February 12, 2019 / 5:12 PM / 6 months ago

Connecting with the global fan: Recreating the home stadium experience around the world

Football is undoubtedly a global sport, and donning a player’s name on your shirt or proudly displaying the insignia of your favourite club, is a rite of passage for millions of fans around the world. One such emblem, the Liver bird, has become the iconic symbol of a global network, instantly recognisable across the world, representing the city of Liverpool, Liverpool FC and something less tangible – what it means to be part of the Liverpool FC family.

Liverpool FC (LFC) clearly understands its international reach and the growth opportunities that it brings. The evolution of this marketplace has seen the club’s followers expand to an estimated 700 million people – not bad for a city with a population of 490,000. But having such a large fanbase dispersed across the globe will come with its challenges. Just like it delivers for fans on a match day at Anfield, LFC has to provide global supporters with seamless experiences every time they interact with their club.

So how does a football club with such a huge international following ensure that it connects with each and every fan on a personal level, regardless of where they’re based in the world? 

Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring against Arsenal at Anfield

The world of football has expanded beyond the traditional two-way relationship between club and local fan. To grow and nurture relationships away from home, LFC has built up an impressive global network of official partners in overseas markets to help it get closer to its supporters based further afield. Ranging from skin care to financial services businesses, all these partners have an important part to play, particularly in sharing their local knowledge and connections. Premier League clubs now generate £1.2b from commercial and sponsorship deals combined annually and one of LFC’s most prominent partners is Western Union, which proudly sponsor the sleeve of the club’s famous red shirt and offer an equally impressive global reach.

The Western Union logo has become an integral part of the LFC jersey - where football is a way of life and the kit means identity – and is now ever-present in the club’s relationship with fans across the world. Each fan around the world will recognise that feeling when they pull on the LFC shirt. This is why Liverpool FC replica shirts are commonplace on streets from Jakarta to Johannesburg, while Premier League football is broadcast in over 200 countries, which helped to drive record breaking Liverpool FC shirt sales in 2017. This means that, as a business, LFC requires a global footprint and the ability to deliver goods, make collections from customers and make payments to suppliers.

This is where Western Union helps create seamless connections between the club and its fan base. “As the Official Money Transfer partner for Liverpool football club and a provider of international business payments services, we understand the need to be ready to interact with our customers in their own country and currency,” says David Prendeville, Head of UK FX at Western Union Business Solutions. “The ability, as a football club, to nurture your fan base and look after them is directly related to how easy it is for them to do business with you.”

Liverpool FC fans attended the club's 2018 US tour in their hundreds of thousands

Thanks to a well-oiled supply chain, the latest sought-after products quickly reach far-flung destinations across the world with a little help from online retailing and global shipping. For fans who prefer to try before they buy, there are official LFC stores and concessions beyond Liverpool in Belfast, Dublin, Malaysia and Indonesia.

And what better day to don that treasured jersey than on a matchday. Whether it is a European final, a Premier League fixture at Anfield or a pre-season friendly in America, fans love to be involved and get closer to the team they love on game day.

Pre-season tours are important opportunities for the biggest clubs like Liverpool FC – and those looking to build their global appeal – to commercially develop new markets and continue to grow their supporter families. Before LFC kicked off the 2018-19 season against West Ham, it had already embarked on a trip to entertain and connect with its American fans. Matches in North Carolina, New York City and Michigan attracted attendances in excess of 100,000 supporters each. In recent years, the club has also played first team friendlies in Dublin, Berlin, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Melbourne. One friendly in Australia has gone down in club folklore due to the vociferous support received from 90,000 fans experiencing their dream coming true.

“The club is profoundly rooted in our community and our city, but also continuously dedicated to our global fanbase. All around the world, our fans have the same sense of belonging and unwavering support for the team. We therefore have to make sure we can connect with all of them regardless of distance and location”, said Markus Breglec, Director of Marketing & Media at Liverpool Football Club.

LFC players in front of Anfield's world famous Kop stand

But it’s not just the latest Kop idols, such as Keita, Alisson and Fabinho, who attract the fans. The LFC Legends team calls on some of the biggest names in the club’s recent history and fans flock to see them, whether they play at home or in Bangkok or Melbourne.

Ian Rush, LFC Ambassador and LFC Legends striker, said: “Every time we take part in a Legends game in a different country, it’s always an overwhelming feeling to see such incredible support so far from Anfield, no matter where our fans are in the world the passion remains the same. I love it when I see a fan in a Liverpool FC shirt walk past me somewhere like Bangkok or Melbourne. It’s amazing to have the continued support from fans who are based thousands of miles away from Liverpool and shows that the Liverpool FC family really is global.”

Of course, not everyone will get the chance to catch a live game with the first team or the Legends. For these fans who still want to be a part of the action, Premier League matches are available to five billion people worldwide, generating £3.2b in revenue, giving fans the opportunity to see almost every Liverpool FC match from wherever they are and on whichever device they are using.

When Liverpool FC lift their next trophy, there will be huge celebrations in the City of Liverpool if the Reds 2005 Istanbul victory is anything to go by, but it will also be cause for celebration in cities, towns and villages in all corners of the globe – a true family celebration.

Western Union are proud to be the official Money Transfer partner of Liverpool Football Club. With more than 160 years of heritage, we are your trusted global partner in international payments. If your business imports, exports, or makes and receives payments across the globe, we can help with fast, cost-effective payment solutions and customised cash management strategies. To find out more visit: www.business.westernunion.com

The Reuters editorial and news staff had no role in the production of this content. It was created by Reuters Plus, part of the commercial advertising group. To work with Reuters Plus, contact us here.

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