What drives demand in a nation that did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup?

Mr Ulrich Keller

Dr Troels Troelsen

Posted: June 26, 2014

Tagged: economy / fans / impact / sponsors

June, 11 2013 – a day of sorrow in Denmark as Danish Dynamite suffered a devastating 0-4 defeat against Armenia at Parken, our national stadium. Both Denmark as a nation and the national football were in shock; a shock which the team would not discover from. As a result, DK failed to qualify for the World Cup 2014.

Denmark is a small country but, in line with its national self-conception, a regular qualification for global tournaments is normal. Given that DK is not participating in its fifth World Cup, it is interesting to assess what drives demand and enthusiasm for the WC in Denmark, when the country is not there?

Often people correlate national team sports with national pride. However, once your national team fails to qualify, national pride as a driver for consumption (i.e. demand) and enthusiasm disappears. Danish national television broadcasts all WC games; a public viewing site has been installed in Islands Brygge, Copenhagen. Danish WC-enthusiasm might still be capped, but is very likely to increase as the tournament progresses.

Being a ‘minor nation’, the Danish Superliga attracts less attention than leagues of larger European nations such as England, Germany, Spain and Italy (top 4). Such lower domestic demand naturally lowers the available budgets of Danish Superliga teams: funds flowing into Denmark’s professional football clubs are far lower than those of their top 4-European counterparts. Yet, with football being the most popular and practiced sport in Denmark, the public appreciates on-pitch quality. The Superliga is the most followed league among Danes. This fact does not limit Danish interest with respect to other European leagues. What’s the reason? The big four leagues are home to better players and teams.

Football is a spectator’s sport; fans are driven by both emotional attachment and spectacularly high-level game-play. This is no different for Danish football fans. Danish football enthusiasts are constantly exposed to aggressive marketing of the big leagues, and international club tournaments, in particular, the UEFA Champions League. Similarly, fierce competition exists between Danish cable TV providers for broadcasting the top 4 European football leagues, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europe League.

Danish enthusiasm and demand for club football is not limited to domestic competitions and competitors: many Danish football fans regularly support a non-Danish team. As a result, Danish football fans are very familiar with the players and national teams currently competing in Brazil – despite them not being Danish. It seems as if Danish fans often end up supporting their favorite (non-Danish) player’s squad. In other words, a Danish Liverpool fan might be a fan of Uruguay’s Luis Suárez and therefore Uruguay’s national team. Such support exists despite the lack of a Danish WC-presence. It also shows that fans from small countries, such as Denmark, might be more inclined to watch the best players from their preferred league and/or teams– e.g. Liverpool, Barca, Dortmund, Juve – and support a “second” national team, as temporary replacement for Denmark.

The strong global brand presence of the aforementioned top European leagues has arguably affected many Danish fans to cheer for the national teams of those leagues. Yet, Denmark is a small country, and nothing feels better for Danish football fans than beating larger-country favorites and emerging as a successful underdog. The Danish rise to the top of the Euro ’92 is still deeply rooted in Danish football culture. Watching a succeeding underdog by creating a surprising element of a tournament also drives national enthusiasm. Such an up-stage could be remembered for years to come. This is likely to increase consumption on Danish soil. After all, the charm of sports in general, and football in particular, is the uncertainty of outcome.

For Danish brewery giant Carlsberg, the teams to support are England and Switzerland. Budweiser may have been the WC’s official beer since 2006, but Carlsberg grabs market fragments and runs many campaigns in connection with the tournament – especially in England. In Carlsberg’s home nation beer and football are also very closely connected. There are plenty of opportunities to watch the games in Copenhagen and beyond. Danish national broadcaster DR shows at least one match outside every evening on a big screen, where people can enjoy football along with some Brazilian barbeque and some smooth samba beats to set the mood. This creates an atmosphere of Brazil in the middle of Copenhagen, where people can feel as if they’re part of the World Cup. Aim: feel-good factor and increased consumption. Other parts of Denmark can also enjoy some big-screen action with similar arrangements. However, we are not in the WC and we are not in Brazil: Danish enthusiasm and related national consumption are not comparable to what they would and should have been, if Denmark would’ve qualified.




About Ulrich Keller

Ulrich Keller (MSc and LLM) is a Research Coordinator and Project Manager for a multiparty industrial pricing excellence project. He holds Elite and Excellence degrees and is a Doctoral Candidate. Ulrich’s expertise centers on sports economics, managerial economics, branding, marketing and (dynamic) pricing. He has consulted on various high-profile international pricing, sports and event projects.

About Dr Troels Troelsen

Troels Troelsen, director for Sports Economics and associate professor at CBS.
Most quoted researcher in the danish media on sports economics. During the career: Lecturing at Sports MBA´s, president -Danish Atletic Federation, member of the elite commitee – Danish Olympic Commitee, sponsoring organisation in IAAF, the academic board of TSE Consulting and World Champion for Masters.