Global Football: Content becomes critical in competition for every fan
Director of Partnerships
- Jun 29, 2023
Sports properties are constantly in search of eyeballs with the hope that non-fans can be converted to the cause and existing fans can level up to lifelong enthusiasts. In recent years, properties continue to increase investments in creating original content and leveraging new avenues and platforms to distribute it, with options ranging from Twitch to Flosports to Just Women’s Sports. Consider the following efforts from established sports properties:
- “Drive to Survive” on Netflix ignited massive growth in Formula 1 fandom in the United States
- The National Football League’s Nickelodeon broadcast created a youth-friendly product that compliments their traditional broadcast approach
- The National Basketball Association partnered with prominent Twitch streamers to create an engaging second-screen experience that resonated with Gen Z basketball fans in key international markets
Case Study: Global Football/Soccer
As we near the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, let’s focus in on the sport of the moment. Football, or soccer as we like to call it in the U.S., occupies an interesting position in the new world of content creation and innovative distribution. The soccer ecosystem is far more complex than other major sports. A single property does not drive the majority of fan behaviors and consumption habits in a way that the NFL does for American football. Soccer properties can also be at odds with one another as they compete for the same eyeballs. All or Nothing: Arsenal does not necessarily benefit Chelsea or West Ham United. Premier League matches broadcast on NBC are in direct competition with La Liga and ESPN+ for American audiences.
The soccer ecosystem will always operate with complexity and with properties in competition against one another for share of audience, but we are witnessing a shift in approach as the 2026 FIFA World Cup acts as a unifying north star. The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the largest single-sport competition in history and put the spotlight on North American soccer markets. Every major soccer property in the world recognizes the power and potential of the American soccer audience but may not know exactly how to reach them. Properties must also work to reach both an audience of Americans who are not tuned into soccer at all and a steadily growing contingent of avid soccer fans who consume soccer content from all different directions. Reaching those two primary audience groups can be challenging, but original content and broader access is helping to bridge the gap.
Consider shows like Ted Lasso on Apple TV +, Welcome to Wrexham on FX, and Angel City on MAX. Each show captivated American audiences by using soccer as a universal backdrop for teamwork, community building, and striving for greatness on and off the pitch. American fans can resonate with each of these shows without having any prior knowledge of soccer culture. While a deep understanding of soccer isn’t needed to enjoy these shows, they serve as valuable entry points to real fandom in the future.
On the other end of the spectrum, avid American fans now have wider access to soccer content than ever before. CBS Sports launched the Golazo Network in April 2023, a first-of-its-kind 24/7 channel dedicated to global soccer coverage, and fans can access similar wall-to-wall coverage of the Premier League on NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform and its PL TV channel. Major League Soccer’s (MLS) landmark global media partnership with Apple and an upcoming broadcast deal expected for the NWSL has made domestic club soccer more accessible than ever.
The U.S. Women’s National Team’s pursuit of a third straight title at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will kick off the most exciting and significant period of soccer in American history. The greatest male soccer player ever will make his MLS debut this summer (which is already impacting ticket sales and prices). The 2024 Copa America will be held in the United States. The 2025 FIFA Club World Cup will be held in the United States and expand to 32 teams. And the 2026 FIFA World Cup will serve as the largest competition of them all. The global soccer calendar is shifting towards the United States.
Properties, broadcasters, and brands must account for how original content and new distribution platforms can build deeper connections with target audiences. The soccer landscape is crowded and complex, but audiences continue to resonate with content that creates human-level connections and platforms that empower fans to fully immerse themselves in soccer anytime and anywhere.
GMR has a well-established history of developing inspired partnership solutions for brands activating around soccer and translating audience insights into strategic paths forward.