Sport Marketing and the Globalization of Football

Sport Marketing and the Globalization of Football

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010 at 6pm
Lankaster Lecture Theatre
Medawar Building (University College London),
Malet Place, (off Torrington Place),
London WC1
(For directions please see the pdf map).

Given by:
Michel Desbordes, Professor in Sport Marketing, University of Paris Sud 11


In Europe, professional football is fast becoming a major industry characterised by commercialism and the growth of formal, professional marketing practices. The maturity of some European football markets has resulted in leading clubs seeking growth opportunities in other countries, most notably in Asia. At the same time, clubs from some European nations continue to face difficult operating conditions as they struggle to maintain presence and profile in a complex, dynamic environment.

Outside Europe, the popularity of football in Asia continues unabated. Spurred on by their hosting of the 2002 World Cup, football in Japan and South Korea is in a healthy position, although the product on offer is not at a level of maturity commensurate with the major European leagues. Elsewhere in Asia, the industry essentially consists of two types of country: countries where there is a strong interest in football but this interest is being served by overseas clubs and leagues, rather than domestic provision; and countries where, thus far, receptiveness to football is limited, possibly due to the popularity of other sports or due to economic and social conditions.

In the America’s, the profile of the football industry is a starkly contrasting one. In Central and South America, football is hugely popular, spanning social, economic and cultural divisions. Nevertheless, the industry is notoriously inefficient, many clubs are operating at a loss and with little regard for formal or professional approaches to marketing. In the United States, formality and professionalism is present, but football (or soccer as it is commonly referred to) does not enjoy the socio-cultural prominence that it does elsewhere in the world, which presents a distinct set of challenges for those involved in marketing the sport.

As for the rest of world, football is often very popular, it deeply evokes a multitude of emotions and in many cases displays some highly distinctive features. However, in Africa, the notion of marketing is one that has yet to effectively establish itself, compounding economic problems and the exodus of players to other countries. Yet the African experience is too difficult to categorise, especially as South Africa is set to host the 2010 World Cup, whilst North African football is much higher profile and economically prosperous than football in many Saharan countries. In Oceania, football is largely an immature product; in the former colonies of Northern European countries there is some interest in football, although this tends to be centred on particular ethnic groups and is often overshadowed by other, often culturally specific, sports. Elsewhere, geographic remoteness, population size, as well as the importance of other sports means that football does not enjoy the interest that it does in other parts of the world.

In the light of a prevailing view that football is ‘the global game’, this paper therefore sets out to examine the state of football marketing in different geographic areas across the world. The paper begins by identifying the scale of the global football industry, as well as highlighting the contribution it makes to specific countries. Thereafter, a definition of football marketing will be provided; in addition, the distinctive characteristics of the industry will be profiled. These characteristics are especially important because they effectively define the framework within which football marketers must operate, and it is notable that many features of football pose unique and highly distinctive challenges for marketers. Subsequently, the paper moves on to assess the state of marketing in football across the world. This is based around the following groups: a) marketing football in the ‘big-5’ European leagues; b) marketing football in small European countries; c) football marketing in the rest of the world. The paper concludes by identifying some of the challenges that football marketers are likely to face over the next 5 to 10 years.


  •  Desbordes, M (Eds.) (2006). Marketing and Football, an International Perspective. Elsevier publisher, Oxford (UK), 544 p.
  • Desbordes, M., Falgoux, J. (2006). Gestion y Organizacion de un Evento Deportivo. INDE Publicaciones, Barcelona, Spain, 221 p.
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Michel Desbordes is a Professor at the University of Paris Sud 11, France. He is also associate professor at the ISC School of management (Paris, France). He is a specialist in sport marketing; his research focuses on the management of sport events, sports sponsorship and marketing applied to football. He has published 16 books (Elsevier, UK; Editorial Paidotribo & INDE Publicaciones, Barcelona, Spain; Economica & les Editions d’Organisation & PUS, France) and 26 academic articles (International Journal of Sport Marketing and Sponsorship, European Sport Management Quarterly, International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing) in this field.

His last book in English was entitled Marketing and Football: an International Perspective” and was published by Elsevier in October 2006.

He founded the MX Sports company in 2004, where he is the director and a senior consultant for sport federations, sponsors, local communities and sport equipment manufacturers.

Since January 2009 Michel has become the new editor of the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Contact Details

Birkbeck Sport Business Seminar Series Contact Details

For further details on the seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil

Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

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