The rapidly growing world of Leicester City

July 15, 2016

It’s been over two months since the Premier League season came to an end, and it is still hard to believe that in a sport dominated by money, Leicester City, a team that two seasons ago were playing in the Championship, were crowned Premier League champions. 

It’s the sort of upset that happens once in a generation, and for the Leicester commercial team, it led to an unprecedented level of growth in their brand.

Ian Flanagan is the Commercial Director at Leicester City, and admitted that their remarkable story gave them the chance to grow the club at an accelerated rate.

He said: “We’ve been busy, obviously we have had an incredible season on the pitch which has given us some wonderful opportunities, lots of people around the world know about Leicester now, know the story and love the story, Now we want to go out there and engage with our new fans around the world – hopefully they’ll be cheering us on next season.”

“We’ve always had a long-term model of a sustainable football club and that is still the intention. Obviously the new territories, we’ve always had Thailand, but suddenly we find ourselves with a lot of international fanbases, we’re looking at growing the media team to deal with that.”

Next season Leicester will be competing alongside the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, but ahead of that, they’ve already been competing with the world’s biggest clubs in the digital space, and more than holding their own! The sort of numbers Leicester were pulling in were unbelievable:
Leicester Owner
“We were at several points last season, the fastest growing football club in the world on digital platforms, gaining more weekly followers and Facebook likes and so on than Barcelona, Real Madrid etc. We don’t expect that growth to continue indefinitely, but we were one of only two clubs to overtake another Premier League club last season on Facebook.”

“At the start of the season we had just over 700,000 Facebook followers now we’re at 5.785 million, so we’ve had a phenomenal rate of growth, so we need to continue that growth and create content that’s meaningful, territory by territory so for supporters around the world who can’t come to games are engaged on day-by-day basis.”

The future is looking bright for Leicester with team gaining up to £200 million from winning the league and competing in Europe, along with increased exposure. They’ve also managed to, so far, hold onto the nucleus of their winning team*.

Leicester announced their arrival to the top echelon of English football an astonishing manner, and now are taking steps to make sure that they are competing in the emerging markets of world football. Flanagan and his team have been busy:

“We’ve just launched on Weibo in China in March. China is obviously a hugely important market for us, with an enormous audience that wants to talk to us, and we want to talk to them in a meaningful way.”

The club’s success has also led to pockets of support from the home countries of some of their star players:
“We have lots of international targets, some of which are driven by our players, Algeria largely driven by the performances of Riyad Mahrez, since we’ve signed Shinji Okazaki there has been a lot of interest from Japan. It would also be a lot of the key Premier League priority areas, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and India. Thailand has been a key area for a number of years for us. Asia, the US, all those are markets where we want to be more visible and we want to grow our fanbases in those countries, and obviously look to develop commercial relationships.”

Leicester’s title has been described as one of the biggest sporting shocks of all time, which seems unlikely to be repeated. But Flanagan and his team are ensuring that the success is being used as wisely as possible, to build a fanbase that will support the club for years to come.
* Since publication N’golo Kante left to join Chelsea for £30 millon.
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