RESEARCH: SA Live Football Audiences Return Stronger

26 Jun 2020

Ryan Cumming, Head of Media at Playmakers Sponsorship, says South Africa's live football audiences are tuning in, in droves, despite the sport being played behind closed doors, and interested brands should take note.

We have seen the #Stayathome challenge, which encouraged international footballers to juggle toilet paper in their homes, Instagram live chats between global sporting icons, and more recently, a successful and engaging campaign from adidas called #HomeTeam, where they leveraged over 60% of their global assets to introduce new ideas and content every day.

Globally, sports fans have had to adapt to a rollercoaster of emotions during the multiple pandemic phases. However, athletes, sponsors, rights-holders and fans have continued to find ways to engage with their sporting passion points.

Sports stars and sports bodies have also provided an integral platform to deliver messages of thanks to the millions of selfless essential services workers and shown solidarity with important causes that affect not only the sports world, but also the wider population across the globe. At a time when the world seems overwhelmed by uncertainty and negative news stories, sport continues to offer a platform for change, positivity and community.

The cancellation, postponement and pausing of most global sports events immediately left rights-holders, sponsors, clubs, players and brands in a state of flux. Thankfully, many of the major sporting codes quickly found a way to restart in the ‘new normal’ and we have seen events being hosted behind closed doors under strict social distancing and testing protocols.

Although this ‘new normal’ is a far cry from the packed stadiums we have become accustomed to, fans have nevertheless been given the opportunity to watch, engage and celebrate with their passion point – sport.

Now more than ever, the importance of delivering world-class and accessible broadcast products for many sporting codes is heightened.

The Numbers

The bounce back for live sport has already started and football, Africa’s greatest passion, is showing this clearly. Research conducted by Nielsen Sports South Africa has shown that since the resumption of live football, TV audiences have improved across multiple leagues and channels. The German Bundesliga, which is broadcast on's free-to-air platform Openview, saw average audiences increase by 70% from pre-lockdown to post-lockdown.

Audiences for LaLiga, the Spanish premier league, which is broadcast on SuperSport, also mirrored these trends, showing a surge of 51% from pre-lockdown to post-lockdown. The total unique audience data also showed a favourable year-on-year increase of 16%.

And although not as pronounced, but coming off a significantly higher base, the English Premier League, the 'anchor' of football in the northern hemisphere, has also reported an upward trajectory on viewership results. The SuperSport audience figures have increased by 5% from pre-lockdown to post-lockdown, and total unique audience data has increased by 7% year-on-year.

“Of particular interest is the fact that since the return of live sport, four out of the top five best performing sports broadcasts are football-related, which shows the local interest in the international leagues. These leagues have capitalized on the minimal live sport on offer and have used the opportunity to draw in new audiences,” says Jean Willers, Managing Director of Nielsen Sports South Africa.

From this, we can deduce that local football fans will be eagerly anticipating the resumption of the Absa Premiership, particularly considering the bumper fixture list that gets underway on the 11th of August and runs until the fifth of September. PSL football will be aired on both SuperSport and SABC, and due to games being conducted behind closed doors, this will most likely increase the viewership across both platforms.

Big Takeout

Brands may feel tempted to act conservatively with advertising spend due to the global economic downturn. However, the data suggests that in fact, this is the time to capitalise on the returns of an almost guaranteed captive TV audience that has risen during the multiple lockdown phases and continues to tune in.

Live sport, although it may not feel so in its current packaging, still offers the same absorbing platform for passionate consumers and, now more than ever, is a vehicle to capture a competitive advantage in the clutter.

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