Welcome to Wrexham has made Wrexham AFC an online sensation

In August of 2022, FX released a documentary series called Welcome to Wrexham. The unlikely stars of the show, a Welsh team in the fifth tier of the English football league system and the people of the City of Wrexham in North Wales. The documentary charts the story of new co-chairmen of the club who are more accustomed to the limelight, Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, as they begin stewardship of the third oldest football team in the world.

An international hit, Welcome to Wrexham (which is available on Disney+ in the UK), has already been renewed for a second season and has received critical praise from media outlets across the globe, including here on Screen OD (you can watch my video review below if you like).

But far more than simply entertain and educate audiences with the story of the club’s effort to gain promotion to the Football League and the desire of the owners to help do good in the community across Wrexham through the football team, Welcome to Wrexham has made an internet star of Wrexham AFC, almost doubling the club’s social media footprint in less than six months and causing a never-before-seen surge in web activity around the club.

According to an exclusive analysis of data by Screen OD, the club’s total social media footprint has increased from 764,000 followers the week before the release of Welcome to Wrexham in the week of 24th August 2022 to over 1.38 million followers at the time of writing, an incredible 80 per cent increase in less than six months.

All of the social media platforms have seen incredible growth during this period led by the official Wrexham AFC YouTube channel that has seen 176 per cent growth since the show launched from 21,700 subscribers to almost 60k today. Instagram is up 155% from 131,000 followers in August 2022 to 334,000 in January 2023, with a similarly huge 120% rise in Facebook fans, and a triple-digit rise in Twitter followers from 147k to 306k and double-digit growth in TikTok followers, with 560k+ followers for Wrexham’s official account on the video social media platform at the time of writing.

Indeed, much of the hyper-growth in the club’s TikTok account began before the series began due to the sponsorship deal between Wrexham and the social media platform that’s seen TikTok sponsor the shirts of the first team since the 2021/22 season, the campaign which is detailed in the first season of Welcome to Wrexham. The club’s involvement with TikTok has also seen on-platform activity including appearances from Reynolds and McElhenney which grew the TikTok account before the launch of the series.

Humphrey Ker, executive director at Wrexham AFC, said in 2021: “We were blown away by the ideas that TikTok had for their partnership with the club. The opportunity to access the full breadth of their platform creates a community-building opportunity many will envy.”

The social media success of the club since Welcome to Wrexham has launched will have been helped by the commitment to promoting the club and the series online by its famous owners, helping to spread the word about the exploits of Paul Mullin, Ollie Palmer, Luke Young and the team across the globe. Ryan Reynolds alone has 47m followers on Instagram, 21m followers on Twitter and more than 21 million followers on TikTok and regularly posts about the club.

But it’s not just on social media that interest in Wrexham AFC has reached a fever pitch in the months since Welcome to Wrexham season one began airing.

Google searches for the club have also spiked thanks to the series, as the graph below illustrates.

Over the past five years, the search for the club remained fairly steady until late 2020 when news broke that Reynolds and McElhenney were in talks to take over the club. A further spike in search interest globally occurred in February 2021 when the deal was finalised.

Another huge surge in interest in the club came from Google users globally in May 2022 when the first trailer was released for Welcome to Wrexham. This was followed by a slight lull in searches followed by the biggest spike in searches for the club ever seen in August 2022 when the series began to air weekly on FX in the US and Disney+ in the UK and other territories.

Even at its lowest point since the show launched, search interest in the club has remained more than five times higher than its average before the series was aired and at most times has been many times higher than that, and appears to be increasing again.

This interest is likely driven by a new army of global Wrexham fans keen to stay up to date with the club’s fortunes. In recent months this will have been helped further by an FA Cup run that saw the team beat Championship side Coventry City away in an extraordinary 3-4 win in the Third Round to set up a mouthwatering home game at The Racecourse against another Championship side Sheffield Utd on the 28th January in the Fourth Round.

The club also reports a surge in activity on its own website during the first four weeks after the initial broadcast of Welcome to Wrexham with almost 200,000 new visitors to the club’s merchandise page garnering almost 4,000 purchases equating to sales of £300,000. When added together with boosted club shop sales in the same period the club sold £360,000 worth of merchandise between 24th August and 20th September, an incredible 500 per cent increase in sales from just under £60,000 taken during the same period the previous year.

If you want further evidence of this surge in interest converting to merchandise sales, look at the replica shirts on the club’s online store – at the time of writing the home, away and third shirts are all sold out (I know because I tried to buy one!).

Such has been the positive impact of the new ownership of the club, documented in Welcome to Wrexham that in December 2022 co-Chairmen Rob and Ryan were offered the Freedom of the County Borough of Wrexham, an honour they have accepted and will accept in person sometime this year.

Speaking of the award, they said: “We would like to thank everyone connected with the offer of the Freedom of the County Borough of Wrexham.

“We will continue to promote Wrexham to the World and encourage people to speak passionately about our adopted home.

“The working relationship between the Club & the Council is one that we value highly, leaving us really positive about the future together, going into 2023.”

With high-profile success in the oldest cup competition in the world, a very real chance of getting promoted out of non-league football into League Two and a visit from the King himself to the Racecourse among the highlights for the growing fanbase to enjoy in season two, it’s hard to see how Welcome to Wrexham -and with it, the online footprint of Wrexham AFC- can do anything but go from strength to strength in 2023 and beyond.

Tim Glanfield

Tim Glanfield is a journalist, editor and broadcaster with more than 15 years experience writing about television, film and the entertainment business. He has been editor of RadioTimes.com, a writer for The Times (of London) and the Guardian as well as a freelance contributor to newspapers, magazines and websites across the world. He is author of the book Digital Economy or Bust: The Story of a New Media Startup and makes regular appearances on TV and radio in the UK.

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