This time David France, 73, didn’t need to cross the Atlantic to watch his beloved Everton. France, nicknamed Doctor Everton, has travelled over two million miles to indulge his passion, but last week a trip from Phoenix to Florida was enough to attend Everton’s Florida Cup matches against both Millonarios from Colombia and Pumas UNAM from Mexico. “There was a great turnout for the Millonarios match to support their club but also James Rodriguez,” France told me. “The Cup lost Arsenal and Inter Milan as opposition, and Everton remained inside a bubble, but the staff outside of that bubble did a great job interacting with the fans, realizing that these fans had traveled thousands of miles.”
In Florida, the Premier League club courted fans, young and old, with a series of events. Club ambassador Tim Howard held a Q&A with the supporters and the local fan clubs organized the EFC North American All-Stars ballot for player and trailblazer, with the former goalkeeper and France taking the honors. The local theater was packed to the rafters to hear the pair speak.
It’s the kind of fan engagement, brand exposure and business development that Everton wants to cultivate to attract a new generation of fans in the United States, a soccer market where the Premier League enjoys an untouchable broadcast status. Last April, the club launched a six-pillar international strategy includes fanbase growth, strategic partnership, brand and business development and the establishment of an international academy. The club’s participation in the Florida Cup represented a meaningful step in executing its North American strategy.
It is a roadmap – fan-base growth is the pathway we want,” explains Jurgen Mainka from Pulse Sport and Entertainment and a consultant for Everton. “Once you start building that fan base, strategic partnerships can help. The more Everton is being talked about, the more Everton is present. It takes the brand to a different level.”
“Back in the days we used to say – we grab a soccer dad and you had to convert him into an ultra fan. Why? Today, you service a fan at that level, get to know him better and provide him with engaging content so that he can interact with the club. It is all about that meaningful connection, when you understand that market place, then you interact with the Everton brand. Having set the stage, how do we engage? Nowadays content is king, and it’s not only engaging wit that old fan base that watches 90 minutes of soccer against Aston Villa, but it’s about engaging with the new generations.