Liverpool Chief Commercial Officer Billy Hogan Helps Push Club's Global Agenda
When Liverpool CCO Billy Hogan attends his daughter’s football practices near his Boston home, he notices a new, interesting trend. Nearly half of these grade-school players are wearing jerseys of int’l football clubs. Hogan: “That’s something you didn’t see 10 to 15 years ago.” What it illustrates to Hogan is the growing global brand presence of Premier League teams. Hogan, who was promoted from Fenway Sports Management managing director to his current job in May ’12, has a big stake in such matters these days. Hogan now oversees Liverpool’s commercial activity and global growth. And like many Premier League clubs, Liverpool is experiencing a global fan base surge keyed by global sponsorships, preseason tours and social media savvy. Hogan: “While it’s our focus to increase the fan base, what we’ve tried to do the last couple years is to strengthen that connection with the fan base. We’ve done a lot as it relates to social and digital media.” Just this week, for instance, Liverpool announced it will launch a Chinese language website to communicate with its estimated 170 million fans in the country. According to marketing agency ZenithOptimedia, Liverpool is the eighth most-followed global franchise on Facebook and sixth on Twitter. Hogan said the focus for Liverpool is not just to attract fans, it is to communicate with them. Liverpool has 17 localized Twitter feeds and local language websites in Indonesia, Thailand and, now, China. Hogan: “This allows our fans, no matter what language they speak, to follow our club. No matter where you live, you’re going to have a different take on the club. If you live in Liverpool, you’re going to have a different take on the club than if you live in Jakarta.”
GLOBAL PRESENCE: Liverpool has continued its global expansion this year in the form of football academies. The club announced recently that it will open a new coaching complex in China and a football academy in India. Hogan: “From our perspective, it makes sense to have a presence there. In this case, it’s about supporting the development of the game in those markets. This isn’t about developing the next Premier League player in those markets. It’s being able to impact the development of the game.” Interest in Liverpool in those regions is strong. This was evidenced last summer when Liverpool embarked on a preseason tour played in front of overflow crowds in Indonesia, Australia and Thailand. The tour attracted more than 300,000 fans, including a sold-out crowd of 95,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. While the preseason friendlies are not major revenue drivers, according to Hogan, selling merchandise in those regions is. To help keep costs lower for fans in those regions, Liverpool recently opened int’l merchandise distribution centers in places such as the Middle East, Thailand and Vietnam.
BACK IN THE U.S.: While Liverpool focuses on growing and communicating with fans in Asia and the Middle East, another key market is also a focus for the club -- the U.S. Liverpool has a distinct advantage in the U.S. given that it is the home of owners Fenway Sports Group. The Premier League’s $250M deal with NBC has also facilitated the exposure of the club to potential U.S. fans. The growing interest of the league in the U.S. has also been flanked by several major U.S. sponsors teaming up with Liverpool, including Chevrolet, Lumber Liquidators and Stanley Tools. Hogan: “A lot of those conversations here with the U.S. brands are starting to get some traction. It’s exciting to see some of those U.S. brands getting involved in the sport.” For Hogan, who splits time between his home in Boston and job in the U.K., this is something he sees firsthand. Hogan: “I would say the U.S. is definitely an emerging market in football.”