Bez kategorii • 05 03 2024

Maybe away goals still count more…

Maybe away goals still count more...

It seems that every sports club we’re speaking to now is obsessed with winning and gaining an advantage on the international stage. Away goals seem to count more.

It’s not surprising. Clubs are having to change their MO. While still bastions of home community, culture and identity they are increasingly looking to new commercial ventures, experiences, partnerships and audiences to drive increased fandom and financial gain. It’s big business.

I once had an impassioned conversation with a colleague about whether football clubs really are brands. Their stance was that ‘proper’ fans don’t really choose their club, like we choose a brand. The club chooses you. Passed down through generations and ordained to the next generation. I get it. But the game has changed. It changed a while ago.

Home comforts and core loyal fans don’t cut it for most anymore. Clubs are in constant hunter mode. Hungry to attract new fans and tribes from across borders. And your core sport isn’t always the hook. It can’t be, because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And luckily for clubs, ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ can be chosen, not just ordained. Millions of fans are out there waiting for clubs to entertain them. To capture their eyes, hearts and their following.

So clubs, teams, franchises – however you identify – are very much brands. They all need to find ways to attract, reward and entertain fans regardless of what happens on the pitch. More than ever before. They need to stand for something beyond winning or losing football matches. They need to build, manage and promote their brands in a way that keeps their core fans faithful while using what makes them different to attract new generations. They need to innovate, create choice, reward loyalty and create meaningful experiences. What any good brand must do right?

The stage is well and truly set for sports club brands to fly. It has been for some time. But many are still taking their first steps (and we’ve been lucky to partner with many too) and here’s how we help them.

Find and define what makes you original.

So much of what we do is help clubs to express their DNA. Their fabric. The stuff that makes fans feel like they belong through the good days and the bad days. The truths and characteristics that above all else define their very essence. And we find it through engaging with every corner of a club. It’s fans – die-hard and new bloods, it’s leaders – on the pitch and off – it’s historians, it’s employees, local community and valued partners. This forms the foundation from which everything else ignites.

PSG, a partner of ours for over a decade now, are a true case in point. ‘Dream bigger’ they say. (We wrote). An idea and invitation born from the allure, creativity and flair so synonymous with the city of Paris. An idea that would ignite the journey from national football leader to global lifestyle icon. Investment plays its part, no doubt, but the sign of a great idea is where it can take you, not just tomorrow, but in the next year, five years, even ten years.

Design a brand architecture that can flex to promote all that you are.

As every club looks to spread its wings and grow their revenue, reach and relevance the task of positioning your different teams, sub-brands and partnerships in a flexible yet coherent way grows larger. Creating a more premium service experience that doesn’t devalue an existing service, creating space and personality for a women’s or academy team from a more established men’s team for example. Or connecting multi-club partnerships or joint venture programmes within your brand’s ecosystem.

These are critical questions and challenges to get right. If you want to grow, you need to target and signpost (visually and verbally) your whole offer in the most relevant and clear way.

Be sure to check out our soon-to-launch work with FIBA 3×3 Basketball and global football icon Bayern München for more depth on this specific challenge. It’s what we do, day in and day out and architecture is a subject that many sports clubs are grappling with in the race for growth and reach.

Create a visual identity that embodies your real character.

For a category so high in emotion it’s interesting to see how few clubs have taken the time to build real character and craft into their brand identity. Unsurprisingly, colour and photography dominate. With some interesting forays into typography from the more adventurous. Clubs are missing a trick here. By expanding their identity systems clubs can create more flexible and distinctive assets that fans can even own (See Greenfly for more on this) or clubs can use to represent the diversity and breadth of their expertise.

This was a huge part of our recent Bayern München partnership. Designing a bold yet authentic ‘house style’ for the brand that could wrap around and flex to fit the Men’s team, Women’s team, Basketball team, Legends Team, Next Gen Academy, eSports team and Joint Venture with MLS icon, LAFC. The result is a transformation in the character of the club’s identity, but also a dynamic and adaptive visual language that gives the individual sub-brands their own unique style.

Grow your brand’s fortunes by creating bold, experiences that engage new audiences.

What’s the point in laying all these essential foundations if you don’t have the gumption to design new experiences? The future fan is expecting more. No question. Whether it’s technology-assisted, purposeful partnerships or spine-tingling immersive activations, clubs need to find a way to increase their experience pulling power. Being on top of your game isn’t enough. You need to be top of mind too. To catch (and keep) audiences that are more culture and entertainment-minded, to maximise the brand stretch potential from your commercial partners and demonstrate to all that you are now an entertainment brand. Not a sports club.

PSG’s fashion culture has brought countless collaborations with the likes of Air Jordan, BAPE, Dior and Edifice. And it’s no surprise to see collaborations and product or content partnerships growing at lightning pace as more and more clubs look to appoint creative directors to help edit, design and curate new collections as they reach faster and further for new fans. And they’re taking on big social and environmental issues too as they look to help educate and mobilise fans around critical causes.

From Arsenal’s bold No More Red campaign against youth knife crime to Man City’s award-winning End of Football water scarcity partnership with Xylem.

Build currency and connection around your most valuable assets to grow fan affinity.

What makes club brands the envy of many marketeers is not just the fact that they have a ‘product experience’ that spikes emotion like few others, or that they can bring hundreds of thousands or millions of people together twice a week, it’s the power of the player to translate and carry club culture and identity into their home community.

Players are how clubs can get closer. How they can ‘show up’ in culture with legitimacy and impact. Players are bridge builders, cultural agents and community leaders that can enable a club brand to reach further and mean more to more, than ever before.

12 million South Koreans (a quarter of the country’s population) are now said to follow Tottenham due to Son Heung Min’s role with North London Premier League team.

LIV Golf has become a standout case for building engagement and attracting new fans through its app and star-studded teams. In the App users can choose to follow players or teams around the course in real-time, view only Par 3 holes, access changing room team talks, putting green challenges or a host of other bespoke player-related content. This customised experience will soon be the norm and we’ve seen similar moves in the NFL and NBA to put the match day control in the hands of the fan.

If you’re evaluating your club’s brand strategy – both home and away – or your identity in the round, we can help.

Whatever the driver the sense that something could be better, bolder or braver is enough for a first exchange.

After all, opportunity awaits the bold in the Year of the Dragon.

Please get in touch with Joe Hale j.hale@dragonrouge.com to discuss further