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Interview with Stefano Russo, Associate Sales Director YouGov, Partner of #SFS23

In view of the Social Football Summit, we met Stefano Russo, associate sales director of YouGov, one of the world’s leading companies in data analysis and market research. Here’s what he told us about his experience.  

In your network you have 24 million panelists distributed in 59 different markets. But what is the working method of YouGov to carry out the surveys, and on which sectors can you perform your activities?

YouGov is a research institute founded in the UK that has been operating on all continents for over 20 years. Our peculiarity is to have a very large proprietary panel La nostra peculiarità è quella di avere un panel proprietario molto ampio (24 milioni di persone nel mondo, 380.000 in Italia) grazie al quale siamo in grado di raccogliere e aggiornare continuamente informazioni fornite dai nostri panelisti attraverso interviste online

Il nostro ruolo nel mercato è aiutare i clienti nel prendere decisioni basandosi su evidenze solide e costantemente aggiornate. Lo facciamo attraverso tool di profilazione, tracking di brand e report ad hoc che permettono di leggere ed integrare i dati che raccogliamo dai panelisti.

We are active in many sectors including FMCG, retail, finance, TLC, travel and media. With our Sports division we support leagues, federations, teams, agencies in understanding fans’ attitudes and interests and in evaluating sponsorship and partnership activities with the right metrics.

Just a few days ago, you launched the report to understand the preferences and interests of Serie A fans around the world. About this report I ask you how has grown the interest abroad towards Serie A, and with respect to which championships we have recovered ground?

We carried out this study on the relevance of Serie A around the world on the occasion of the Social Football Summit. The results tell us, in extreme summary, that the glass is half full. Serie A in the world is doing well, with a very large (over 900 million fans) and steadily growing following, but with alarm bells that need to be monitored.
In the last two years, Serie A fans have grown substantially in line with other European leagues. Our league is second globally in terms of fans behind the Premier League and in constant head-to-head with La Liga. The profile of Serie A fans is very interesting and desirable in the USA, China and the Middle East, areas in which we have done in-depth research.

There are also alarm bells going off: competition from other leagues and other forms of entertainment is strong. Looking at the list of favourite players in these areas of the world, there are few players in our league. Consequently, even Italian teams find it harder to emerge than when – thanks also to more continuous sports results and the presence of icons and champions known throughout the world – our league was the richest and universally recognised as the most relevant.
Today, our championship is penalised by a lack of economic resources of the properties and by the increasingly rich and difficult competitive scenario, with leagues that can count on richer revenues and financiers. This precludes the arrival of top players in our championship in recent years and thus the competitiveness and attractiveness of our teams in the international scenario. In this context, actions in the area of content distribution and promotion activities abroad are even more important. On these last two points we observe a great deal of activity in the Italian football system, which in recent years has been catching up with other leagues. Thanks to this, the evidence we have gathered is overall positive for Serie A, in our opinion.

We often hear that young people are less interested in football and matches. What are the means by which fans intercept football matches or highlights, and what are the big differences in this regard with other countries such as China, Spain and Great Britain?

Our data give a different reading to the narrative that sees interest in football in decline. In our daily lives we have smartphones and tablets that give us constant access to streaming services, video games, stimulation and entertainment in general.
In un contesto decisamente più competitivo dunque, il calcio rimane, stando ai numeri, uno dei fenomeni che genera più interesse e passione in giro per il mondo in tutte le fasce di età. Non direi quindi che i giovani sono meno interessati, semplicemente hanno molte più opportunità e modalità di intrattenimento rispetto a 10 o 20 anni fa, all’interno delle quali il calcio rimane però tra le più rilevanti. esempio in USA il 64% dei Serie A fan appartiene alla fascia d’età 18-34

Quello che è cambiato è il modo in cui questo interesse viene soddisfatto e qui arriviamo al tema della fruizione dei contenuti. L’erogazione dei contenuti e conseguentemente il modo di valorizzarli e monetizzarli va adattato alle abitudini dei fan in giro per il mondo. Ci sono peculiarità in tutti i mercati. Quello che emerge dai nostri dati è che in Europa siamo ancora molto legati alla tv come in parte avviene in US. In Cina e Middle East osserviamo invece una fruizione di contenuti brevi ed attraverso app e social già predominante.

You are currently working in different parts of the world, but which markets are showing more sensitivity towards sport, and how is it going in Italy? Are there companies that are interested in surveys to understand their fans and fans of the future?

As mentioned, YouGov’s presence is capillary globally and transversal across industries. In sports we already work with some of the most important federations globally in both fan profiling and media and sponsorship evaluation. The geographic areas where we are strongest in the sports world historically are the US and the UK. We have a growing presence in the Middle East and Australia.

Italy is a country on which the company is focusing a lot and is growing rapidly both organically and through acquisitions. In the world of sport we already have several collaborations with leading federations and leagues, several Serie A and B football clubs and some important sponsors. We are investing and working to establish ourselves further and become a point of reference in sport in Italy as well.