It has been described as the greatest sports story of all time. Over the course of the season, unfancied, unheard-of Leicester City left famous names like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool in their wake as they claimed their first ever Premier League trophy.
While Leicester dominated on the field, SimilarWeb is also able to reveal which teams succeeded most in their digital campaigns during the 2015-16 digital campaign. The SimilarWeb Digital Premier League table, based on worldwide online traffic, shows which Premier League teams saw the biggest tally of global online visits to their club sites. Many large clubs, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City have invested heavily in enhancing their digital presence as they seek a global fan base. This means digital growth, across mobile, desktop and apps, is now a barometer for a successful season.
Leicester City doubles online visits but Manchester United tops table
Leicester, the new Premier League Champs, saw their mobile and desktop traffic double over the course of their magical season. The Foxes amassed 4.7 million combined mobile and desktop visits during this campaign, placing Leicester firmly in the top half of the table — in ninth place — with the potential to further capitalize on their digital growth next season. Furthermore, using SimilarWeb’s Popular Pages function, we can discover that Leicester was the most popular team on premierleague.com, a website which attracted nearly 400 million visits over the course of the season.
On a global level, Leicester City has been hailed as Thailand’s team, but in fact the majority of non-UK visits to the club’s website came from the U.S, which made up 7.8% of the club’s visits over the season. After the U.S., Canada was responsible for 4.7% and Japan 3.3%. This data suggests the club may want to focus on targeting online U.S soccer fans who have been captivated by the club’s underdog story.
With Leicester City the fastest-growing online Premier League Club, Manchester United look set to be crowned the Digital Premier League Champions. Despite a difficult season on the pitch, the official Manchester United site can lay claim to being, not only being the biggest UK football club site this season, but also the most popular football site in the world — ahead of the sites of rivals such as Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The official Manchester United site, manutd.com, has amassed 65.2 million combined worldwide mobile and desktop visits — more than 18 times the global online traffic of title winners, Leicester.
Manchester United look unbeatable at the top of the Digital Premier League ahead of second-placed Arsenal (62.1 million visits) and rivals, Liverpool (61.3 million visits). Despite a challenging season, Manchester United achieved growth in visits from several countries and continents across the club’s enviable fan base, including increases in online traffic from Nigeria, Australia, Malawi, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.
Chelsea came a distant fourth in the digital title race on 31.6 million visits, while Manchester City (14.5 million) pipped Tottenham (14.4 million) for fifth place.
Discover the complete Premier League digital rank below:
Leading clubs see only 18% of traffic from UK
The table also reflects the digital strategy of the biggest clubs in building world-beating brands. Of Manchester United’s online visits during the season only 18% of visits came from the UK. The Manchester United site, offering accessibility in seven languages, and with a link to its store on the front page, is arguably the most catered to the global, commercial, and digital game.
For Arsenal, only 24% of visits came from the UK and in Liverpool it was slightly higher at 30%. Following their successful season, Leicester City also joined this exclusive club of globally popular sites, with 63% of traffic coming from abroad. Domestic traffic remains far more important for teams at the lower end of our table – West Bromwich Albion saw 60% of their season’s traffic from the UK, Bournemouth 56% and Stoke City, 52%.
Looking only at UK traffic, Liverpool FC is actually England’s most popular club online, generating 24 million UK visits, ahead of Arsenal (19.8 million visits) and Manchester United in third place (17.9 million).
Shift to mobile means clubs must keep pace
This analysis also revealed that with the shift to mobile, sporting brands must evolve with their fans. Manchester United’s site registered 63% of visits via mobile, over the course of the season. This suggests the table-topping digital club is best adapted to win new football-mad audiences, particularly in Africa, which enjoys high mobile adoption rates.
Social media game helped clubs pick up visits
In contrast to many other industries, in the world of football, social media is crucial in attracting global traffic to football clubs, with fans active on all sites and forums. Looking at a number of head-to-heads: Manchester United received 19% of its overall club site traffic arriving from social media channels during this season, compared to 14% for their rivals, Liverpool. It is interesting to note the diverse social media channels in the game – 47% of Liverpool’s social media traffic came from Facebook, Twitter was 23% and Reddit, 20%.
In the battle between Tottenham and Arsenal, Spurs saw 11% of their traffic from social media compared to Arsenal’s 13%. Again it is interesting to note the equal division of social media channels – of Arsenal’s traffic 33% came from Facebook, 32% from Twitter and 32% from Reddit.