Love it or loath it, there will be no escaping the return of Premiership Football this weekend.
Thousands of people, young and old, will spend hundreds of pounds on tickets, travel, shirts and match day programmes as they support their team with a passion – something the majority of brands and companies can only dream of creating.
So, what can marketers learn from football (and other sports for that matter)? Quite a bit, I think, and here’s four points that immediately spring to mind.
Easy to understand
Football is a simple game. Yes, the offside rule might confuse some, but essentially everyone, even if they don’t watch football, follow a team or dislike the game, knows what the teams are trying to do: put the ball in the net more times than the opposition. All of the teams approach this goal in slightly different ways but the objective is straightforward.
Can you say the same about your product or service? Many businesses fall into the trap of over-complicating the benefits of their product or service. Yes, sometimes, products do really complicate things, which is all the more reason to make sure you can explain what you do and what you do differently and better in easy to understand terms.
A shared experience
Football brings people together. Whether it be 80,000 at Old Trafford or 800 at Gainsborough, people watch the game together. It’s a shared experience and for some, what happens off the pitch is as important as the game: meeting friends, sharing opinions, catching up and having a laugh, it’s not all about the product.
Is it possible for brands to copy this? Yes. Think of your shop as a football ground. Is it easy to get to? Does it look good? Does the décor match your wide branding and design work? Are your products easy to see? Do people like visiting you?
The shared experience extends beyond physical things like stadiums. There’s a collective passion for the team. Some brands apparently come close to replicating this emotion – ‘Apple Fan Boys’: people who are so passionate about the company, they have to have the latest device.
A lot of people, much more intelligent than me, have written about how following football touches humans’ natural desire to be part of a ‘tribe’, a group of like-minded people, with the same values and a common interest.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your customers had the same feelings about your product or service? What could you do to connect with your customers? How could you engage with them and build a community they feel part of? A bit of social media activity perhaps?
An evolving story
Football is an ever-evolving story. When one season ends, it’s only a couple of months until the next one starts. Even in the close season, things are happening. Yes, football is the national game, and the back pages are dominated by it but this is because the clubs are very good at creating and issuing stories. Keeping people interested and committed requires regular communication with them. This is true for all brands – not just football clubs: turbine manufacturers, potato growers, cafes and restaurants: all of them need to keep their ‘fans’ engaged.
A life-long commitment
Football clubs work incredibly hard to gain the attention of young people. If they start supporting a club at an early age, there’s a strong chance they will stay loyal for life. From sales promotions – kids go free, £1 seats or free season tickets for Under 12s – the football clubs know that once a parent and their children have experienced a game together there’s a strong chance they’ll be back. It doesn’t matter if the team lost, there’s always next week and another special offer or incentive just round the corner.
How many businesses would like to have life-long customers? What can you do to attract new people? How can you make their experience so good that they keep coming back again and again (and even if, sometimes, results don’t quite go their way)?
There are lots of other things we, as marketers, can learn from football – the importance of pricing, managing bad news and disappointing results, adding other products and services to complement the main offering and bring in additional revenue and maybe we’ll look at those in a future column.
So regardless of whether you’re a season ticket holder, an arm chair fan or dislike the beautiful game with a passion, if you’re involved in promoting a business or service, thinking about how football clubs, like Manchester United and Real Madrid, have grown into some of the world’s most profitable brands could be well worth 90 minutes of your time!
Our success in promoting Festival800, a city-wide celebration of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
Our campaign for the cultural response and celebration of Magna Carta, which took place in August 2015, has been shortlisted in the Best Integrated Campaign and Best Arts, Culture and Sports categories of the CIPR PRide awards, which celebrate outstanding Public Relations activity across the UK.
Organised by cultural solutions UK on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Festival800 offered ten days of live music, comedy, spoken word, street theatre, lectures and debate. Artists such as Billy Bragg and the Levellers; author, screenwriter and comedian Shappi Khorsandi; YouTube sensation Alfie Deyes; Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL; were joined by a host of national and international artists and human rights activists, including the family of US Civil Rights Icon, Rosa Parks, in Lincoln for the festival.
David Lambert, director of cultural solutions UK, who appointed Lava to the brief said: “With such an eclectic cultural programme we needed an equally eclectic team of professionals to reach and engage the potential diverse audiences. We could not have secured the services of a more switched on, professional agency. Lava surprised us in all the right ways. They worked with us to create an innovative marketing campaign within budget and on time. It was a fantastic relationship! I wish them every success at the awards and hope to work with them again.”
Established in 2006, Lava is no stranger to success in the PRide Awards having won eight Gold and Silver awards since 2009. “We are about to celebrate our tenth anniversary and two more awards, our ninth and tenth CIPR Pride wins, would be fantastic birthday presents,” says Lava’s managing director, Matt Hammerton. “We have a particularly strong track record of delivering effective campaigns for clients in the arts and cultural sectors. We’re really looking forward to a trip to Leeds in November and hopefully adding another two trophies to our collection.”
The CIPR PRide Awards recognise the best in public relations across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. Over 1,000 entries were received from freelancers, agencies and in-house teams the length and breadth of the UK.
Lava, which is the only agency from Lincolnshire to be shortlisted, will find out if they’ve won either award on 24th November.
At the beginning of the week, all the talk about Manchester United focused on their cancelled game against Bournemouth.
The team’s many sponsors will understand the media attention on the discovery of a suspicious package within Old Trafford but quite a few people will be disappointed that their promotional plans didn’t come off.
Last week’s April Fools’ Day was a bit of a damp squid for me. Not because there was a lack of creative, funny and almost believable April Fools’ Day stories doing the rounds but because of the way a lot of people reacted to them.
