Growing the game – the rising importance of marketing for football clubs


The last couple of days have proved nail-biting for fans of Bury FC and Bolton Wanderers. With both of the famous clubs facing expulsion from the Football League for failing to prove they have the finances in place to complete the season.

In the last 24 hours, Bury FC received the crushing news that they have been booted out of the League. Therefore becoming the first team to be removed from the EFL since Maidstone in 1992.

The news, which followed a failed last-ditch takeover bid from C&N Sporting Risk, came as a shattering blow to everyone involved in the 134-year-old club, from the supporters to the dozens of local suppliers and businesses.

It puts the very existence of the club in severe doubt. For now, the gates of Gigg Lane are padlocked shut.

Former Premier League club Bolton, meanwhile, have been handed a 14-day reprieve to prove their sustainability – or they will face the same fate.

But these financial problems are not limited to Bury and Bolton. Away from the milk and honey of the Premier League, clubs are struggling to stay afloat.

BDO report highlights

  • Over a quarter of clubs’ finances are in need of attention or a cause for grave concern. Compared with 18% last year
  • 70% of clubs are reliant on shareholders to fund losses, up from 57% last year
  • Across the leagues, more than two-thirds of clubs do not expect to be profitable after player-trading
  • 80% of Championship clubs are spending over 75% of revenues in player wages, well above their own target levels

So, what are clubs doing to boost revenues?

Top of the commercial agenda for 21% of clubs, according to BDO, is growing a domestic fanbase.

An important point to remember is how important clubs are to local communities. Far from being just a 90-minute match, the heart of football lies in the pre-match rituals, the half time pie. It’s a place to build relationships and celebrate whilst becoming a club advocate both pitch side and online.

Fan interaction remains a vital part of a club’s marketing strategy, and the most notable growth comes from social media. The connection between fans and their club and players is stronger than ever, spanning way beyond 90 minutes.

Whilst many fans will queue after a game to catch a glimpse of their favourite players as they leave on their club coach, digital interactions are quickly becoming the norm. Fans are now spending more time engaging with their team through channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Content and video marketing are also becoming a popular way for teams to showcase unique content as well as the highs and lows of supporting a club. Blogs and sport bloggers are growing within the sports community. So much so, that newspapers have even jumped on the bandwagon offering dedicated blogs for supporters to review weekend games.

Clubs are even creating their own YouTube channels to keep their fans up-to-date with unique and engaging content as well as highlight reels.

It’s important to note that for fanbases to increase in the ever-changing world of marketing, clubs need to create content that will convert its online viewers into fully fledged fans of the club who will convert their online views into seats at stadiums.

The full report can be found here.