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What has football taught me about digital marketing?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Writing an article about digital marketing and basing it around football might seem like a strange choice. Well, let me make it stranger still by invoking the words of a Nobel Prize-winning French author, journalist and philosopher to explain my thinking:

“After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA.”
– Albert Camus

The RUA that Camus referred to was the Racing Universitaire Algerios (Junior) football team, where he played in goal. If using football to inform wider aspects of his life was good enough for Camus, then it’s more than good enough for me.

So, what has football taught me about digital marketing?

1. Tone of voice means clarity not imitation

Many brands struggle to achieve the right tone of voice when they’re trying to reach their customers. The mistake they make is that, while it’s important to speak in a way that’s clear, engaging and resonates with the intended audience, they simply try to imitate how the audience speaks. I’m talking to you, brands that use the word “bae” in your tweets.

What’s the footballing equivalent of this?

Step forward Steve McLaren. While managing Twente Enschede in the Netherlands, the former England boss gave an interview in English to English-speaking Dutch journalists. It would have been appropriate for him to speak clearly and avoid colloquialisms, that’s just common sense and common courtesy. Unfortunately, Shteeve had to take things that one step too far:

“It’s not about the long ball or the short ball, it’s about the right ball.” Bill Shankly

2. You need to get results

In marketing, people don’t judge you on what you’ve done, they judge you on what you’re doing. Something well known to the only Chelsea manager to have won the Champions League with the club – Roberto di Matteo. In May 2012 he was lifting the trophy. In November 2012 he was lifting his p45 off the desk after the club had been eliminated from the same tournament.

3. …but quality content will be remembered

Some campaigns will live long in the memory through their sheer creativity and skill. So a nod to Bodyform’s inspired response to a comment (which may or may not have been real) on their Facebook page.

The footballing equivalent? In 1982, the Brazil World Cup squad managed something that few teams have. They became iconic despite failing to win the actual tournament. Why? Because they did beautiful things. Creating quality content is never a waste. It can live on.

“The imprint you make in the spirit of the people is more important than the result.” Arsene Wenger

4. You want the media on your side

It’s important to foster positive and engaged relations across the most relevant platforms. Not only will increased visibility boost your brand (consider the way in which Sky’s Goals on Sunday has become an established path to be trod by sacked bosses looking to remind other clubs of their talents), you can see it as laying the groundwork for more easily handling any future crisis management situations.

Let me put it this way. After Joe Kinnear decided to offer up various expletives to journalists in his first press conference as Newcastle United boss, did he receive a goodwill-packed easy ride from the media when he later returned to the club?


“If I walked on water, my accusers would say it is because I can’t swim.” Berti Vogts

5. Customers are the most important thing

You might think that you’re offering the right product in the right way but if your customers disagree then you have to think again. In business, unhappy customers will impact upon your bottom line. The situation is the same in football. When the fans turn, attendances decline and the air of negativity surrounding the club can further impact performances. It’s a slippery slope.

The bulk of Manchester United fans showed their disapproval when a banner was flown over Old Trafford demanding then manager David Moyes be sacked. However, the former Everton boss was still sacked before he’d even had a chance to complete his first season in charge of the Red Devils.

Football fans have always been able to let their club know exactly what they think about the product being put in front of them. Now, the explosion in social media means that all businesses have access to feedback – giving the opportunity to fix the situation and retain / win back unhappy customers.

“The game is about those who pay and those who play.” Martin O’Neill

Want the crowd behind you?

At Ambergreen, unlike many of the referees you’ll have heard chants directed at, we do know what we’re doing. Why not arrange a chat to find out more? Give us enough notice and we can probably even rustle up some bovril…

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