Football is fast becoming one of the most popular sports in India. Football organisations and clubs around the world are touting India as one of the most crucial and lucrative markets when it comes to attracting and engaging with fans there. According to the Google Search data spanning 2013–2017 in India, online interest in football has extended beyond premium audiences.
Manchester United, the world’s most valuable soccer team, worth $3.69bn according to Forbes, already has 35 million followers in India and for the first time in collaboration with Engage Digital Partners, will be launching a series of videos tailored especially for its Indian audience.
In an interview to The Drum, Phil Lynch, chief executive officer of media for Manchester United said: "Our fans in India are incredibly important to Manchester United. The growth of football in the country has been well documented and that’s reflected in what we’re seeing on our own platforms with India consistently being in the top five territories in regards to consumption of our content.
"What is also clear is the sheer passion that millions of fans have for Manchester United in India and we want to celebrate that devotion through engaging content, created specifically for our Indian supporters, that tells some remarkable stories of dedication and shows the extraordinary lengths people go to in order to support the club they love."
The first video in the series is titled 'Standing United' and showcases the story of how members of Manchester United Supporter's Club (MUSC) Kerala joined with supporters of other prominent clubs to provide help and relief to flood victims in Kerala. MUSC members narrate how they leveraged social media groups and WhatsApp messages to gain support from fans all over the world to help their cause.
According to Facebook, cricket and Kerala Floods connected most Indians on the platform in 2018. Features such as "Safety Check tool", "Live", "Creating Page" and "Raising Funds" enabled people to reach to their dear ones, seeking help and informing about their safety, said the social media platform in an earlier statement.
Lynch further highlights the importance of localised content to reach Indian fans. He says: "We also recognise the increase of consumption of digital content in India, with the proliferation of device ownership all over the country and falling data costs meaning Indians are increasingly watching more video online and now, more than ever, we have the platforms to speak directly to our fans in the country."
Manchester United, which is already YouTube's most viewed English club, launched its official channel in February this year and it will track the traffic on the videos to gauge the interest of the Indian audience. The club has further bolstered its digital strategy this year with the global roll out of the first official Manchester United app and a revamped website with the help of its digital transformation partner, HCL.
With 21.2 million followers on Twitter, 24.7 million on Instagram and 73.3 million on Facebook, it is already one of the most followed clubs on social media.
The videos however, aren’t the first effort by United to engage its Indian audience. Manchester United's #ILOVEUNITED events in India have become extremely popular among fans and the club will be hosting another event in Chennai on 16 December featuring former United players Dwight Yorke and Wes Brown.