Football fan kissing the world cup in a sombrero

Speaking the right language: the value of international social strategies

WePlay employee

Jack Flannigan

14th Feb 2023

At WePlay, we work with brands that have truly global aspirations. Liverpool fans holding up Liverpool scarfs in Anfield

Wherever they go, our partners are ambitious. They want to do things that resonate with fans because they know – as we do – that engaging audiences will drive new revenue opportunities.

However, to grow anywhere, you must first appreciate that the same approach will not work everywhere. No matter how universal the core appeal of a sports or entertainment brand may be, a localised approach can make all the difference in connecting with fans.

That is especially true when it comes to social media and digital marketing. Those channels offer worldwide reach but without considered international social strategies, a huge amount of potential can go to waste.

Knowing where to grow

There are plenty of reasons a sports organisation might focus on a specific overseas market or region.

A team with a new signing may want to engage with that star’s fanbase in their home country. Audience data could suggest a sport is enjoying a rise in regional awareness, or there is momentum building behind a major event or government strategy. A league might be ready to follow up on a recent sponsorship deal or have plans to expand an OTT service into a new territory.

Whatever the motivation, identifying and capitalising on international opportunities for growth and engagement takes preparation and sensitivity.

There are five key steps to consider here.

  • The process begins with market research. To best understand your prospects in a new territory, you should gather data on local purchasing power, demographic information, and preferences. This will allow you to assess the size of your addressable market and the possibilities for growth.


  • Related to this is a careful analysis of market trends, which will help you design short to medium-term activities that cut through in a new market while supporting your business goals. For instance, if there is significant interest in sustainability within your prospective target audience, and that corresponds with your products or campaigns, you should align your messaging accordingly.


  • Cultural awareness is of massive importance. Understanding local values, beliefs and behaviours are not just advantageous, it can often be non-negotiable. This knowledge will be crucial as you tailor your marketing messages. That goes both for unchanging principles and for the popular conversation. Keeping up with what matters in the moment – like significant incidents in national sports leagues or TV shows – can help you meet local audiences on their terms and make your content more relatable.


  • In many cases, partnerships with local businesses or organisations can help you deepen your relationships within a market and with potential customers.


  • And it is all a learning curve: you have to test and adjust. A small-scale pilot programme may be useful, with a soft launch and A/B testing helping to generate data that supports further adaptations before a full roll-out.

As well as hard numbers, that information-generating exercise can give you time to find the right people to work with and get more comfortable with local norms – better informing the kind of authentic communication that works best on social media.

The importance of international social strategies: US soccer fans in a stadium watching live soccer


Localising your core identity

Localising a brand while maintaining its existing character can also be challenging. However, it is essential to strike the right balance between preserving what you have and adapting to the tastes of your target audience.

Here, again, are five things to think about.

  • Translation is an obvious localisation exercise and should be as comprehensive as possible. All written communications, including product descriptions, marketing materials, and website entries, as well as video captions, should be converted into the local language to make them more accessible. And this process must involve people as well as automated tools. Establishing a strong local voice with a subtle grasp of the slang, references and sense of humour that comes naturally to native speakers will deliver real and lasting benefits.


  • Broader cultural adaptation is also vital. You will need to modify your marketing messages and content – including images or illustrations, colours and font styles – to local expectations and terminology. That also goes for adaptations within international markets. Global football, for example, is a game with near-universal relevance in Europe. But when European clubs are active in the US, they address a fanbase that is typically younger, more urban and coastal, and more likely to fit certain demographics than mainstream American sports.


  • Whatever your efforts to create a new international identity, maintaining brand consistency is still fundamental. You need to ensure that marketing materials and content align with the master brand’s qualities and tone of voice, even while finding local analogues for that.


  • Developing a strong local influencer marketing strategy can be an effective way to achieve brand awareness. Not only do those influencers bring their own followers into play, but they can also lend a personal, authentic touch that brings your brand to life in what might otherwise be an unfamiliar setting.


  • Once again, you need to test and adjust, learning from your audience and tweaking your output based on direct consumer feedback.

Speaking with one voice 

In any communications plan, you must know who you are talking to and why.

There will be contexts where a team or league wants to hone in on a specific market – perhaps ahead of a fixture in that country or during an important national holiday. And there are also times when it feels like the whole world can unite around one message.

The decision to work towards a universal social strategy or create distinct channels will depend on several factors, like the nature of your business, your target audience, and your marketing goals.

A universal social strategy works best when your target audience is global and has similar needs, behaviours, and preferences across the board. It allows you to maintain consistent brand identity and messaging everywhere, reducing the need for extensive localisation efforts.

Distinct channels are more suitable when there are significant cultural differences between markets, and the target audience has distinct preferences and behaviours. In this case, differentiating your content and messaging can meet unique local needs.

Most organisations will want to find their own balance. If your target audience is primarily based in one place but you have a significant presence with distinct cultural differences elsewhere, then the best fit may be a universal strategy.

Ultimately, the key to success is understanding who you are trying to reach and determining what will land best with them. A thoughtful, logical approach can help your brand communicate in the right way in the moment – no matter where you happen to be.

Ready to take your international strategy to the next level? Get in touch now to understand how WePlay can develop a targeted, localised strategy that meets your growth marketing ambitions. Don’t wait, contact us today and let’s start growing together!