or something else.

Finding a way of successfully commercialising this resource outside a club becomes increasingly challenging.

Clubs can measure the ROI against ticket sales, merchandise and increased sponsorship.

It is an issue that journalism has been seeking the answer to since newspapers ventured online more than 10 years ago.

It was a debate that no one had the answer to during my studies all those years ago.

Another tactic Trinity Mirror have tried is launching football.london which, you guessed it, is a site dedicated to football in the capital.

It builds on the niche of local newspapers and creates a niche market within football.

It’s something we at JDG have contemplated in the past – our venture at thefootypost.com, which was targeted at North West clubs, is on the back-burner at present.

But there is still something about locality that draws a niche.

Whether it works remains to be seen, but the positive is, at least the journalism industry is still looking for that answer.

Hashtag United, an example of effective modern branding

Hashtag United is an amateur football club formed in March 2016 by YouTube personality Spencer Owen, and it’s taking the football world by storm.

Managed and owned by Spencer and his brother, the club has branded itself in a way that no other club would dare to, and it’s certainly paying dividends as the squad attracts more fans to it’s content every week than there is at Premier League football matches.

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Spencer formed the club off the back of his existing reputation on YouTube due to creating content centred around the popular football video game FIFA. Using his fanbase, he formed a strategy that would challenge the conventional branding styles of football clubs, introducing this idea of a social club through the use of a ‘hashtag’ symbol in the club crest, a clever strategy that ensures they will always be spoken about as well as never forgotten.

You have to bare in mind that this isn’t simply an experiment in sports branding, through their popularity and potential, Spencer was able to form partnerships with some of the most powerful sponsors in sports such as Umbro, Xbox and EE which certainly build the foundations for a bright future.

Through the sponsorship of EE, the club were able to host the Wembley Cup and have been able to for the past couple of years. The game was pushed through both EE’s social channels and by Wembley Stadium where the event took place. Spencer Owen and his team of friends, as well as footballing legends such as Robert Pires, faced off against a team of fellow YouTube personalities in a game that was watched by 20,000 live, while over 3.9million tuned in through live broadcasts.

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So is this interactive, engagement and media oriented branding effective? A resounding yes is the answer. With the audience the club has amassed, if they played at a Premier League ground it certainly wouldn’t look too empty. This is down to the clever branding strategy that Spencer has put in place, using himself as an authoritative figure to initially promote the club before using branding techniques such as the club crest and prominence on social media to attract blue-chip companies to only further it’s reputation.

With YouTube continually growing, Hashtag United is likely to grow and the further they go up the leagues, the more sports fans will take note of them. Should the club ever get close to the semi-professional/professional leagues, it will no doubt be able to trump all it’s competitors off the field.

Currently, all games are organised and played at a secret location predominantly due to security issues, with Spencer’s personal YouTube channel subscribed to by over 1.7million fans, while Hashtag United’s twitter page boasts 92.7k followers. At the time of writing, Hashtag United’s most recent video has 430,000 views in just 48 hours.

Survey suggests 50% of Brits priced out of live sports

Rugby equipment retailer, RugbyStore, recently ran a survey involving 10,000 British participants to determine just how many sports fans are willing to pay the going rate to attend a Football or Rugby match.

For half of UK sports fans, the cost of tickets to live matches is what stops them from watching their favoured sports team – suggesting that a reduction in the cost of live sports would allow for higher attendances and an increase in demand.

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When participants were asked if football/rugby clubs charge too much for tickets, the answer was a resounding yes.

Topline results:

  • Yes: 72.0%
  • No: 28.0%
Participants were then asked how much they would be willing to pay to attend a football/rugby match, with 49.3% suggesting they wouldn’t be willing to pay to see a live match.
  • I won’t pay to see live games: 49.3%
  • £0-£20: 12.9%
  • £21-£40: 12.4%
  • £41-£60: 3.0%
  • I’d pay whatever it cost: 3.0%
  • Depends on the sport: 18.4%
  • Other: 1.0%
Even with results suggesting that the majority of fans are not happy with the prices, some fans were quick to suggest that the prices that clubs charge are reasonable, with some even suggesting they would pay whatever the clubs charged to watch the team they support.
  • 14% of 25-34-year-old male respondents said they’d pay whatever it cost.
  • 67% of 18-24-year-old males believe clubs are asking reasonable prices for tickets to live games
  • 24% of the same age group saying they’d happily pay between £21 and £40 for a ticket to a live game.

