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Get your house in order – some challenges football clubs need to tackle to succeed

In a recent post I wrote about the advantages football clubs can gain from using social media and mobile in a more innovative and integrated fashion. This post focuses solely on some of the real world challenges that football clubs desperately need to tackle.

Player involvement

Players need be more engaged in the commercial side of the club. Currently, there’s a disconnect between the playing side and the commercial side of the business, both act like different entities without real overlap. It’s understandable and commendable that the performance of the team has priority as it’s ultimately the service that’s being sold. It’s not understandable that the team has priority however, the club should always be more important. This little distinction makes quite a difference; and an even bigger one if you reposition football from sport to entertainment.

I find it staggering how little some players care about supporters, communities and the commercial success of clubs. I don’t know if it’s a lack of awareness, e.g., for the link between a team’s performance and domestic violence, or the link between points per season and share of television revenue. It could also be down to the way contracts are structured: how about linking the performance bonus of players to the overall commercial performance of the club as it often happens in “normal” companies and with “normal” employees?

I found the views expressed by the CEO of the New Jersey Nets Brett Yormack, (at the Leaders in Football Conference last October) really refreshing and full of common sense: When players are injured they are still employees of the club and are therefore actively engaged in the commercial activities: they visit the season ticket holders before/during/after the game. And it goes even further; they are not only used for relationship management but also in the recruitment process for new season ticket holders and sponsors.

From sales led to brand led

But it’s not only the players that need refocusing. It might be different with some of the big clubs, but a significant number of small clubs don’t have a clearly defined brand. By that I don’t mean pantone colours or any design related topics (even though designs and creative can vary immensely from channel to channel), but brand essence and brand vision in comparison to their strategic set. Immediately, consistency of communication would increase. Immediately, the loop with commercial partners would be short-circuited and finding sponsors would be simplified. Immediately, a competitive advantage could be created and a clear vision and purpose established. A vision and purpose that includes the community, the supporters, in short, all the stake holders and therefore embeds and engages the club actively and consistently. For this to happen, football clubs need to moved into the brand led phase of corporate development, but as of yet they are still stuck somewhere between technology and sales lead.

Fill your stadium

My number 1 priority would be to fill the stadium – get as many people to experience your primary service and product. Because once they are excited, they will return and this time they will pay the full price. It’s about reaching out and engaging based on Regis McKenna’s thought: “A value of a brand can now be defined by the number of active participants in its network.”

Get your players to smooch with your guests and season ticket holders, but get your commercial people out on the streets filling any empty seats. Years ago, we had the half price admission at half time, now that’s a really neat way of increasing your reach and interaction. If I’d be running a club, I would say to my people: I want to have every seat filled. For the reasons above, but also because of the perception, in TV, to the away fans, to the journalists, that the club is a successful brand that people want to see.

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