Being a professional marketer, I was tempted by the recent advert for a new marketing and sales manager at the club. What put me off was that the advert said ‘Must have marketing AND sales experience’.
The capitalisation of ‘AND’ really said; ‘sod marketing and all that spending rubbish, we want cash in the tills’. It’s not unreasonable, the average football club has the turnover of your local supermarket, the need for cash is a constant concern.
But it’s misguided to think that sustainable growth, or even short-term sales will result from simply selling.
Football, we’re constantly reminded, is a results business; but results are the concern of the football side of the business. Good results will equal good sales, bad results bad sales. But what marketing will do is determine the scale of that success of failure.
Wimbledon, when they were in the Premiership could barely register more than 10,000 fans a game. Leeds United, dwelling in the 1st division are averaging 27,500. Naturally, good results help crowds increase, but they are less relevant than the size of the fan base. Therefore, marketing; creating, identifying and responding to a receptive market is the real key to commercial success.
The club will do well to focus on its marketing, because the results are not exactly holding up. I went up to Old Trafford for the Champions League game against Sporting Lisbon. It struck me how hard the sell their heroes and their heritage. So, when I walk into the club shop, where are the vintage shirts, the t-shirts of Aldridge and Houghton et al? Where is the homage to the London Road and The Manor? A friend of mine is a Manchester United fan and always buys a replica shirt with a number 7 and no name on the back – it’s out of respect of all the great number seven’s United have. There’s the same reverence for the Newcastle number 9. Why is Eddie Hutchinson wearing John Aldridge’s number 8? The one thing we have control over is how our history is portrayed; and we have The Glory in our vaults ready to be flogged.
In short, understanding your market and responding to it will build and maintain the fanbase on which success-based sales will be generated. People just aren’t fooled by the car salesman bullshit that’s trying to convince us that every game is going to be like the World Cup Final.
Oh, and we lost to Aldershot in the Setanta Shield.