Over the last decade, football clubs have waged an increasingly intensive and two-front battle. As the first and most visible one is played out before our eyes on a football field, the second, increasingly taken on by clubs, aims at building successful brands able to seduce a national and international audience. Whilst Latin American clubs manage to do this successfully on their national market, only a few have succeeded in crossing borders, and as the audience is increasingly digital, development strategies on social networks are at the heart of the matter. In this area, the 2022 football World Cup emerged as the final crowning factor of a year of growth for Latin American football clubs. Indeed, the total number of followers of the top clubs of each country combined grew by 43% between 2021 and 2022 in the region. The penetration of Social Medias’ football clubs (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok) is reaching unmatched levels as well. The penetration rate of football clubs’ followers on online population has increased by 40% in the region, a growth mainly driven by Instagram (+44%) and Tiktok (+110%). In addition, Facebook remains 1st with 42% of the total share in 2022, but soon to be overtaken, while YouTube takes on the smallest share (6%).
Looking at the total following base of each club across social media, the concentration of followers lies with just a handful of clubs. Around 20 clubs account for 73% of the total of football clubs’ followers and there is no surprise that Brazilian clubs occupy the largest share of this ranking given the popularity of the sports within the country.
Yet, the ranking of clubs based on the online population penetration inside the country of origin of each club, provides a more accurate picture. The two major Uruguayan clubs, Club Nacional de Football and Atlético Peñarol, rank 1st and 2nd across Latin America in terms of penetration with numbers reaching 69% and 67% of their national online population, far above the other competitors in the region. It is all the more surprising and remarkable that Uruguayan clubs can’t rely as much on international audiences as their Brazilian and Argentinian neighbours. The latter have much more potential (and requirement) to grow at international scale, rather than on the national market where their potential may reach a ceiling at an early stage due to fierce and polarising rivalries between clubs.
The Uruguayan success might well be explained by its evenly spread penetration over the different networks, with a notably strong presence on Tiktok that accounts for 13% of the football club's followers on Social Media in 2022.
Argentinian clubs grew their digital community in 2022 at a 50% rate on average, the highest for the region, while Mexican clubs grew by 30% and Brazilian clubs by only 25% on average. The 2022 World Cup has put Argentinian football in the spotlight at the end of the year, and this trend should very well continue in 2023 as the national championship just resumed.
Social media penetration reaches all-time highs in 2022 and there are still opportunities for clubs to grow. One way for Latin American football clubs would definitely be to improve their Youtube audience, which appears clearly left behind. The next crucial step of building brands and growing digital audiences is to monetize it. More and more major clubs are taking advantage of their digital fan base to sell documentary series to international OTT platforms, from the “All or nothing” series following Tottenham Hotspurs on Amazon Prime Video, to “Acesso Total: Botafogo” available on GloboPlay. Others, considering that football clubs have the potential to become true content broadcasters, are taking on a different path: launching their own OTT platforms, with varying degrees of success.
Lucas LAUNAY | Analyst at Dataxis
This research highlight is based on our data coverage of TV, online and sports markets in Latin America. Besides, topics such as "Fan engagement strategies on social networks" are addressed in our Nextv Sports Latin America conference, on October 3rd, 2023, in Mexico City.
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