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Premier League tops the British Icon Index II league table

New analysis from Populus shows that the UK has a number of different brands, institutions and industries which work in its favour to positively influence attitudes towards the country, and the most effective of these is the Premier League.

As the UK’s date of departure from the European Union moves ever closer, Britain’s politicians and journalists continue to focus on what the divorce settlement will look like. Regardless of what form Brexit takes, the UK must continue to do business with a world not preoccupied with our relationship with the EU. Therefore, the way in which the UK presents itself to a wider audience matters; the Global Britain story needs telling, perhaps now more than ever.

“I want us to be a truly Global Britain…A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies.”

Theresa May, March 2017

In order to determine which of the UK’s brands or institutions will carry this story most effectively in a post-Brexit world, we repeated our 2015 research on British icons and their global influence, though this time on a much larger scale.

We interviewed over 20,000 people from 20 different countries across the world (including both established economies and emerging markets) on their views towards ten of the UK’s most well-known icons. We then analysed the results to find the “X factor” – that hidden attribute which comes closest to capturing all of the positive qualities we tested for. How much “X factor” each icon has determines its place in our British Icon Index.

The results of our research show that the UK can take confidence from the fact that all the icons tested perform well across global markets. In fact, British icons tend to perform better in emerging economies than in more established ones. The highest average icon score is in Thailand (80.9/100), followed by Indonesia (80.0) and Nigeria (79.4). The lowest average icon scores are in Russia (62.9), Norway (63.0) and the USA (64.7).

There are particular icons that perform consistently well. For example, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover benefit from global consumer marketing activity and strong reputations. Meanwhile, in countries with strong cultural links to the UK, longstanding British brands and institutions such as the BBC also perform highly.

However, as in 2015, it is the Premier League that performs best across all British icons tested. It has a more rounded profile than any of the other icons, combining strong scores on metrics such as being modern, globally recognised and making people think better of the UK with high levels of familiarity and favourability

The League also performs more consistently than others in markets across the world, with high scores in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. This global reach is reflected in the cosmopolitan make-up of the League: 103 Premier League players were at this year’s World Cup (30 more than the next most represented league) and in all, 122 nationalities have been represented in the Premier League since its inception.

Significantly, our analysis also shows that the Premier League’s impact as an icon does not rely on favourability towards the UK. Instead, it shows that the League has the power to ‘pull’ people towards the UK.

That pulling power may prove more important than ever in the future particularly since the Premier League performs even better among young affluent people than it does among the global public, ranking top among with the young, well-to-do regardless of gender.

Among the global business and political leaders of the future, there are few of any more powerful ways of selling the story of post-Brexit Britain than through the Premier League.

Download and read the full British Icon Index II 2018 here.


Celia Roberts

Celia joined Populus in 2014 as a Research Executive and has since been promoted to Consultant. Since joining Populus, she has managed a number of different research projects for some of Populus’s biggest accounts including BT, Sainsbury’s and the Premier League. As part of her work for the Premier League, she has co-ordinated both domestic and international research among fans, most recently organising a six-market series of focus groups in Southeast Asia.  Celia graduated from the University of Exeter and holds a degree in English and Spanish. As part of her degree she spent a year abroad living and working in Madrid. In 2016, Celia completed the Market Research Society Advanced Certificate, for which she received a distinction.

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