The Beautiful Game: Marketing, Football, or…Both?

How to inject some of football’s passion into your brand.

By Maria Konovalova |  July 7, 2021


What Marketers
Can Learn From Pearl Harbour
Discover why it’s critical to focus on psycographics and market to a mindset rather than getting distracted by demographics and the details of your product.

By Jonathon Bates | Head of Strategy | June 27, 2019

The build up to a national football game is impossible to miss: assistants block out calendars, kebab shops rub their hands in anticipation, an electric buzz fills the air. People who don’t know anything about football start talking about football. It’s almost more thrilling than the game itself. And for 90 minutes, millions of us across the country – the world, even – are glued to our televisions.

How can we inject some of that excitement into our brand’s audiences?

  1. Give Them a Tribe They Can Belong To

Even if you’re B2B, your marketing is human to human interaction – not to robots. And to be human is to be tribal. While our survival may not depend on it now, it’s ingrained to want to belong to a group, it feels good. How can your brand create a tribe? As marketing guru Seth Godin says, it only needs two things: a shared interest and a way to communicate. What is the underlying interest of what you offer? Apple centred their product and tribe around creatives. Create yours around a unifying topic that they can celebrate together.

  1. A Way to Communicate

You know how football fans love discussing which players are being sold or injured? Post-match discussions? Get your audience to talk. Facilitate discussion among those who use your product or service, and you will benefit from being seen as the source of value-add. Which platforms allow communication? An email list is great, but without interaction it doesn’t provide that powerful social glue.

  1. Symbols

Symbols make things visible. In football, this might be the club logo – on a fan’s t-shirt, mug, keyring, or even their arm. It also comes in the form of awards, from golden boots to the big silver pieces.

Make sure you’re using every opportunity to use your symbols, and encourage others to use it too. We recognise leading doctors or upcoming entrepreneurs – give people recognition and you both benefit. They will use that honour, and your symbol and authority will proliferate through to their respective networks.

  1. Stories

Football fans will tell you about a star player or manager who brought glory to their team with a glint in their eye. It’s human nature to be drawn to stories. The rise, the downfall, we learn from stories. For those new to the topic, it’s almost a way of indoctrination. Always remember to weave a story in your marketing. What is your past, your future? What is your customer’s story? How do you fit into it? How did your product change someone’s life?

  1. A Sense of “Home”

Something familiar. Teams often perform better at home stadiums – football is coming “home”. That place of familiarity is inherently comforting and potent. Create a main space they associate with your brand, even if it’s a YouTube channel. Focus on making that space *their home*. One good one we’ve seen is a weekly Zoom meetup among entrepreneurs who say what they’re drinking at the start of the call. Like a club’s song, a home has familiar traditions which we recognise and pass on.

Maria Konovalova


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There’s one thing in marketing that is more valuable than anything else, even more valuable than any new programmatic tool or piece of AI tech. So, what is this golden bullet? Quite simply it’s ‘good’ positioning and messaging.

So, what do we mean by ‘good’ positioning and messaging? Well, the key to marketing is to tell people what they want to hear.

When creating your marketing strategy you should start by identifying who your core target audience is. The more niche and specific you can be the better. Once you know who it is you really want to engage you can understand what channels you can use to reach them and most importantly how you can influence them.

Now, traditional marketers will tell you to focus on demographics. This is rubbish. The key is to market to a mindset not a demographic. Neuroscience proves that as humans we make decisions based on emotion. Even the most rational of us will only use rationale to justify our emotionally-based decisions.

Therefore, don’t get distracted by what age someone is and what postcode they live in. Instead, identify what they care about and then workout how you can position your brand or product in a way that people will care about.

Understanding your customers’ passions and interests is key. For example, two fake tan brands can do equally effective marketing but with completely different positioning. If one brand is marketing to an image-conscious audience then the messaging should be focused about how you’ll turn heads on the beach.

Whereas, if the second brand is focusing on a more wholesome audience the messaging could be around vegan ingredients and the ethical supply chain. Ultimately, they are the same product and have the same effect, but they are marketing to two very different audiences and therefore require very specific positioning.

One of the most common sectors we see businesses trip themselves up in are B2B and professional services. Brands often fall into the trap of describing what they do and not focusing on the benefits.  Even in the B2B environment people buy on emotion. They key avoiding this pitfall is to place yourself in your customers shoes and think – what’s in it for me?

By doing this you will start to understand what issues really matter to people. For example, it could be: will this get me promoted? Will this help save my company money? or Will this make things more efficient and therefore make my team happier?

A lot of businesses we meet are selling to procurement departments yet have messaging about savings their product will enable over the next 5-10 years. Now, put yourself in the shoes of the procurement officer. They’re likely to be judged, and their bonus based, on what they save this year. The likelihood is that they probably won’t even be at the company in three years’ time. So, are they going to care about a product that seemingly has no bearing on their KPIs? Probably not!

This inability to understand how to position a product in a way that resonates with the key audience had catastrophic consequences in the Second World War. In 1930 American radio scientist Leo Young discovered that when you transmitted radio signals upwards, if they hit passing planes, the signal that bounced back was double the strength. Young pitched the idea for radar to the US military asking for a grant to develop his research and prototype, but was initially denied.

The reason for the rebuttal was because the US military couldn’t see an immediate return. When making his proposal Young had failed to position radar in a way that fitted with the US military’s ‘what’s in it for me’ and immediate objectives.

By the time the US military did awaken to the possibilities of radar it was fatefully too late for the soldiers, sailors and inhabitants of Pearl Harbour. With radar still in testing, on December 7th 1941, 353 Japanese bombers launched the infamous raid that saw 2,403 servicemen lose their lives.

While the stakes won’t be so high if you get your positioning wrong, you can be sure that your target customers won’t see the immediate benefits and will likely chose a competitor with better messaging.  Getting your messaging and positioning right can be the difference between success and failure for your brand.

Key Take Outs and Tips:

  • Identify you core primary audience. The more specific this can be the better.
  • Put yourselves in your customer’s shoes and understand what they really care about
  • Remember, people buy on emotion, so you need to really get to the crux of what they care about
  • Work out how you can position your product in a way that provides a solution to their need.
  • By providing a benefit or solution to their need you will engage their emotion and make them more likely to buy your product.

To find out more about how to position your brand download or e-book, How to Engage customers and Drive Sales here.

Jonathon Bates
Head of Strategy, Thomond


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