It may feel like the men’s football season has just ended with the Nations League final in Portugal, but then in the blink of an eye the new one has arrived.
Although it is still 43 days until the Football League returns, Thursday’s fixture announcement will be one of the big moments of a long summer. The first competitive fixtures of the new season will be at the front of every fan’s mind from now until 2nd August, when the first game of the season will likely take place in front of the Sky Sports cameras, and this represents a chance for brands to get in front of fans at a time when they have little else to pique their interest.
With no European Championships or men’s World Cup, Football League supporters will have plenty of time on their hands until the start of the new season. Transfer rumours are an important part of the summer for any fan, but they only go so far: in a digital world where fans are used to being served with content all day every day a summer without it feels strange.
That gives publishers and brands the chance to reach these fans over the next 43 days. It is a golden opportunity to produce content that adds value to the news feed, ensuring that fans have something to read and consume beyond the incessant rumours of the silly season.
Highly polished and produced content produced now as part of a partnership between a brand and a publisher has the added benefit of being something that can be replicated throughout the season, or refined and made better ahead of big games – derby days or promotion clashes. Indeed, even failing with an ambitious content series now won’t be the end of the world for anyone, but it can yield great learnings to reap the rewards later in the year when it really matters.
Local brands especially can get the best value out of this time of year. It’s a cliche that supporters of Football League clubs are the passionate fans from their local areas, but it’s certainly true. Snack Media’s Football League World website serves only the fans of the 72 clubs below the Premier League: this time last year, the site hit 5m page views in July, 86% of which was UK-based. This proves that Football League fans are local fans, and it should be seen as a great opportunity for UK brands – particularly regional ones.
Once Thursday has been and gone, and we know what the fixture list has in store, this will be a chance to plan content and marketing strategies around each and every one of the season’s biggest games as if they were major set-piece events as we at Snack have done with clients like Game and transfer deadline day. Instead of scrambling around later in the year for a good plan at the last minute, the opportunity is there for brands to ensure the most traction later in the season by working with publishers now to get the ball rolling on a season-long partnership – including across multiple digital platforms to increase reach.
To start thinking and planning now, with still well over a month to go, also affords us all the chance to trial branded content across the summer months and to test things ahead of a bigger activation for a bigger game once the season is underway. It allows publishers to experiment with content, and the insights could prove very useful in six months’ time.
Now is the time when plans are being put in place ahead of the start of the season, but we brands and publishers alike should take the rare opportunity of a fairly quiet few months before the season kicks-off again in order to get a head start on content – because one season turns into another before you know it!
Niall Coen is founder and CEO of Snack Media, digital fan engagement experts who specialise in connecting fans and sports brands. For more information on how you can get in front of 26m engaged sports fans, email email@example.com or call 020 7272 7582.