football customers

Fan status is brand nirvana. Do not wish it away!

In case you hadn’t noticed, the football world has gone mad. As much as I would like to, I’m not referring to the way Leicester City are out-classing the so called big clubs in the English Premier League this season. What I’m writing about is how clubs are treating their fans. In particular the position Liverpool took this week: “transforming fans into customers”


Football is now big business. Spending on players has hit an all time high this season (2014/15) reaching a billion pounds. Manchester United, the Premier League’s richest club have 659 million fans worldwide and generated €519.5m in revenue last year. This is forecast to rise to €600m2 this year with a new TV deal lined up for next season according to Deloitte. But unlike regular business the people paying for their product have been inherited from a sport. These people do not see themselves as customers, they see themselves as fans. Let’s just think look at the key attributes of fans:

  • They are, by definition, fanatical about your brand
  • Your brand forms a huge part of their identity
  • They wear your brand with pride
  • In fact, a significant amount of people permanently tattoo your logo on their body
  • Fans will be loyal to your brand their whole life… think about the customer life time value!
  • In many cases, this fandom has been passed from generation to generation
  • They will never be tempted to switch brands and they often revile your biggest competitors
  • Your fans constantly talk about your brand to their friends, strangers and well… anyone that will listen
  • They routinely turn up to your main outlet, some pay for a season ticket to guarantee entry every time you open
  • What’s more match day revenue is not your main revenue stream, commercial deals and broadcast rights are worth more2
  • But make no mistake the match day experience is by far the most important thing to your fans
  • And even when you disappoint them, when your team is dysfunctional and uncommitted, they are your rock
  • They sing in harmony to lift your team’s spirit
  • Millions of remote fans around the world tune in to watch your team on TV
  • TV companies pay millions to show your brand on prime time TV
  • With this kind of exposure you don’t need to advertise
  • Even if you did advertise, your fans would uninstall those ad blockers as quick as a flash, and tune straight in
  • This is because they they hang on your every word
  • They are tribal, habitual, consumers of your brand
  • Which makes up-selling easy. Football shirts, scarves, mugs – put your brand on anything they will be proud to show it off
  • Ultimately, they have a visceral emotion connection with your brand that rivals friendship and family ties

Why on earth would you want to “transform” this special group of people back into “customers”? Ask any business leader how hard they have to work to transform customers into fans like these.

Any business, be it a football club or a book seller, should treasure fans. Even if you have just one fan do everything you can to keep that person. Everything else will follow.

Clubs like Liverpool have millions of fans. The business world can only dream of a loyal following like that. In the very unlikely event they achieve fandom, it will only be temporary. And it will be remembered as a time #whenididaleicester

Now, about those ticket prices…

Image: David Straight

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