In Brazil the World Cup is sparking a degree of division and protest, but in the UK it’s creating a more harmonious approach to fandom and nationalism. Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope looks at how there’s much more to this World Cup than England.

Mintel’s latest research shows 52% of people in the UK will be supporting England during the 2014 World Cup – a figure that has caused some to cast doubts about our patriotic integrity. In reality, 52% isn’t a bad result, once we factor in the Scots, the Welsh and those who simply couldn’t care for football.

Reality Reboot

At this World Cup, there’s a tangible lower intensity to the media hype and sponsorship push behind the England team, likely due to England’s lack of progress in recent tournaments and the wider reality check that has cooled optimism. It’s very telling that the level of support ebbs away with age, dipping to 44% amongst those over 65s old enough to remember England’s last World Cup success in 1966. Again perhaps this is hardly surprising once we consider the dampening effect of eight subsequent campaigns of failure, darkened by the traumatic groundhog day scenario of a hat-trick of terminally inept penalty shootouts. Many bookies have England as only third favourites to emerge from Group D and with 13% of England fans also supporting another team, there may well be an element of them hedging their bets.

Diehard loyalties and traditions do remain though, and support for England is notably stronger in the footballing hotbeds of the North East and the North West – where it rises to 65%. Historically the North West is arguably the epicentre of British football, being home to some 16 English league clubs, including the giants of Manchester and Merseyside. The fact that no less than 15 of England’s squad play for North western clubs may be an additional factor here.

The New This is England

However looking beyond England, it’s possible to see a positive picture of football as a genuinely unifying cultural and political force.

Some 17% of world cup viewers will be supporting a team other than – or in addition to – England. Amongst these, the host Brazil is the clear favourite, with 32% supporting the Seleção. Spain (24%) Italy (19%), Germany (15%), Argentina (12%) and Netherlands (12%) make up the remaining top six. People’s adoption of other teams is a welcome progression away from jingoism, but also a reflection of how cosmopolitan society – and our football teams – have become, with 15% of consumers saying that they will watch games with people of other nationalities.

This reminds us – following months of political hand-wringing over the rise of right wing politics – that the UK can be an inclusive place even in the arena of football. Not surprising perhaps considering that Mintel’s research has shown that 50% of UK consumers agree with the statement that ‘Being British’ is now as much about embracing different cultures as it is about sticking to British traditions. With this in mind, one just hopes that in the modern era, any potential humiliations inflicted by the boot of Andrea Pirlo and his fellow Azurri players do not provoke the kind of payback that saw German made cars suffer for England’s defeats to Germany back in Italia 90 and Euro 96.

This isn’t just one world sentiment, because it has potential commercial clout. Just as travel broadens the mind and turns tourists in to commercial ambassadors, so does football and its players. The World Cup piques our interest in other cultures, with over one in 10 (13%) viewers claiming that it has made them interested in visiting Brazil and 17% of viewers say that they would like trying out different food and drinks to match the teams they are watching during the tournament.

If you would like to know what these trends – and others – mean for your business please contact Richard to discuss our trend presentation, project and facilitation services. E-mail: rcope@mintel.com; Twitter @Richard_Mintel

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