The starting line-up opportunity

A look at team announcements at the start of the 2017/2018 Premier League Season

By Chris Hurst and Andreas Plastiras, UK Digital 

In a crowded social media newsfeed, it’s vital for sports teams to own moments that are distinctive to them and that they are uniquely placed to tell.

One such opportunity for football clubs on social media is the starting line-up announcement, which is revealed an hour before kick-off, usually before the matchday broadcast has begun. This can be categorised as a Fan Story*.

Starting Line-ups

Such is the popularity and memorability of team starting line-ups, especially when you get familiar with seeing the same graphics template each week, one Twitter user memorably compared a budget announcement in Kenya to the Manchester United starting line-up graphic.

All 20 Premier League teams announced their starting line-ups on Twitter on the opening weekend of the season, while 19 clubs announced their line-ups on Facebook. Instagram however was slightly different, with nine clubs opting not to post on their page, although others did cover this within their Instagram Stories.

There are undoubtedly arguments for and against posting the team news on different social media platforms, particularly when considering which platforms are most effective at breaking news moments that may only have a limited news window of relevancy.

Looking at three teams in the Premier League at the weekend, it was on Instagram that their starting line-up posts generated the highest level of engagement, although not all of these interactions came in the period before the match.

Sponsor Branding

It was also interesting to follow the different creative treatments of announcing the line-ups, primarily through text and photos, and how sponsors were incorporated into content.

12 Premier League clubs had some form of sponsor branding on Facebook, either through passive exposure (e.g. logos on the kits) or branded content (e.g. announcing a content series in association with a sponsor), while 11 Premier League clubs had some form of sponsor branding on Twitter.

The logos of sponsors were viewable on all starting outfield players of six teams on their Facebook and Twitter social media graphics, with the new Tottenham Hotspur team news graphic making the club kit sponsors particularly prominent, achieving a high QI score – a Nielsen Sports measure of the prominence of a club sponsor on a post.

Huddersfield Town announced their starting line-ups in a branded content series in association with a sponsor – while Manchester City, Newcastle United, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion featured a sponsor on the graphic. This is a trend we are seeing emerge across Europe with FC Barcelona partnering with Konami on Facebook in both image and video posts to announce their team news in the past year.

Stoke City made a noticeable effort to use a template that over the course of the season will offer exposure to their new sleeve partner through starting line-ups.

Generating value

If fan engagement is an important posting factor to consider on social media, what about the commercial imperatives of driving value for club sponsors over the course of the season from their owned channels?

In a previous post, we revealed using Nielsen Sports’ unified media valuation approach, which considers all media platforms where brand and rights owners derive value.

Social media accounts for anything between 5-20% of total value generated for sponsors across the course of a season. While the new Sky Sports starting line-up TV graphics for the Premier League don’t feature full exposure for front of shirt sponsors, with some players folding arms, and the new Match of the Day line-up graphics block out team shirt sponsors with player names, clubs are in a position to control how they present their team news with exposure for sponsors on their owned social channels, and deliver in a mobile-friendly way that still drives high engagement from supporters. 

For a top Premier League team with a large social media fan-base, a well executed Facebook graphic can generate around £15,000 of exposure value for their front of shirt sponsors per match, with a branded content series worth more. Even a mid-table Premier League team delivering a successful branded content series around starting line-ups, posted across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, has the potential to generate a significant six-figure sum in social media value to a commercial partner over the course of a season.

As ever, the challenge for clubs will be how do you balance the needs of fan engagement with the demands of their commercial partnership teams, and depending on their balance of priorities, how do you create experiences that potentially can achieve both?

We look forward to working with our clients to see how they respond to this challenge and providing benchmarking comparisons from our colleagues in the US, who work directly with teams across the major American sports.


Should you be interested in finding out more on social value from a rights holder or brand perspective, please contact  

*Fan Stories™ is a way of categorising different types of digital content – everything from live game commentary to event highlights, player question and answer sessions to fan competitions.