April Fools’ Day has historically been an opportunity for brands and their audiences to share a lighter moment. The day has been a chance for publicists to slacken the chains of creativity and come up with harmless stories that make people ask ‘Really? Are they really going to do that? Surely that’s not true? Is it?’
I remember Uri Geller encouraging breakfast TV viewers to place a slice of bread on top of their TV as he was going to toast it using the power of his mind! My grandpa nearly wet himself as I became an April Fool. I was only about 10, I hasten to add.
Previous generations have also been duped by spaghetti growing trees, BBC staff fighting behind Des Lynam as he presented Grandstand, and Big Ben going digital to keep up with the times (sorry!) More recently, Burger King introduced the Left Handed Whopper and YouTube RickRolled us to watching Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up far too much.
Two years ago, Lava ‘discovered’ the world’s oldest store loyalty card in the foundations of the Waterside Shopping Centre during the mall’s redevelopment. Quite a few people came into the centre to look at it when it was displayed between 9am and midday, and I don’t think anyone moaned about the prank when they found out it was an April Fools’ Day joke.
This year, we were once again behind a 1st April prank for the centre. We joined several local companies who issued humorous, fictitious stories for the media to cover (if they wanted to join in the fun). Further afield, Mumsnet Jobs announced it was partnering with NASA and the European Space Agency to find the perfect mother and baby team to go into space as part of a trial investigating the viability of space travel for infants. Professor Green Tweeted that he was changing his name to Professor Green Tea as part of a deal with PG Tips and Honda introduced the first ever emoji number plate.
What I noticed this year was the amount of people who took to social media to berate companies and organisations about their 1st April stories. Some people even got political and expressed their disbelief that taxpayers money was being used to fund these far-fetched, ludicrous developments.
Has it always been this way? Have people always reacted to April Fools’ stories in such a negative way or has social media given the ‘angry minority’ a louder way for them to air their views? I don’t know.
What I do know is that when you’re planning an April Fools’ story you need to be very careful indeed. Look at Google and its plans for a Mic Drop feature in Gmail.
“Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it,” the firm said on its Gmail blog on 31st March.
The internet giant introduced Mic Drop to millions of Gmail accounts. Unfortunately, an error in the programming, meant that the feature went live when people clicked the normal send button instead of the Send + Mic Drop button. For some users, the feature was live for 12 hours! Obviously, this had a severe impact on people and shows what happens when brands take things too far.
Businesses need to think very carefully about how they communicate with their audiences and the way they try to engage with people. If they get it wrong, social media now gives people – even if they’re a minority – a very loud way of venting their frustrations.
Whether it’s an April Fools’ Day joke that people don’t think is funny side or a delayed train or plane, people now have a way of making their feelings known without entering into a face-to-face conversation and this is giving consumers confidence to come back at companies. No longer will people say to a waiter that their meal was fine even though the steak was burnt – they’ll Tweet their opinion or post it on Facebook or TripAdvisor for the world to see.
On the whole, this is a good thing, as complaints, if justified, give companies a chance to make improvements.
However, it also gives people a chance to type first and think later. My worry is that marketers will become too cautious and overly concerned that publishing anything light-hearted, especially on 1st April, will just result in a wave of negativity and we might lose the tradition all together.
Back in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed 11 people and caused unparalleled damage to the environment. Yesterday, BP reached an £12bn settlement with the US Department of Justice.
Thankfully, most of us won’t face a crisis on the same scale as BP, however, every comms team should be prepared for something to go wrong.
Have a crisis plan Rather than panicking when a crisis hits, having a plan ready to go when it does will make life much easier. Start by jotting down the potential scenarios and then assume that they have happened.
Crises fall into two categories uncontrolled (employee death, fires and the like) and controlled (job losses, takeovers etc) so you will need to have a plan in place for these different scenarios.
Decide what you will need to do – issue press releases, schedule media interviews, update your website – and create action points. Align these with the level of the crisis, assign specific people/roles responsibility for each task and create a crisis plan document so you’re prepared when disaster hits. And don’t forget to include an internal communications chain!
Use one voice When a crisis hits, it is very tempting for different people to answer questions and queries – often giving different answers. But it is essential to ensure a consistent message is delivered by one central spokesperson – at the highest possible level within the business. Make sure the elected person has the knowledge, sensitivity, authority and interpersonal skills to deliver your message and is accessible to the media.
Be prepared Before speaking to the media make sure that you are prepared to answer any difficult questions. Be informed about the situation and understand what you can and can’t say. Don’t volunteer potentially damaging information and make sure to stick to the facts.
Don’t overlook social media In this digital age, social media is one of the biggest headaches facing companies in crisis. Within minutes, the whole world can know – and be making comments – about your crisis. Use this to your advantage and be proactive in communicating with your customers – answer their concerns and provide information. It’s also a great tool to gauge public reaction to a situation.
Be honest No matter how many bad examples of crisis management you read, many businesses still insist on learning the hard way. A network of smoke, mirrors and untruths will be discovered and you will end up with egg on your face and your reputation in tatters. Combat this by being as honest as you can with your customers and taking responsibility – they will respect you for it.
Don’t hide Another mistake many companies make is falling into a black hole the second a crisis hits. Make sure to keep communicating – even if nothing has changed – and be proactive.
Monitor public opinion Make sure to keep on top of public opinion – social media is a great tool here – and respond accordingly. This will help you to evolve your crisis communications plan as the situation develops.
Learn & improve Once the dust has settled, get your crisis team together and evaluate your response. What worked well? What didn’t? What could you do better? Make sure to update your plan.
Do you have any other tips to share about managing a crisis or issue? Let us know by posting a comment.