Simple question. What is the future of football marketing? If we look at football in the 80’s and even in the 90’s, giant steps have been made. With FIFA taking full ownership of the World Cup by applying a business model where FIFA sponsors get a (justified) ROI.
No more “El Mundial 86” to define the World Cup 86. The accurate term would now be: “The 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico”. Football players no longer play with cotton tee-shirt retaining their sweat, but with football jerseys engineered to evacuate the moisture and keep them dry and cool. What will be the new trends of football marketing? Here is my take:
I will start with social medias. Not because it has become fancy and cool to talk about, but it is now a feature football clubs and players monitor more and more. Newcastle set recently some tweeting guidelines for their players. Although freedom of speech still prevails (thank God!), clubs do want to monitor the information being provided to the world.
Newcastle Alan Pardew said: “We are giving a presentation to the squad about the current format of information. Hopefully we will get that right. We don’t want players tweeting about their fitness on the day of games but we are not going to stop freedom of speech. It is not the Chinese republic here.”
In a recent past, we remember Rio Ferdinand’s tweet after the World Cup 2018-2022 bid vote: “Wow, Russia will host the 2018 World Cup, soooo gutted. What more could we have done? What did we do wrong? Prince William, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Becks – all that effort and we still get overlooked.”
Social medias was a major concern at the beginning as clubs did not really know how to handle it. But now, clubs and players understood that social is their strongest ally for products or event promotions. For example, Real Madrid launched a fantasy manager game on Facebook and interacts directly with its 4.5 million Facebook fans. Facebook has become THE reference in terms of online community measurement tools, where Barca leads the race so far.
Nike and adidas also use social medias to leverage their products or events. In November, Nike and Mesut Özil celebrated the German International’s 1 million Facebook fans with a special shoe. The controversial Safari shoe for CR7 was also mainly promoted on social medias. As for adidas, they launched in October a powerful social networking game: Danger Makes Legend. These are some benchmarks to illustrate how football brands, clubs and players use social medias moving forward.
As I mentioned earlier, football products faced a revolution the last 10-15 years, where performance was (and still is) the main focus. The future of football marketing obviously includes football products. Mainly apparel, hardware (footballs) and footwear.
Football shirts are way different from the ones 15 years ago. Match balls are very technology driven and manufacturers, year after year, launch “rounder” and more accurate balls. No more the leather footballs that got heavier in the rain and hard rock by 35°C.
When football manufacturers launch football kits, comments go from “wow, beautiful” to “damn, this is ugly”. My point is that a football kit design is subjective and we all do not have the same taste. So no matter how hard Nike, adidas, Puma etc try, 100% happiness is impossible.
There so much you can do on a football shirt from a design perspective. With FIFA-UEFA kits regulations, and shirt sponsors criteria, football designers are very limited in their design freedom. Tight fit, new piping, different collar, wider or narrow stripes are the main elements they can work with. Football fans do notice and are more and more reluctant to pay €70 for a new shirt who almost looks like the previous season shirt.
So how would you raise awareness and create hype with a product which has a lot to do with people’s taste? By tapping into what the world is concerned about: Sustainability & the environment. Nike set the tone by launching World Cup Federation kits made of recycled bottles. The swoosh then extended the sustainable aspect to all its categories. So, products are still performance driven, but they address a global concern at the same time.
FIFA vote for World Cup 2018 & 2022 was very controversial…..to put it mildly. However, with Russia and especially Qatar, a door to new markets is now open. Clubs have not waited for December 2 to travel to the Middle East. With summer tours in the US, Asia and the Middle East, football is getting more global than ever.
In a nutshell, new marketing opportunities, avid fans to get closer to their heroes, new business partners etc….all ingredients to leverage a brand value and tap into a new consumer base are in place. In addition, football in India is booming. When a market of a 1.15 billion people is receptive
to football, it goes without saying that clubs are in the starting blocks.
Companies such as EA Sports or Konami provide digital experiences to football fans with their video games. Digital experiences to fans is key. Providing a “cross industry” (gaming and sport) experience is key. The adidas micoach is an important feature that has the potential to tap directly into football fans in a compelling way.
Mobile is a booming trend that will undoubtedly be encapsulated in football more and more. For example, fans at BMO field can use text messages for assistance.
“The majority of internet access is from mobile phones”
Olli-Pekka Kallsvuo (Nokia CEO)
Check out the following presentations;
- Case study of Turkcell and GarantiBank football sponsorship
- Tomi Ahonen keynote on mobile marketing for sports around the world
- Jonathan MacDonald who presents the rationale for mobile marketing charmingly
- O2 Litmus model for co-creation
These are in a nutshell the key football marketing trends I would put money on. What do you think? Am I completely off track?