How has La Liga’s ‘Saudi Arabian Experiment’ impacted Twitter Growth

July 2, 2018 Posted by Sean Walsh Football 0 thoughts on “How has La Liga’s ‘Saudi Arabian Experiment’ impacted Twitter Growth”
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Sean Walsh
Director at Intelligency

Sean is a Director at Intelligency heading up our digital marketing and client services operations. Sean has 15+ years experiencing working both in-house and agency with brands including Lloyds, Alstom, Hitachi, Lufthansa, Viaplay, DFDS Seaways and Mercedes-Benz.

La Liga has a number of strings to its bow with some of the most passionate fans on the planet, two of the world’s biggest clubs and perhaps the greatest duo in history. Consequently, La Liga sees a huge number of fans follow their clubs’ official Twitter accounts, eagerly consuming any news about their favourite players or upcoming matches. With such an enthralling league you would expect to see this reflected in a fervent Twitter fan-base that is constantly growing and immersing themselves in their club’s social media.

Therefore fiacuity’s analysts have studied La Liga’s growth across Twitter, between January 1st & June 1st to discover exactly who grew as expected in the first half of the year and who saw above-average growth, which for La Liga was 1.73%. However, before we get onto the fascinating results it is worth bearing in mind that the makeup of La Liga’s overall followers is starkly different to the EPL. Real Madrid & Barcelona for example make up 89.99% of the overall followers of La Liga clubs with their closest rival Atletico Madrid having 3.89%. Comparably, Man United & Arsenal make up just 43% of all Twitter followers in the EPL, despite having the most followers. Moreover, as you will discover this average benchmark is influenced by a certain anomaly that has impacted the league’s, and more importantly certain clubs growth rate massively..

What does La Liga’s Growth Rate look like?

As you can see between January & February there was a huge spike in follows for La Liga clubs, which boosted the overall growth rate of the league to 4.76%. It’s not uncommon to see a spike in January, due to a proliferation of matches or transfers being announced and this is reflected throughout Europe. However, 4.76% is the highest growth rate for a single month across all of Europe’s top 4 leagues, as well as Portugal & France, and there is a very good reason for this.

On January 25th, Villarreal, Leganes & Levante all announced that they had agreed a deal for three Saudi Arabian internationals who would be heading to Russia for the World Cup: Fahad al-Mulwallad, Salem al-Dawsari & Yahya al-Shehri. Six others arrived in La Liga as well, but it’s these signing which had the biggest influence on La Liga’s growth rate that month, with Villarreal posting a growth rate of 27.60%, Leganes was 9.91% and Levante 24.60%.

Club JAN – FEB
Alaves 2.27%
Athletic Bilbao 1.20%
Atletico Madrid 1.89%
Barcelona 2.42%
Celta 1.63%
Deportivo 1.59%
Eibar 2.31%
Espanyol 1.77%
Getafe 4.76%
Girona 3.24%
Las Palmas 1.64%
Leganes 9.91%
Levante 24.60%
Malaga 0.77%
Real Betis 2.76%
Real Madrid 1.70%
Real Sociedad 1.05%
Sevilla 1.05%
Valencia 1.14%
Villarreal 27.60%

The table above gives a full breakdown of the clubs during this period and categorical shows that the acquisition of Middle Eastern players had a huge impact on the league’s following. This course of action was received negatively in some quarters, as a cynical attempt by La Liga to expand their influence into a previously untapped market (the contracts and salaries were paid for by Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority). Whilst these loan moves didn’t particularly work-out with the only appearance being a ten minute cameo by Fahad Al Muwallad playing in La Liga, it’s clear that they had the desired effect on the club’s social following. Levante took full advantage of this by promoting the player on Twitter and then expressing their delight at the huge effect it had had on their follower count.

The tweet received thousands of engagement, however it did also provoke debate on the thread with arguments arising between fans, some of whom argued the club were more interested in signing players for commercial potential rather than their ability. 

How does this affect La Liga’s Growth Rate?

The only issue with these transfers and spikes, is that they inflate the club’s overall yearly growth rate and based on the January-June period, appear to be the exceptions rather than the rule. This results in some clubs appearing to have better results than they may actually have in terms of ‘consistent growth’. Villarreal increased their rate to 27.60% after signing Salem al-Dawsari however, they then saw negative growth from March to June. The argument should be made, that ‘growth is growth’ Villarreal have more followers than in 2017, but it should be argued it skewers the overall league benchmark for other teams and as a result, in this case it has led to only six teams achieving above benchmark results in La Liga, in spite of many of them being more consistent than the clubs who signed Saudi players.

Club Jan – Feb Feb – Mar Mar – Apr Apr – May May – June Overall
Levante 24.60% 1.03% -1.27% -0.26% 0.00% 4.82%
Eibar 2.31% 2.26% 1.10% 1.09% 0.54% 1.46%

Arguably one could dispute the long term success of the ‘Saudi Deal’, with overall follower count on Villarreal’s Arabic account already decreasing from 43k in February to 35k by June. That being said some of these clubs prefer a short term approach to their growth and it’s indisputable that it has worked in acquiring new followers, however a more prudent approach may be to develop and gain fans in a more organic manner as this could result in more sustainable fan loyalty.

So what can football clubs do to improve their Twitter growth?

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Get in touch with us to find out more about how fiacuity can be used to provide strategic recommendations to actively improve your growth rates as well as learn from what competitors are doing to achieve higher rates and success. Our platform can help you review your entire season’s digital marketing activity (social, email, content, paid advertising) and help you make smarter decisions on where to allocate more time and investment.

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