When it comes to soccer coverage in the U.S., the camera tends to find a narrowly-defined fan. Typically, they’re a fan of a top club. They’re in a major city. They’re often young, white, and male.
But we understand the fandom of the sport, and the Premier League in particular, is much more diverse. Fans of the league are non-uniform no matter which way you slice it. They support the Burnleys as passionately as they support the Liverpools. They’re multi-ethnic. They watch in bars alone and they watch at home with children. They support in rural America just as hard as they support in cosmopolitan cities. They love their teams the same regardless of race, religion, sexuality, and gender.
To capture this broad support, we began the first #PLFansOfAmerica campaign for the league’s American social media channels, @PLinUSA, on Twitter and Instagram. Taking inspiration from Humans of New York, we set out to take rich lifestyle portraits of fans from every club and post a long-form caption, allowing each person to tell the story of their fandom in their own words.
Although the project had test-runs in specific markets like Boston, New York, Austin, and Miami in previous seasons, this campaign was the first to cover the entire country, coast-to-coast, with a fan published every match week of the season. Although the pandemic presented challenges for a nationwide campaign, all stories were captured safely. We identified fans online using our intimate knowledge of the American fanbase and sourced local talent to photograph the fans outside in socially distanced settings.
National scale – 33 posts, 43 fans, 22 cities
The result was a resoundingly successful tentpole of the league’s American content. On Instagram – the main platform for the series – the engagement numbers over-indexed relative to day-to-day content, averaging more than 3,200 likes and 40,000 impressions. We were able to truly represent Premier League fans in America.
Over the course of the season, the diversity of the series shined. Thirty-three fans were featured with each of the 20 Premier League clubs represented at least once. The subjects represented a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, including fans of East Asian, South Asian, African, and Hispanic origins. Geographically, 23 unique cities were represented, from New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago to Goshen, Indiana, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Waco, Texas, and many more.
Additionally, the series provided the league an opportunity to authentically connect its own cultural and social justice initiatives throughout the season. The series partnered with famed Black Lives Matter photojournalist Mel D. Cole to document the stories of Black PL fans, including a five-part series during February for Black History Month.
The series also told the stories of several fans of Mexican descent for Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as multiple members of the LGTBQ+ community as part of the league’s Rainbow Laces initiative.
The next season promises to bring even more interesting, passionate, and diverse stories to the table when the league resumes in August. Be sure to follow @PLinUSA to see them!
To read more about each of the Premier League fans in America we covered and how they fell in love with their club, visit the Premier League website for the full story.