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Online Video: The device that evolves football clubs into global communicative brands.

Why the standard of best practice in digital and online video should be followed by all UK clubs.

If the past 10 years have taught us anything about digital media in football, it’s that a club’s professional success and finances have no direct correlation to the value of online engagement with its fans or the success of its online media strategy.

The question remains whether clubs work as hard to become transparent with fans as they do focussing on commercial rewards, but luckily now is the time for big football businesses to offer both, by offering technological plurality for fans that also aim to create additional revenue streams.

Fan engagement was a phrase used by football clubs to describe the opportunities they have in place for their followers to access more content and interact with the club on different platforms. This definition has now evolved into something quite different as clubs began to develop their own platforms that enable fan interaction and aim to create a community in which fans can communicate and share content with each other.

So football clubs, like big brands, are letting the fans do the leg work by distributing content and accumulating subscriptions, whilst the club simply produces fresh content and relies on social media to maintain its online fan community whilst simultaneously strengthening the brand online.

Manchester United made a bold PR move last month by announcing that its internal research suggests 1/10th of the entire global population support the club. You would be forgiven for thinking that although United lost out on the title this year they are still number one worldwide, as a recent Facebook study shows that approximately 170,000 United FB fans live in Manchester which totals 17.5% of fans in the UK. However, the UK total only amounts to 1.7% of United fans globally, so how important is it for a club that claims to be the most popular worldwide to offer the best digital platforms?

Well it transpires to be increasingly important, especially as Manchester United claim to hold 325 million fans in Asia and 173 million in the Middle East, where communicating the clubs activity and news through video has become an integral part of playing a part in hundreds of millions of peoples live throughout the globe, becoming much less about the local club and far more about the worldwide brand. Even the top English Championship side Cardiff City made major news this week when its Malaysian owners took the decision to change the team colours of 113 years from blue to red. The nicknamed ‘Bluebirds’ allegedly look to benefit £100m from the new kit deal which was apparently planned to add more value to the club amongst Asian football followers.

Supporting links between Asian fans and English clubs have also been a huge commercial venture for sponsorship, as the primary Manchester United kit sponsor, AON’s decision to secure a lucrative 80m deal with the club over four years is largely down to United’s standing in Asia, as its previous sponsor AIG saw huge brand growth throughout the continent from its links with Manchester United.

So how can football clubs translate the same strength of relationship they have with UK fans in Asia?

The truth is that Twitter followers and Facebook ‘likes’ don’t necessarily indicate success in fan interaction and online engagement; they can however work in a clubs favour to enhance its own platforms and develop scale and popularity in other areas quicker. Liverpoolfc.tv which is was revamped in 2011 by the London online media company StreamUK, now claims to be the most successful online video subscription service of any football club in the world, and now with over 90% of top clubs maintaining the majority of supporters overseas, digital media is becoming increasingly important, especially online video.