A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: HEARTWARMING FAN LOVE IN THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Image Credit: frenchleague.wordpress.com 

On 12th September, Celtic had their first UEFA Champions League battle against Paris St Germain, welcoming the French team and their fans to Celtic Park. Following on from our blog on football in Scotland, this provided the perfect opportunity for us to dive into football conversation on the international stage – is their anything we can learn from our European cousins?

Travelling to away games can be a fraught experience – travel is stressful and away football matches can come with extra confusion and anxiety.

But they can also be excellent opportunities, both for fans to experience amazing footballing moments in other nations and for clubs and sponsors to build positive brand awareness in an international market.

However, football conversation is notorious for tension and debate. Is this positivity possible or is it just a pipe dream?

We turned to Brandwatch to find out. Analysing fan conversation surrounding the Celtic/PSG match on 12th September, we identified a whole lot of intense respect and genuinely heartwarming love.

 

THE DATA

Celtic are in a UCL group with PSG, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht, meaning that 12th September was the first of several home and away matches between Scotland, France, Germany and Belgium. We wanted to find out both how Celtic fans talked about their opponents and how their opponents’ fans talked about Celtic. Using an in-house analyst who’s fluent in French and German, we were able to look at posts in French, German and English from these four countries. Examining data in the native languages of fans results in a more rigorous analysis, providing much deeper and more accurate insights.

We examined data from 17th August – 17th September, which included the announcement of the group draw and the Celtic/PSG game. We focused specifically on posts which referenced Celtic and one of their opponents. The heatmaps below show the intensity of conversation in each location.

In order to get the best, most engaged fan conversation, we filtered out organisational and news content.

France and Scotland had the highest levels of engaged conversation, unsurprising given that Celtic played PSG during this period. But what’s behind these numbers? What insights can we gain from a qualitative analysis of this data?

 

A COMMON CONVERSATION

We looked at the conversation in France and Scotland in more detail. The topic clouds below show an overview of the conversation in each of these two countries:

    

On the surface, much of this conversation is very similar. Both Scottish and French fans refer to the group draw (“PSG and Bayern”, “adversaires du PSG” (trans: opponents of PSG) and discuss news items, such as the signing of Odsonne Edouard from PSG to Celtic (“option to buy”, “Odsonne Edouard est prêté” (trans: Odsonne Edouard is loaned).

Of course, there were some differences. For example, there were references to “Rangers” in Scotland, but not in France. The match result was discussed by fans of both teams, but with a different emphasis. PSG fans were celebratory, whereas Celtic fans either praised the French team for their skill or pointed out their wealth in comparison to Celtic.

Dive a bit deeper into the content and things start to get more interesting. Celtic fans were, broadly, positive about PSG, praising players for their class and fans for their camaraderie. PSG fans took this further, expressing intense love and admiration both for Celtic fans, and for Celtic Park itself.

But why do PSG fans love Celtic so much?, How do they express this love? And what opportunities do these insights present for clubs and sponsors?

 

MUTUAL FAN LOVE: UN PUBLIC MERVEILLEUX / AMAZING FANS

Although there was competitiveness between Celtic and PSG, the fans of those teams loved each other. Celtic fans were particularly impressed by the class of PSG fans:

“Fans done you proud”

“Their fans are class”

“Fair play to PSG fans, sharing scarves and chanting ‘Celtic’ at full time”

“PSG ns [sic] Celtic fans blitzed together in the pub having a sing song is what it’s all about”

In return, PSG fans expressed deep admiration of Celtic fans:

“Fabuleux supporters”

(trans: fabulous supporters)

“Celtic-PSG si tu veux voir les meilleurs supporters”

(trans: Celtic-PSG if you want to see the best supporters)

“L’histoire d’amour entre le PSG et le Celtic, et surtout ses supporters, n’est pas prêt [sic] de s’éteindre We love you Celtic Fan”

(trans: The love story between PSG and Celtic, and especially their fans, is not likely to be extinguished We love you Celtic Fan)

 

CELTIC PARK: UN STADE MYTHIQUE / A MYTHICAL STADIUM

Photo credit: Thomas Nugent

The atmosphere at Celtic Park is praised so much it’s almost a cliché. But fans of both Celtic and PSG were sincere in their praise for the experience.

Celtic fans expressed intense excitement, describing themselves as ‘buzzing’ and the experience as magical and electric:

“Wow! The atmosphere at #Celtic Park is electric tonight”

“I can sense another magical #UCL night in Paradise tonight”

PSG fans were also excited, particularly about the ‘ambiance’ (trans: atmosphere):

“Des frissons”

(trans: Buzzing)

“Top ambiance”

(trans: Top atmosphere)

But they took this further, describing the experience of being at Celtic Park as legendary, a genuine and iconic football experience:

“Ce stade mythique”

(trans: This legendary stadium)

“Une des plus belles ambiances d’Europe. L’amour du foot y est sans égal”

(trans: One of the best atmospheres in Europe. The love of football there is without equal)

“C’est ça le foot”

(trans: That’s football)

 

CAMPAIGN INSPIRATION

Although this analysis is specific to Celtic, these insights could be applicable to any club competing on the international stage. Examining the perception of a club among international football fans can provide crucial insights, leading to inspired activations. These could include:

PR & Media Release: A club could provide a release to key media outlets, journalists and sports broadcasters, mirroring fans’ excitement about hosting an away team (or visiting another club). Using the language and tone of voice of fans could trigger deeper engagement.

In Stadium: Clubs could bring positive online comments from fans to life on the ground during the match via large screens.

Media Guests: Consider inviting prominent journalists from the other nation as special guests to your club, particularly those who are passionately positive about your club.

Airport & Outdoor: Launch a proactive welcome campaign, in the native language of those who are visiting, reflecting their exact language and sentiments about the experience they are about to have visiting your stadium. Engage key sites en route from main transport arrival thoroughfares.

Social Channels: Clubs and other organisations could host social media content, tagging key fan communities from the opposing team, mirroring their sentiments and sharing their excitement and anticipation ahead of the game, in their own language. Sharing copy of any campaigns or activations via these channels in their own language would generate widespread reach, awareness and goodwill.

Practical Information: Practical discussions are a key concern for football fans when travelling to an away game e.g. ticket queries, accommodation enquiries and safety concerns. Clubs and others (local councils, transport and tourism agencies) could push practical information to fan communities e.g. inbound transfer links, last minute accommodation opportunities and tips for travelling to the stadium.

Tourism Opportunities: Travel and tourist agencies could take this as an opportunity to promote the whole country as a tourist destination. This could also open the door to partnerships with tourist associations in other European countries.

If you’re a club or sponsor and would be interested in a bespoke analysis of fans for a specific team, get in touch with us @DI_Insights.

This research was powered by our pals at Brandwatch.

© Disruptive Insight 2015.