Liverpool is in the running to break a near three-decade drought and secure its 19th league title, its first since the introduction of the Premier League.
And while success on the pitch no doubt bolsters Liverpool’s marketing activity and provides it with a positive narrative, everything it does must extend beyond match days if it is to tap into its growing global fan base.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Liverpool FC’s chief commercial officer Billy Hogan says it’s vital to have the backing of the players and the team in what it does from a marketing and business perspective.
“We’ve had great support from our manager Jürgen Klopp and the first team in terms of how we operate on the business side and how the football side operates. [Klopp] is incredibly supportive of our partners and of what that means,” he says.
Last week, Liverpool revealed record-breaking financial results with a pre-tax profit of £125m during the last financial year, spearheaded by success in the Champions League.
Turnover during the year also climbed to £455m, up £90m year on year, while media revenue grew by £66m to £220m. Commercial revenue increased by £17m to £154m and match day revenue climbed £7m to £81m.
However, Hogan says Liverpool’s resurgence hasn’t happened overnight.
“Our goal is to always have success on the pitch and to compete at the highest level we can, which is something we’ve been working on since Fenway Sports Group brought the club back in 2010,” he explains.
“Clearly we’re really excited about where the team is in terms of on-pitch performance and there’s a great energy within the club.”
What we don’t want to create is a competitive dynamic between our partners.
Billy Hogan, Liverpool
Liverpool has 28 corporate sponsors, from its primary partner Standard Chartered and kit supplier New Balance, to female-focused cosmetics company Avon – which jumped on board last year as the first sole sponsor of the women’s team.
The club also has a long-standing 25-year partnership with Carlsberg and is coming to the end of its current deal with BetVictor, which supplies the club with its training kits.
When asked about its tie-up with BetVictor and whether Liverpool would think twice in the future about partnering with a gambling brand given concerns about the number of gambling brands sponsoring football clubs and the negative impact this could have, Liverpool declined to comment.
The club would also not comment on the commercial opportunities in women’s football and what Avon has brought to the club.
Playing the field
It’s not uncommon for football clubs of Liverpool’s scale to have a large number of partners, but despite having nearly 30 sponsors Hogan says each brand is selected for a specific reason. This, he says, avoids the risk of diluting the Liverpool brand or not giving sponsors room to breathe.
“What we don’t want to create is a competitive dynamic between our partners. When you look at somebody like New Balance, for example, versus Standard Chartered or Verbier, they are all within their individual business categories so they can live in parallel,” he says.
“Our partners do a tremendous job of activating their own relationship with the club so rather than dilute it, it actually augments the brand. From our perspective it allows our fans, both locally at Liverpool and international fans, to be closer to the club whether that be through advertising, appearances or promotions,” he says.
“If done right it all works in concert to create a halo effect, not just for the partner but for the club as well.”
Hogan says Liverpool is in talks with New Balance about renewing its kit deal, as well as looking for sponsors in new categories.
Liverpool’s current arrangement with New Balance is worth about £45m per season and expires at the end of the 2019/20 season. Late last year, there was speculation the club was looking to up the sponsorship fee to keep it in line with Manchester United’s £75m-a-year deal with Adidas.
Celebrating the ‘unique nature’ of Liverpool FC
There’s no doubt marketing is becoming increasingly important at Liverpool in terms of helping drive growth and awareness.
Hogan says Liverpool’s partners do a tremendous amount of marketing around their relationship with the club. He adds Liverpool is also looking to continue building on its wider marketing campaign ‘This Means More’.
“Last season we rolled out an integrated marketing campaign. We’ve been working on that throughout the season and what that does is celebrate the unique nature of Liverpool,” Hogan explains.
“That’s been successful in that its helped streamline everything into one message. We’ll be looking to build on that as we go forward. All of those components play into that wider awareness of the club and its growth.”
We have to think about it from a fan perspective in that it’s not always going to be the same interest level here at home compared to what someone might be interested in in Jakarta. So, how can we then tweak that message?
Billy Hogan, Liverpool FC
The scale of Liverpool’s reach is highlighted by the fact 880 million people watched the club globally across all platforms last season – the largest viewership of all Premier League clubs.
Hogan says this offers an opportunity for potential partners to tap into this audience and “experience that reach and depth of emotion and feeling”.
“We’ve also got an engaged digital audience of more than 60 million people that are following the club. It’s important we create that sustained and consistent engagement with fans which comes from digital but it’s clearly not a one-size fits all.”
By ‘one size fits all’ Hogan is referring to the fact Liverpool not only has a large fan base locally but across the world in countries such as China, Indonesia, Australia and the US.
“We have to think about it from a fan perspective in that it’s not always going to be the same interest level here at home compared to what someone might be interested in in Jakarta. So, how can we then tweak that message?” he says.
“There’s a lot of thought that goes into the process to ensure there’s a bespoke relationship with our fan base across many regions.”
He adds that fans are also active outside match days and do a good job of promoting the club across social and digital platforms, which “is incredibly important in terms of building brand awareness”.
And of course, when it comes down to it, winning a Premier League title would no doubt help spearhead the club’s marketing message, boost brand awareness and help expand Liverpool’s global fan base.
“Of course, on-pitch performance is always helpful, but that really is what we’re focused on -success on the pitch. Because at the end of the day it will have benefits for the club as a whole,” Hogan concludes.