by Brad Ress, CEO of Mediacells
Mediacells advises football club clients to think outside of the ground in the context of their fanbase. If a club looks at their fortunes in terms of takings at the stadium, purchases in store, online and physical, plus TV deals – the sponsorship revenue will reflect the club’s mindset.
Take Wrexham AFC as an example of the mouse that roars.
Wrexham Mania manifests in the UK, US and who knows where else, due to a fan engagement deal with TikTok, its Disney+ streaming sensation Welcome to Wrexham and the siginificant club acquisition by Hollywood A-Listers Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Rob McElhenney (Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
After 15 years in the arid, non-league wilderness the Welsh club is 90% assured promotion to the English Football League (EFL) after an epic victory against Notts County on Monday.
As they say in North Wales, “sgyrsiau arian, teithiau cerdded bullshit” (google it!) – a look at the newly-released Wrexham FC accounts for the 12 months to the end of last June showed a club loss of £2.9m, mostly down to a surge in player wages and related football costs e.g. travel, subsistence and all that.
Club turnover during the same period showed a 400% year-on-year increase, attributed to matchday income (£2.65m), retail sales in the club shop and online (£1.3m) and sponsorship and advertising (£1m).
Not included in the accounting period is the impact caused by the Welcome to Wrexham documentary, which first aired on Disney+ in the UK and FX in the United States during autumn, 2022.
Red Dragon sponsorship and advertising is on the march too with blue chip sponsorship from TikTok, Expedia and Aviation American Gin likely to be more lucrative after the second season of Welcome to Wrexham comes out, ETA August.
Wrexham’s financial losses are not out of step with fellow fifth tier, non-league footie clubs and when you put Wrexham’s annual wage bill in a cosmic context, it is less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s weekly wage at Saudi Arabian football club, Al-Nassr.
From Hollywood to Holyhead fans are flocking to Welcome to Wrexham. According to the streaming aggregator Reelgood, Welcome to Wrexham was the 7th most-watched show across all platforms, during the week of September 2, 2022.
Kieran Maguire, a lecturer on football finance at the University of Liverpool was quoted in longform sports journalism online rag, The Athletic:
“The documentary is clearly central to everything. Welcome to Wrexham is great and the club benefits from that via those deals from TikTok and so on. I’d also say the show has a few more series left in it.”
Back to Mediacells’ growth mindset advice and using TikTok as an emerging fan engagement lens – Wrexham AFC are approaching a million followers (905k) on the platform. Compare this to top of the Premier table Arsenal FC (4.5m) or bottom of the Premier League Southampton FC (833k) or non-league stable mates Notts County (6k).
In the 1970s the term ‘influential owners’ in football meant a hotline to the City. In 2023, influencer owners Reynolds (22m TikTok followers) and Rob McElhenney’s (1m) is perhaps the new benchmark but it’s more than that.
Ambition, Enthusiasm, Hope and Passion are the four cornerstones of fan engagement. In the Ted Lasso episode ‘It’s the hope that kills you’ the yank manager of AFC Richmond calls time on the English idiom, claiming that it’s a “lack of it” (hope) that kills you.
Ted then asks the team “Do you believe in miracles?”.
If you’d have asked a Wrexham fan 15 years ago you would have received a very different answer than if you asked them today.