The Premier League has become the most successful domestic sports competition in the world. Until it was rebranded in 1992, the English football league was not always considered this enticing or lucrative as a business proposition. The past 10-15 years in particular has seen a significant increase in overseas investment and television eyeballs, creating a sports business juggernaut that their peers have been studying with meticulous detail.
From a pure marketing point of view, a sports brand like the Premier League has to be home to a number of superstars. Like LeBron James with the NBA or Tom Brady and the NFL, this is a vehicle to promote season tickets, television subscriptions, shirt sales and more. This is where figures like Kevin De Bruyne, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Harry Kane and Mohammed Salah draw in more attention and solidify the Premier League as an elite tournament.
The competition for broadcasting rights has allowed the Premier League to rake in a substantial amount of revenue that is the envy of every other soccer league on the planet. With NBC securing rights in the United States, the brand would become commercially viable for Fox Sports, beIN Sports, DAZN, Sky Sports, BBC, Canal+, ESPN and even Amazon Prime Video as of 2020. Some of these entities will broadcast a percentage of the season while others will pay for exclusive rights for their region of viewers. The domestic rights deal alone is worth £5bn or US$6.5bn, giving the game a chance to leverage their marketing power across the globe.
There are other leagues around the globe that have big clubs fronting their competition, but for an aggregate score, the Premier League holds the advantage. Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United enjoy a club market value in excess of $1bn while Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City are valued over $500m. Competing leagues might have two or three strong entities, but the others won’t have the financial muscle to make them successful outside of their local region.
This would not be an accident or quirk of a system, but an equal share business model that ensures equitable growth for Premier League clubs. The equal share model splits approximately $44m to all 20 clubs before international television payments of $56m and central commercial revenue of $6.4m are included. The differences in financial payments are then broken up and structured according to league finish and facility fees, offering an incentive for those that finish higher up in the table.
It is important not to overlook the English language component which makes the Premier League accessible to more markets. There are close to 1.4 billion English language speakers across the globe, surpassing those who speak Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, French, Hindi or Bengali. There will be broadcasters who do offer commentary and insights of the Premier League in these languages, but it is beneficial that the players, coaches, supporters and pundits are often native to the English language. It is a component that can hamper other European likes such as La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy and the Bundesliga in Germany.
A thriving second division via the Championship helps to support the competition for places in the Premier League, adding another dimension that is not evident with other mainstream American sports. Although the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS are lucrative in their own right, they do not maintain a promotion and relegation system that includes and removes three new clubs every year. It follows the same principle as the other major soccer competitions around the world, but has the financial muscle to incentivize a higher threshold of spend to becoming a Premier League affiliated organization.