Online connectivity with fans is a crucial element in efforts by elite European soccer clubs to penetrate the lucrative Asian market. Photo source: https://www.wowkeren.com/foto/album/isl-all-star-vs-juventus/isl-all-star-vs-juventus-02.html


The time when the soccer ‘fan experience’ exclusively meant going to stadiums to watch games has long passed. Nothing beats the thrill and exhilaration of watching a derby match in a stadium, but for the big European clubs, online audiences are now equally – if not more – important for growth.


In Europe, a fan’s chosen team is often preselected at birth based on local proximity or through long-standing family traditions. However, elite European clubs are well aware that it’s a different game in Asia, where fan bases are largely untapped and can even be won over. The key to winning the war: rapid mobile technology adoption, local presence and localised content.


Localized content in particular is a powerful ingredient for getting closer to fans. This tactic means clubs must go beyond global content and word-for-word translations, and instead create ‘local’ authentic content that fulfils the unique cultural and socio-economic interests of the local fanbase. The big teams, like Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, are already taking this route.


       


Indonesia  – the next big growth opportunity

The diversity of Asia’s culture and heritage is reflected in the diverse ways modern fans want to consume content. In Japan, fans like to receive short updates via Twitter or Mixi and read stories published on Line, while Indonesian fans prefer entertainment and spectacular goals on Facebook and Twitter.


A closer look at Indonesia shows that it represents a unique growth opportunity:


Several clubs turned their attention to Indonesia, most clearly in 2016 when Real Madrid, among others, joined the "om telolet om" craze, an Indonesia phrase used by children at the roadside for the sake of getting bus drivers to honk their horns. The phrase gained global recognition overnight, with teams like Real Madrid jumping on the bandwagon.



Furthermore, Indonesian fans can now expect ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ greetings on the Twitter feeds of their favorite clubs’ official accounts every year, and even ’17-an’ posts that pay tribute to the country’s Independence Day – a form of cultural marketing that pays dividends in the long run if executed right.


Other than sheer population size and a burgeoning middle class, what makes Indonesia so attractive as a new market is the country’s pure love for the game.


Indonesian fans account for a large proportion of Facebook ‘likes’ for most of Europe’s top-flight leagues, often ranking #1 globally. From 2015 to 2017, the country added 1,900,149 likes to FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid’s Facebook pages. As of 2017 Indonesian fans contributed to a total of 19,264,278 combined ‘likes’ between the three teams.



Several English Premier League players such as Michael Essien, Carlton Cole, Peter Odemwingie, Didier Zakora and Marcus Bent relocated to play in Indonesia’s domestic league in recent years, bringing die-hard fans closer to the Premier League more than ever.


In 2018, unaided brand awareness of Spain’s LaLiga increased by four percentage points in the three key Asian markets of Indonesia, China and India over a one-year period, according to market research company GfK.

Indonesian Fan Culture

With dwindling attention spans and traditional TV viewership, leagues and broadcasters are forced to seek new distribution channels to satisfy the demands of the younger generation.


Watching football will always be a communal activity but the emergence of alternative distribution platforms such as OTT (over-the-top) and social broadcasting has given fans the valuable option of freeing themselves from time and location constraints – watching where and when they want to.


Evolving consumption behaviors seen on the global scale is reflected in Indonesia, where time spent on mobile far surpasses the global average. Watching games on mobile phones while commuting or waiting for food in cafes and restaurants is a common sight.


Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports currently offers OTT services in Indonesia that streams live matches from the Premier League, Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and MLS, while SuperSoccer TV offers livestreams of Bundesliga games.


In March this year, Spain’s LaLiga launched its own OTT streaming service LaLigaSportsTV, which is available in the Indonesian language alongside English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Russian.


Social media plays a crucial role in the way Indonesian fans follow their favorite teams. Facebook and Twitter are popular platforms for engaging with fellow supporters, reaffirming team allegiances, consuming news and entertainment-related content, and act as a ‘second screen’ for real-time commentary, match updates and statistics during live matches.


Unsurprisingly, for a country with one of the highest social media usage in the world, localized content tend to engage Indonesian audiences better than generic content.


   


In April 2018, a Kartini day greeting posted by Bayern Munich’s Facebook account in Bahasa Indonesia generated a high number of shares among posts geo-targeted at Indonesians. Localized content like this tap into the national sentiment of the occasion and encourages people to share. Indonesia-centric content also generated higher reach overall compared to non-Iocalized content.


The Indonesian fan (and how to win his heart)

Not all Indonesian fans are created equal. To win their hearts it is necessary to look at the different fan personas:


The Longtime Fan: A diehard fan of (mostly) European clubs who religiously consumes all club-related information, from transfer rumours, team formations, player fitness, match schedules to highlights. Likely to stay up and watch 3am games on weekdays. A lifetime fan who bleeds the color of his club, and unabashedly flaunts this identity on social media.


The Casual Fan: Not necessarily a fan of clubs, but has an affinity for individual players. Especially ‘active’ during big tournaments such as the World Cup or the European Championships. High potential for ‘conversion’ as club affiliation is not particularly set in stone.


The Local Club Fan: A fan of local clubs and leagues, which are generally more accessible than their European counterparts in Indonesia. Swears a lifetime allegiance to one team based on the province he was born or raised in. Watches domestic games more than, if not just as much as foreign leagues. Typically come from less affluent backgrounds with lower education.


The General Football Fan: Does not claim a strict affiliation with a single club. Likely to follow more than one team, spread across different top-flight European leagues. Unlikely to watch domestic matches. What he lacks in loyalty, he makes up for in knowledge about the sport in general. Likely to come from the upper-middle class and above, with high education. Also sometimes known as the ‘Christmas Tree Fan’ – he may have a Manchester City sticker on his scooter helmet, wears a Barcelona jacket and follows PSG games!


The Young Fan: Largest segment and highest potential to nurture in the next 5 years. Introduced to soccer through playing the sport itself or playing video games such as EA Sports FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer. Not actively following matches on TV as of yet. At this age they are easily influenced and ripe for engagement.


A Liverpool fan watches a replay of the English Premier League match between Liverpool and Newcastle via beIN SPORTS' over-the-top streaming service on his office computer in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo credit: Deny Aryanto, 9th May, 2019.


Attention to the cultural nuances of each region and its demographics and communicating with them in a language they understand – while using their preferred platforms – is paving the way for a new era of European soccer fandom in non-traditional markets like Indonesia.


Content localization and new distribution platforms are just some of the tactics used to grow fanbases today, but new trends will surely emerge.


Ydigital Asia is a hybrid of business consulting and digital marketing agency. We help companies with digital transformation, marketing automation, technology and CRM solutions as well as manage digital marketing services. Ydigital Asia has offices in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.


If you are interested in hearing more about how to connect with Southeast Asian consumers we are happy to talk


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