The Merseyside outfit is looking to solve the problem by following Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City to London in search of commercial success. The club has opened a London office for its commercial team to forge more localised, engagement driven sponsorships.
It is hoped the investment can quicken the growth of the club’s commercial offering, which has secured nine new sponsors in the last nine months, including Subway and Dunkin Donuts. Commercial revenue rose to £97.7 from £63.9m for the year to May 2013, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the club’s turnover.
But the club still has work to do if it is to gain ground on its wealthier Premier League rivals. The revenue gap between was highlighted by their rankings on the latest Deloitte Money League. United topped the English teams with a revenue score of £325m, followed by Manchester City (£249.5), Chelsea (£239.4m), Arsenal (£224.3m) and Liverpool (£189.8m).
Commercial director Billy Hogan says the sponsorship hub will move Liverpool ahead in the sponsorship game by promoting fan engagement as a return-on-investment metric rather than just traditional media valuations. London is also a more practical base for overseas companies travelling to the UK for sponsorship talks.
“The performance of the team last season was terrific and they definitely help [secure deals]”, says Hogan. “The key metric for the commercial team is engagement. It’s great to have 100 million fans around the world but if we can’t ultimately speak to them and make them feel part of the club, then there’s no point in having them.”
The main driver of the transition in the coming months will be the findings from an international survey of tens of thousands of Liverpool fans. Club officials are sifting through the data to establish what type of sponsorship activations fans want to see more of, how they prefer to consume club content and the types of merchandise they would purchase.
Additional learnings will be pulled from the survey with Liverpool planning to feed it all into future content, digital and ecommerce strategies. The Reds are striving to weave an integrated customer journey through all its channels in a bid to show sponsors where and how they are able to maximise their investments.
Hogan adds: “As a truly global club you could jump on a plane to anywhere to pitch a sponsorship to anybody. We have to be more efficient than that and adopt a more strategic view for striking deals. By having an office in a global city like London, we’re able to work that bit closer with partners on creating a road map of fan engagement.”
The road map refers to how the club meets the demands of sponsors wanting more rights from their packages. In order to be a more agile rights holder and give fans a real sense of ownership, Liverpool has been experimenting with the way it evaluates deals, adds Hogan. It worked with sponsor Subway in using tools, developed by MediaCom Sport, to value the tangible benefits of being associated with the team as well as specific players.
The effort is buoyed by a wider plan to put localised content at the heart of its fan recruitment drive. Liverpool reaches out to fans in their local language through 47 social media channels and three international websites with more to follow.
“Running local language twitter feeds, websites and Facebook pages is something we’re very focused on as a football club. By being able to talk to fans in a more personalised way it can open up new ways for us to make them feel engagement”, adds Hogan.
The club’s London office will be used to add to its 17 regional sponsors. A larger regional roster is a priority for Liverpool as it looks to adapt a “little often” commercial model to deliver immediate returns. It is a tactic that has served Premier League rivals Manchester United well with the business securing 60 per cent of the £32.5bn Europe’s 20 biggest clubs extracted from the strategy last season, according to Repucom.
Hogan says: “The London office is a new avenue for us and the next logical step for our expansion plans. We’ve brought in nine partners over the last nine months. It’s an indication of the great strides we’re making and gives us a good foundation for the future.”