With diving opinions, there were some sports fans who remained firmly on the fence, with 18% of those surveyed explaining the price they’re willing to pay for a ticket depends on the sport in question. Some fans also suggested that their decision would come down to what teams they were going to watch and how high profile of a match it was going to be.

Andrew Jones, Content Writer at RugbyStore, said:

The fact that 50% of people won’t go to see live matches because of high ticket prices is a little sad really. I understand that event organisers are tasked to make as much money as possible from each match, but this is leading to profits being prioritised over supporter accessibility, stadium atmosphere and team spirit.

This data was gathered in September 2016 and includes responses from 10,000 people in the UK.

Why football clubs are investing in eSports

Over the past weeks and months eSports seems to be attracting attention in terms of sponsorship from football club’s, with West Ham getting the ball rolling earlier on in the year.

Ajax, Wolfsburg, Manchester City and more have already signed up their own eSports FIFA player who will represent them at tournaments, while the Bundesliga has filed for eSports related trademarks including the ‘eBundesliga’. There are currently 13 sports club’s involved in eSports, with that list expected to grow in the near future.

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First of all, it makes sense to explain exactly what eSports is. Electronic sports generally consist of several video games such as football simulation game FIFA, strategy game Dota 2, virtual card game Hearthstone and many more. The premise of the industry is that ‘athletes’ (often aged between 16 and 25) compete in video game tournaments for large sums of money, and with the industry growing at an alarming rate the prize’s will only continue to rise as the world opens it’s eyes to what is on it’s doorstep.

These gamers often make the industry their lives, with training occurring every day and for long periods of time and with the industry’s financial power, they are able to make enough money to set them up for years to come. Much like any other sport, practice makes perfect.

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So why FIFA? Why are football club’s beginning to get involved? It is simply a natural evolution in terms of sports media.

Similarly to that of having a club branded basketball team or even having a women’s football team, it gives clubs the chance to expand their brand into other sectors of sports. With eSports broadcasts commanding more than what you could fit into Wembley on an FA Cup final day, why would they choose not to dip their toes in the water!

Not only does it increase brand exposure into other sectors, eSports allows for football club’s to create even more unique media oppurtunities through their in-house channels than ever before. Manchester City’s eSports FIFA player Kieran ‘Kez’ Brown hosts his own YouTube channel and streaming channel on Twitch.tv, fully branded in the Manchester City colours and badges to allow for unique content that club will likely share through their website and social media channels.

As well as this, Kieran will represent Manchester City at every professional tournament he plays at.

This is not the only video game that club’s have explored either. European teams such as Beşiktaş and Schalke have invested in teams who play a popular eSports title League of Legends.

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According to researchers, eSports will reach a viewership of 335 million (NewZoo) in 2017 which shows the sheer scale of an industry you probably didn’t know existed! With stats like that, it is likely to compete with sports such as NFL and the like before even conquering the mainstream.

With more and more sponsorship deals and investment being pumped into eSports, it can only be a matter of time before it outgrows some sports that consumers have been watching all of their lives. ESPN already cover and broadcast professional gaming, while the BBC have explored broadcasting popular gaming tournaments and Sky Sports have begun briefly reporting on major events from time to time.

Based on the abundance of information out there on eSports and it’s growth, the real question should be why aren’t more club’s getting involved with eSports? With a growing industry that has yet to even come close to it’s peak, there is plenty of potential for businesses and sports teams alike to promote their brand and reach audiences who are simply not interested in mainstream sports.

It certainly won’t be long before eSports takes the sports broadcasting world by storm.