Pitch study reveals Southampton top the Premier League for social media value relative to sponsorship investment

As the annual hype reaches its climax ahead of the new Premier League season, the twenty teams competing at the top of the English football league will look forward to pocketing a combined £222.85m in shirt sponsorship in the 2015/16 season.

This is the first time in history that Premier League clubs have broken the £200m mark in a single season for shirt sponsorship and Manchester United’s £47million-a-year deal with Chevrolet is the biggest in sports history.

With such big figures associated with the league, and with such disparity between the huge numbers of £40m+ that Chelsea and Manchester United earn compared to the £750,000 of AFC Bournemouth, we wanted to investigate which sponsor is getting the most value for money when it comes to social media.

The place where fans go to discuss their pre-season hype is social media. Whether engaging with the club, discussing the team with fellow fans or creating their own unique content, social media should be harnessed by sponsors and their respective teams conversations be closely monitored and maximized.

Taking each team’s respective shirt sponsorship income into consideration, and applying this in relation to the number of conversations about each Premier League team, we were able to calculate which sponsor was receiving the best value for money.

The Best and Worst Teams for Value for Money

Southampton, despite having over 5,600,000 less followers than Arsenal who lead the Premier League as the most followed club, top the table when it comes to sponsor value for money based on social media mentions. Veho currently invest £1,000,000 a year into the Hampshire side and only one team has a smaller deal (AFC Bournemouth) with newly promoted Leicester City and Norwich City both having same financial deal with their respective sponsors King Power and Aviva.

On the pitch, considering their seventh place finish in last year’s season this seems a minimal fee. Couple that with their online conversations, which in the build-up to the Premier League season saw them generate 27% more engagement than Arsenal despite the Londoners picking up the Community Shield trophy.

With West Brom following behind Southampton and also leading the way in positive sentiment, Betway, who signed a £1,200,000 million a year deal with the Midlands’ club in early 2015, are getting fantastic value for money. If sponsors want to opt for a community feel to their content and harness the local loyalty of their team, they need to look at clubs like West Brom, Southampton and Manchester United who nurture and encourage fan conversations.

Swansea, however, are bottom of the league with their Hong-Kong based sponsor GWFX getting little conversation for their £4,000,000. The Welsh based team received less than 1% of the engagement that Manchester United did over the same period of time, with all Premier League newcomers receiving at least 25% more engagement than Garry Monk’s side.

Dominant Manchester United

Chevrolet might be investing an incredible £47,000,000 a year into the Red Devils, but data suggests they are getting return for their share. The three-time UEFA Champions League winners received 87% more engagement than Chelsea and Arsenal combined despite the latter two teams going head to head at Wembley for the Community Shield. Chevrolet benefited significantly from adidas’ most successful kit launch to date, with an expected £1.5billion expected in shirt sales over the next decade.

In terms of engagement, Louis van Gal’s team top the table by 17.4%, showing that despite lackluster performances since the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson, the team is still dominating football discussions online. Joining Twitter in April 2012 after the majority of the Premier League’s teams had been using the platform for years, Manchester United wasted no time in building a trusted and loyal community.

The Premier League Newbies

If a team makes the step up to the Premier League then their value significantly increases. However, just joining the list of clubs at the top of the English footballing system is not enough to encourage social media conversation and online support for your team.

All three of the newly promoted teams had the lowest number of direct mentions of their Twitter handles, showing that whilst their sponsors have a global audience in the Premier League, the clubs will have to do a lot of work to generate social media conversation. In addition, Leicester City’s engagement is the second worst in the league, with an average of just 1.9 engagements per post.

What Can Sponsors do to Optimize Engagement?

When delving in to the most engaged posts around Premier League teams, it is unsurprising that it is the teams who create personal content are the most successful.

From player happy birthdays to introducing new signings, the teams that expose the behind-the-scenes elements of their clubs are the ones that are dominating the online conversations. For example, West Brom listened to their fans excitement around new signing Rickie Lambert and accordingly responded by maximizing club sentiment and engagement.

Research suggest that when choosing a team to invest in, their online capabilities are important, but it is much more than simply follower numbers. As digital assets have become an essential aspect of a sports teams communication channels, sponsors need to be ensuring that their getting social media value for their investment. As it happens, the sponsor putting the most money in is getting the most money out.


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