How Everton Can Become The Americas Premier League Club
2020 was a tough year. It was especially tough for those of us identifying as Evertonians, having to endure the junior club in the great city of Liverpool winning the English Premier League (EPL) for the first time. And win it handsomely. About 20 points better. About 50 points more than the Toffees. Tough indeed.
And it was impossible to avoid this news. Despite COVID 19, celebrations took place from Oslo to Orlando, Bangkok to Boston.
The EPL is undoubtedly the most watched sporting competition in the World, televised and beamed into households in every country on the planet. While purists may claim Spanish, German and Italian football is of a higher technical caliber, these league are dominated by a clique of clubs - Real and Barca in Spain, Bayern Munich in Germany. In Italy, Juventus of Turin have just claimed their 9th successive championship title.
In England, while the Premier League has been dominated by Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, in recent seasons Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester have broken through to give hope to all other clubs.
With this global reach and demand, the EPL is able to negotiate billion dollar media and sponsorship deals, has attracted wealthy investor and owners, and therefore can pay phenomenal salaries to the world's greatest stars.
While Financial Fair Play rules try to keep the playing field seemingly level, the brand and commercial pulling power of key players has a dramatic effect on merchandise orders, sponsorship deals and media sales and, therefore. operating revenue.
In the recent Messi debacle, when his $750million transfer fee was announced, only Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City emerged as a potential destination - not just because the sovereign wealth fund from the Emirates could afford him, but because the commercial deal would see him play in England before ending his career at parent company City Football Group's (CFG) US franchise New York City FC.
Sports business analysts I spoke to forecast that not only would CFG recoup the huge transfer fee in shirt sales. sponsorships and media rights when he arrived at Manchester's Etihad Stadium, they would see the same returns again when Messi arrived in New York to end his career. Good business.
So what hope for storied English clubs like Everton, Aston Villa. Wolves, West Brom and Burnley - all founding members of the first Football League and still members of the Premier League today? How can they break through to the Top Four and the promise of millions that delivers.
For clubs like Everton and Wolves the possibility is more realistic as both have recently attracted significant international investment. Not of the scale of Manchester City or Chelsea, but both clubs are looking forward to greater success and commercial reward.
As #everton continue to identify and land targets who add skill and flair on the pitch, the business and marketing teams will also be pleased with these new acquisitions too.
Everton’s most recent acquisition. James Rodriguez. is not only a successful player with winning spells at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, he is also one of the world's most popular sports personalities, with a top ten ranking in social media. 46 million people follow his Instagram account, 18 million follow his Twitter account and 31 million await his latest Facebook posts. England Captain Harry Kane, by comparison, has only 9 million Instagram followers and 3 million Facebook fans.
And as extensive as the EPL's TV audience reach is, its commercial power is hugely overshadowed by the big three US sports - NFL, NBA and MLB. The EPL generated 6 billion Euros in 2019, the NFL raised nearly double that at 11.4 billion Euros.
And the biggest clubs are in on the action too. The most profitable global soccer brand is Manchester United, and their $75 million shirt sponsorship deal with Chevrolet, who don't sell vehicles in the UK - has reaped huge reward for positive brand awareness in the US, China and India, the automakers' key markets.
So the opportunity for clubs like Everton is to both improve their on pitch performance, gaining European competition qualification and the tens of millions in TV deals that provides, and also to break into the profitable US, China and India markets as well as the rapidly growing Hispanic markets in South America.
Signing leading global personalities like Rodriguez, and Brazilian stars Allan and Richarlison, will give Everton an advantage, as will the clubs long-standing relationships with US players - Tim Howard and Landon Donovan who both acquired hero status at the club, Brian McBride and Preki from earlier years, and Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath who featured in Everton's most successful squads in the 80s.
But to make significant in-roads, Everton and other clubs will need to create an emotional relationship with supporters, play friendly games and exhibition matches, ensure merchandise and commercial opportunities are plentiful and available, and create relationships with sponsors and commercial partners which are mutually beneficial.
Leveraging the growing number of South American recruits to the playing staff, establishing a business outpost in a soccer hotspot like Florida where both US and Latin American relationships can quickly be developed and penning appropriate sponsorship deals with brands and media partners may help Evertonians achieve their own long standing ambition of winning trophies and championships.
Martin Liptrot is a business development, marketing and public affairs consultant based in Florida. He is a long suffering Everton fan.