nexum and kicker explore the digital performance of Europe’s top clubs
Champions on and off the pitch: Bayern Munich wins the digital Champions League
Bayern Munich is not just a perennial Bundesliga champion, but also the digital leader among Europe’s top-20 football clubs. The Bavarian club takes the top spot in the digital Champions League for a consistent and thought-through digital strategy that does its magic on all channels. The runners-up include another club from Germany’s football aristocracy, with the second place going to FC Barcelona and RB Leipzig coming in at a strong third place. This is the result of the “Digital Champions League” study conducted by nexum AG in cooperation with Germany’s leading football magazine kicker. For the study, the digital performance of the UEFA’s 20 top clubs was put to the test in several weighted categories: Web presence, online store, social media, e-sports activities, participation in professional networks, and marketing spread potential.
“The Corona pandemic meant empty stadiums, but it gave a real boost to the clubs’ digital conversation with their supporters. It is about brand development, retention, and sales – and all of this on an increasingly global scale. FC Bayern Munich is the clear favourite with its holistic digital strategy. The club beats its competitors outright in two categories, takes second place in another two, and holds a comfortable spot in the top third in all other categories. But our study also shows that success on the pitch does not always translate into success with a strong digital strategy for our European clubs.”
Star clubs as digital also-rans
Real Madrid might be a constant fixture in cup finals and top European championships, but the club finds itself relegated to a bottom spot in the digital ranking. Real might have a knack for skilful marketing, but the club’s social media presence suffered from some neglect at the time of the study. This year’s FA Cup finalist, FC Liverpool, finds itself on a solid, if disappointing twelfth place. RB Leipzig might not have the same place in footballing history, but it maintains a reliably strong performance on the digital pitch. “Our study shows that even the great champions have lots of potential remaining dormant. Account to our analysis, even FC Bayern Munich in the top spot uses only around 73 percent of its digital potential. Especially when it comes to reaching out to their massive community of supporters, the clubs could still achieve a lot more with relatively minimal financial investment”, Bastian Franken, the study’s leader and Account Director at nexum, emphasizes.
Homepages on the bench?
Any digital presence has a solid website at its heart. Despite this simple truth, not one of the top clubs passes the magic 80 percent threshold in this category. The winner here is FC Porto, followed by Bayern Munich and Ajax Amsterdam. FC Sevilla, by contrast, is up for relegation. The clubs’ online stores are an important commercial element of this website – an element that has only grown in importance during the pandemic. Bayern Munich is again topping the leader board in this case, with Manchester City and FC Liverpool hot on their heels. For engaging with fans and supporters and general marketing, social media channels can generate enormous reach, especially on the international stage. The social media championship goes to FC Barcelona, with Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspurs coming in as runners-up and FC Shakhtar Donetsk holding the bottom spot. The experts at nexum can see major potential for improvement on Instagram in particular: Despite the sometimes massive numbers of followers, the clubs are generally neglecting this great avenue.
Digital football is rapidly becoming a relevant contender on the global e-sports scene. Many clubs have noticed the signs of the times and have entered their own teams. This comparatively new channel is used by them in particular to reach out to younger audiences to build brand awareness at the earliest possible point. However, the analysis shows massive differences in the club’s e-sports fortunes. The French stars at Paris Saint-Germain are in a comfortable lead, followed by FC Barcelona and RB Leipzig and Ajax Amsterdam sharing third place. Strikingly, FC Chelsea, Real Madrid, and FC Sevilla have opted out of e-sports altogether.
Professional networks like LinkedIn cannot be ignored anymore, and not just in the “normal” business world. Football clubs are also taking note of the opportunities for their marketing and community building efforts. By comparison to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, LinkedIn offers access to older and financially stronger audiences and can be used effectively for recruitment off the pitch. In this category, FC Chelsea and Manchester United are twin champions, with the second place shared between RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund, and FC Arsenal London and Juventus Turin also sharing a proud third place.
Study: The study "The digital Champions League" can be found here for free.
Video: Bastian Franken being interviewed about the digitalisation of the analysed football-clubs can be found here.