• Franky Wong

You Better Watch Out - Football Fever is Coming to Town



This festive season will be even more festive with what else but the Qatar World Cup. What makes me wonder is this 22nd edition of World Cup in its 80-year history is such a first-timer - the first-ever World Cup to be held in northern hemisphere winter, in a Middle East country, in fully air-coned stadiums, no alcohol allowed in stadium stands, and it would be the most expensive one ever (it is reported that Qatar is going to splurge an estimated US$200bn). What is the room for record-breaking telling us about the growth of football market in the last decade (despite two years out of ten being ‘stolen’ by the pandemic)?


1. Put It There!

The three-year domestic and foreign broadcasting deals struck in 2010 were worth an estimated £3.2bn. The most recent deals, which started in August 2019 and will end in 2022, are expected to break the £9bn barrier.


2. Soccer Still a Fav

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 7% of Americans cited soccer as their favourite sport to watch, while 9% preferred America’s pastime baseball. Not only is soccer growing as a whole in the United States, but Major League Soccer (MLS), the top domestic league, has experienced a 27% rise in interest since 2012, according to Nielsen Sports Sponsorlink.


3. The Girl Power

Viewing figures for the Lionesses at international competitions have steadily climbed. For the 2011 World Cup in Germany a peak match average viewing figure of 1.7m was reached. The 2013 Euros were a bit of a blip, a 1.3m peak match average was prevented from climbing further when England crashed out of their group with one point (ending Hope Powell’s tenure). By 2015 the World Cup in Canada saw a peak of 2.4m watching England’s semi-final defeat to Japan. At the 2017 Euros 4m watched their exit to the Netherlands (a 66% increase on 2015).


2019, though, felt like a turning point. After a decade, or two even, of the somewhat steady growth women’s football took a leap. A massive 11.7m watched England’s defeat by USA at the World Cup, a 192.5% increase on their 2017 Netherlands exit.


4. The Billion-Dollar Market

According to the Global Football Market report, the global football market size was valued at US$1,883.6 million in 2019 and is estimated to reach US$3,712.7 million by 2027. The global market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 18.3% from 2021 to 2027.


And the potential of football is more than just numbers. Dubbed ‘the most popular sport in the world’, football is relatively accessible, played globally and the TV broadcasting networks are well developed. The affection started in Europe and South America, escalated quickly in Asia after the 2002 World Cup Korea/Japan, and kept growing expectedly in the Middle East since Qatar won the hosting bid back in 2010. With the continuous expansion of the football spectators kingdom, it is anticipated that there will be many more first-times coming in the World Cup development.


What Brands & Marketers Are Doing

As the first winter World Cup and spending peak season collide, marketers have started months ago to envisage how to leverage on the World Cup effect and holiday shopping impulse, while dealing with the expected rise in media costs due to higher demand. Meanwhile, shopping malls have to find a new balance between the major sporting event spending pattern and post-pandemic consumer behaviour.


The final will be held on 18 December 2022, exactly one week before Christmas. We will see who, both the football superstars and the marketers, will bring the trophy home as their Christmas gift this special holiday season.


Let’s have a cold beer in the cold winter when we are enjoying the football matches.


P.S. Putting aside all the ‘first-times’, the Qatar World Cup will be the ‘last time’ to have 32 teams competing in the finals. From 2026 onwards (United States, Mexico and Canada), the tournament will expand to 48 teams.




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