When you think of football, the first thing that comes to mind is the game played on the pitch. However, so much work goes on behind the scenes to build a football club’s brand. From player endorsements and team sponsorships, global brands have striven to get their names in the football industry. As the most watched sport in the world and with over four billion fans, it’s not hard to see why.
But what can companies learn from the clubs that they sponsor? Every club in the world has lifelong, passionate loyalty from their fans – something that most big brands can only dream of. So, what makes a football team’s brand really work? Let’s take a look at what big brands and brand agencies such as Creative Spark can learn from football branding and how they can use this to provoke loyalty from their own customers.
Most people don’t choose the football club that they support. We often support a team because our family does and that is an inherited form of brand loyalty. The passing on of support for a team is a form of brand advocation – but this can be applied to any brand. Think of the popular debate between Fanta and Tango. If someone only drinks Tango and not Fanta, they will only buy that drink for their kids. In return, the children will grow up with that same brand preference and pass it onto the next generation. In a paper called Brand Values and a Typology of Premiership Football Fans, this topic is discussed. Itt reads, “being a fan fulfils the needs of sharing, feeling and belonging. It provides an acceptable outlet for exhibiting emotions and feelings”.
From this, big brands can realise that people become part of a family by supporting a team. They can share in the emotion provoked by football, allowing authentic, heart-felt bonding experiences. If a brand was to create an inclusive, family feeling for their brand, they could potentially be a success across multiple generations.
Support Comes from Success
Generally speaking, the more successful a team is, the more support they will attain. The better a team plays, the more revenue the club will gain from ticket sales and merchandise. If we look at this from a branding point of view, the perceived quality of a brand massively affects its success on a commercial scale.
Let’s take a look at Apple as a perfect example of this. Always marketed as the fastest, slickest, lightest products around, consumers are manipulated to believe their products are in fact the best of their kind. When a customer buys an Apple product, they don’t consider that another phone, for example, could be better than theirs.
From this, brands can realise that it doesn’t matter if their company is actually the best company around – what matters is if people deem them as the best. If a brand’s product is marketed as high quality and successful, people will idolise the product. And, just like with football, a club’s success is what will attract audiences.
A Personal Story
It is no fluke that the majority of football club legends are born within close proximity to said club. Fans love to see players that they can relate to – players that we feel are just like ourselves. This helps to make a personal bond between the fans and the club. If a home-grown player thrives for their hometown club, it is evident that they are playing with pride for the badge, thus resulting in the fans’ pride and passion increasing.
This too can be transferred to branding. As an audience, if we see a celebrity endorsement featuring a famous face that we idolise, our level of trust for that brand is heightened. Brands will attempt to use a celebrity that people can relate to in order to create a sense of familiarity between brand and consumer.
From this, brands can realise that your people are your brand. If audiences can put themselves into the shoes of a company’s endorsements, they will identify as part of the brand themselves – resulting in being as loyal as a football fan is to their club.
Of course, it is much easier for a football club to gain a loyal following than it is for a business. There are factors that affect the level in which a fan supports the team. However, there are approaches and methods used by football clubs that can clearly be taken into branding.