Despite the seemingly endless amount of football throughout the year, fans of the game continue to want more, as evident in the popularity of behind-the-scenes football docuseries.
Football is constantly analyzed. Footballers are regularly in the spotlight. And the evergrowing digital presence in society is rapidly increasing, with things like augmented reality, virtual reality, web 3.0, NFTs, statistical analysis, fan involvement, and so on. This scrutiny, especially in how much fans want insight into every detail of the sport, makes the recent increase in popularity for “all-access” documentaries in football understandable. As Amazon makes its way through every single club in the world, I wanted to take a look at why we are so obsessed with accessing all areas of the game.
The first modern documentary I watched in this vein was Sunderland ‘Til I Die, a Netflix docuseries that was originally focused on the club’s return to the Premier League but instead, highlighted back-to-back relegations and a whole load of turmoil at the club. As a Newcastle fan, I loved it. But as a football fan, it posed questions about the direction of football content for the future.
A booming social media scene can be one of the main culprits as to why the world is so thirsty for more from their favorite clubs and players. The constant indulgence in social media content has exacerbated this obsession as we now have access to these clubs and players in our hands, 24/7.
With this easy access, fans have become increasingly addicted to this extra content, with the need growing exponentially over the recent years. And with the brand-first approach from the majority of football clubs, fulfilling these needs is crucial to commercial performance, regardless of if the team is performing on the pitch or not.
Behind-the-scenes content is entirely a marketing tactic deployed by clubs to tap into the emotional attachments of their fans (or brand communities, if we want to be technical). It adds even more value beyond the shirt sales and on-pitch performances. It gives life and personality to clubs and players, allowing for stronger connections between brand and consumer.
Alongside this approach to social media content, we’ve seen the infiltration of American commercial content in the form of the Amazon Prime series All or Nothing, which has seen BTS access to teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and eventually Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus, the Brazil national team, Arsenal, and Manchester City.
These documentaries provide deep access to various club machinations previously kept under wraps: team talks, players asking for more game time, training, meetings with the chairman, and more. The popularity of these docuseries proved their success and now we’re seeing every club being linked with some form of All or Nothing series. Newcastle United, Manchester United, Liverpool, the list goes on. And I predict that it won’t only be Amazon making this a regular thing, either. The constant access on social media is just the appetizer to a more in-depth documentary approach.
The question of why are we so obsessed comes back to the fact that we are football fans, and most of us have a strong attachment, for whatever reason, to specific clubs and/or players. But to discuss this, we must consider the context of football itself. The growth. The brand-first approach. And then we must intertwine this with societal context. Social media. The ease. The always-on. The constant need for content.
One of my favourite speeches from Jose Mourinho.
Sad to see what’s happening to Dele Alli… pic.twitter.com/KL60BPCQva
— george (@StokeyyG2) January 6, 2023
This brings us to the conclusion that we are so obsessed with being behind the scenes simply because we are now able to be. We don’t have to wonder or fantasize about what goes on in football clubhouses anymore. Clubs know this, and realized that they can exploit our emotional attachment to them to make it even stronger.
Whether the docuseries shows a good side like Manchester City winning trophies, or a bad side like Sunderland failing to stay in their league, they create noise, and they massage the tribalism, tapping into the subconscious approach to football fandom and the psychology behind being a fan.
Behind-the-scenes content isn’t a new thing. Movies and TV have been doing it for years. But the boom of it in football is an interesting topic to focus on, especially with the psychological and societal insight and implications. Whatever your take on behind-the-scenes content and social media’s influence in football, its growth is rapidly increasing and as we head to a new age of digital, I expect more and more chaos to be endured. Hold tight.