Football (or soccer for our American readers) is big, global business and English Premier League clubs are at the forefront of exporting the beautiful game to new parts of the world.

A particular focus is Asia, where football is gaining ground with the newly affluent consumers of many parts of the region, especially in China, where demand for all things western is huge.

As you would expect, the main Premier League teams to take advantage are:

  • Manchester United
  • Arsenal
  • Liverpool
  • Chelsea

Manchester United cashing in on the Japanese market

Japan has been struggling financially for quite a few years and is a long way behind China in terms of growth. However, Japanese football fans are known to be very dedicated followers of their chosen teams.

This devotion clearly isn’t wasted on Manchester United’s marketing team, who spotted an opportunity to feature keys members of the team, including veteran player Ryan Giggs, Robin Van Persie and Japanese international Shinji Kagawa, in this commercial for Kagome Tomato Juice.

We decided to have the ad translated and transcribed phonetically from Japanese, so you can get an idea of what theses heroes of football are saying.

Robin Van Persie: Japanese – Oishii! (Delicious!)

Michael Carrick: Japanese – Gambaru. (Be energized.)

Ryan Giggs: Japanese – Agaru. (Going up.)

Shinji Kagawa: Japanese – Meccha ikikaeri masune! (Really reviving, isn’t it?)

Our translator thinks that Ryan Giggs’s comment “going up” can be translated to “stirred up with power”, although we can’t be sure.

As you’d expect, some of the English tabloids (the Daily Mail and The Sun) have made much of what seems to them a very silly ad featuring the Man Utd stars.

However, the team at Manchester United have made a very good call by making their team the stars of commercials like this. They’ve taken the biggest brand in worldwide football, localised it and placed it right in the heart of their Japanese fan base.

China is not the only football crazy country in Asia

Where do you think the largest collection of Arsenal and Liverpool fans is? Highbury? Anfield?

Try Indonesia.

The south Asian island has a population of 242 million and a gross domestic product of $846 billion dollars, as well as an insatiable appetite for Premier League football. Combine that with that fact that Indonesia is the world’s most social media savvy country despite its developing world status and you have a recipe that football clubs can’t resist.

This has meant that Arsenal and Liverpool have more Facebook and Twitter followers from Indonesia than from the UK.

Social media is very powerful in Indonesia, and Liverpool and Arsenal engage with tens of millions of passionate football fans there. The extent of the social media brand battle means that brands like Liverpool have to cover all bases to reach their fans. Liverpool’s Twitter page in Bahasa, for example, has more followers than their Facebook page, such is the popularity of Twitter in Indonesia.

For a more in-depth view of what Premier League clubs are doing to capitalise on the hunger for football in Asia, read this great post on The Wall by Chris J Reed.