Hey, I know you guys just love your football brands, writes Stoopy DeGunt, digital zeitgeist manager of marketing agency Brand 100, but we shouldn’t forget the game’s long illustrious history. To understand today’s game, we need to go back a century, to when Nick Hornby invented football in 1990.
You know why we all love football? It’s the great leveller. Everyone’s gotten bragging rights. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a VIP, like Piers Morgan, or just a plain old not very important person. Soccer, like the Internet, democratizes society. Although obviously, non VIPs won’t be welcomed with a name tag and a goody bag and a place in the corporate box. But you can dream!
Whether you’re in the gym, the Groucho club or just detoxing at the Priory, there’s always a PR, a marketing manager or a publicist wanting to share their opinion on Chelsea’s new strip or Brand Beckham. Soccer is hot!
Football, as ITV’s Matt Smith sagely points out before most shows, is all about bragging rights, and by that we surely mean marketing. And, this being the Twitter age, bragging rights and online self promotion are both nature and nurture.
Market leaders Chelsea face stiff opposition from a club with even deeper pockets, from Manchester of all places!
Social media has taught us to spend each and every minute of the day promoting our own personal brand. So naturally everyone, from celebs to search engine optimizers, has their opinion on which soccer brand is the most enduring. But it’s a tough judgement call.
Champions League winners Chelsea, with their to-die-for west London address and billionaire owner, would top most lists of key influencers people’s in the all important demographics of ABC1, BBC1 and NW1.
But they’re not getting it all their own way. Market leaders Chelsea face stiff opposition from a club with even deeper pockets, from Manchester of all places! According to the BBC, this up and coming district in Northern London has put itself on the map big time.
Little known start up Manchester City has enjoyed a massive injection of cash from new owners and sponsorship of their ground by a premium airline Etihad. They took a risk by setting up ‘off post code’ but it’s paid off handsomely, and now they have a state of the art stadium but, here’s the genius, at a minimal cost base thanks to the bargain real estate prices in this undiscovered suburb of London.
In the battle of the brands, it’s anybody’s guess whose stock will emerge the strongest and which boardroom will triumph.
“If Chelsea aren’t vigilant, they could find their market capitalization over taken by this aggressive upstart,” says Dawn Haze, of city analysts Offshore Realties. “To use a soccer metaphor, it’s not quite a first down and ten but it’s certainly time to step up to the plate.”
But waiting in the wings is another start up, Manchester United, whose skilful marketing team has somehow attracted an all important home counties fan base to their out of town, low rent premises. With 75,000 seats and a customer base of proven gullibility, the Old Trafford merchandise operation is doing some incredible numbers. According to legend, you could put Howard Webb’s name on a Manchester United shirt and fans would believe he was their star player. Irony alert: Howard Webb is a judgement caller (or referee as we soccer fanatics - the condescentii - say).
“United is doing the numbers and has an impressive fan footprint,” says Haze.
The turf war over bragging rights is a delicately poised business battle, which could go either way. In the battle of the brands, it’s anybody’s guess whose stock will emerge the strongest and which boardroom will triumph. Nobody really knows – not even the CEO!
If you asked Rodney Marsh or Alan Hudson – the brand evangelists of their day - about marketing alignment, they wouldn’t have known what you were talking about.
We found Alex Ferguson, a loyal servant to Manchester U (as fans call it). Ferguson, though 70 and Scottish from a working class background, still holds down a job as team manager at Manchester U, a fact that has impressed analysts, who say keeping the old guy on helps the company exude all the right brand values for their current market demographic. “The old guy doesn’t know it but he’s a marketing maestro. It’s a brilliant PR coup,” says John Brimstone, new digital director of must-have new social list style bible the News Stats Man.
Despite being old and scotch, Ferguson managed to sums up this crazy business as well as any of the C level executives. “Football, eh? Phew,” he said.
To understand what might happen next season, you might need to drill down into the data of these illustrious corporations. It’s possible to trace the histories of all these clubs back to when football was first discovered, by Nick Hornby, in 1990. It was a completely different world back then.
A numerical analysis of the game, based on corner, free kicks, throw in and other important stats, can give vital clues as to the outcome of future games.
Staggeringly, in the old days, corporations like Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs had to produce their own players, from local youth teams. Merchandising was so limited as to be non existent, and football grounds let anyone in. In those days, football certainly wasn’t about ‘bragging rights’. Indeed, marketing was virtually unheard of, and if you asked Rodney Marsh or Alan Hudson – the brand evangelists of their day - about marketing alignment, they wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. It hardly bears thinking about now.
But some variables do bear comparison. A numerical analysis of the game, based on corner, free kicks, throw in and other important stats, can give vital clues as to the outcome of future games. Thankfully, even back then, there were people who know how to ignore the game and concentrate on the statistics.
But, as we shall see in the next instalment of my Soccer Metrics Masterclass, real time analytics had a long way to go. Now, by looking at data on fan incomes, post codes and club revenues, we can get a more realistic analysis of the entertainment industry sub sector they branded “The People’s Game.”
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