Recently, the commercial and marketing director of the football club I support was famously – or more accurately, infamously – quoted as saying:
‘Why do we need to promote the new season tickets? They’ll buy them anyway.’
The ‘They’ he was referring to being the supporters of the aforementioned football club, naturally.
While there’s something within me that understands where he’s coming from – namely, that football fans are a unique breed of customer that will keep purchasing the product irrespective of how utterly rubbish it gets – this statement did also serve to demonstrate only too well the stupefying lack of commercial and marketing nous at the very heart of many football club boardrooms up and down the country. The breathtakingly blinkered and short-termist approach to growing a business.
Yes, he’s right in one respect. There are some existing supporters who will loyally buy the product, and carry on reaffirming that loyalty, regardless of how bleak the outlook for the club for the upcoming season. After all, they are fans; that’s what fans do.
But, what this so-called commercial and marketing director completely fails to appreciate is that his laissez fair methods of marketing and ticketing sales will apply to only a proportion of the existing fan base, and do absolutely nothing to attract new customers and increase revenues.
Surely, for a football club, any over-arching marketing and commercial strategy worth its salt should have three central prongs:
One, seek to improve existing fan base loyalty.
Two, expand the fan base with lapsed and new customers.
Three, acquire new commercial customers.
Of course, as ever with football clubs, fortunes on the pitch might well compensate for some of the commercial deficiencies off it. But with this ‘We don’t need to do any marketing; they’ll buy them anyway’ attitude seemingly so deeply ingrained at board level, it is difficult to see anything for the club I’ve supported since knee high but ever dwindling attendances and an ever-contracting fan base. Which, in turn, means less revenues, a smaller playing budget and an ever-downward spiral of inexorable decline.