FA Cup nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

HSE Cake’s Jim Dowling explains how the BBC’s new marketing campaign is shifting the focus of English soccer’s FA Cup from the memories of older fans to the experiences of a new generation.

FA Cup nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

HSE Cake’s Jim Dowling explains how the BBC’s new marketing campaign is shifting the focus of English soccer’s FA Cup from the memories of older fans to the experiences of a new generation.

“The crazy gang has beaten the culture club!”

Mickey Thomas scores in the fog. Cheeky.

Tony Adams in that terrible Arsenal yellow chevron away kit.

Sutton United.

Keith Houchen’s diving header.

“Whiteside, onside!”

“Elton John’s in tears.”

“They’re hanging parkas from the trees…Radford, Ronnie Radford!”

I’m very aware that if you’re under 30 you’ve literally no idea what I’m talking about. Which is not surprising, given these are the memories of a fortysomething white bloke.

Yet here we are again. Through the clearing fog of early January, the warm glow of the third round of English football’s FA Cup emerges, one of sport’s great hardy perennials.

But how many football fans under 30 will turn on? How many Fifa-playing, Spencer FC-watching obsessives will be sharing in this annual nostalgia-fest?

This is a shame, because the third round has everything: underdogs v big dogs, genuine unpredictability and enough giant-killing adrenaline to excite any red-blooded football fan, no matter their age.

In marketing parlance, the product’s great, it just needs to be reframed so that those of a certain age can pass on the ‘magic of the cup’ to the next generation.

When we shift the lens from the traditional FA Cup stories, we can untap themes that have a universal appeal. A 23-year-old non-TV watching football fan can identify with the 23-year-old defender lacing his boots on a Saturday, preparing to face Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, also 23.

As the twentysomething Plymouth fan prepares for a trip to Liverpool and Anfield, he does so surrounded by some very big social issues, such as immigration and unemployment. He might be interested in the story of the ‘immigrant’ Sadio Mane who left Senegal aged 19 to further his career. Delve below the surface and the FA Cup is full of such stories that talk to young people in a way that Ricky Villa’s side-stepping goal doesn’t.

This is where the BBC comes in. From now until May, they will be inviting young producers to collaborate and share their own personal stories of the FA Cup. The ‘No Guts, No Glory’ campaign will see fans, players, managers and a host of BBC talent invited to create short videos about their FA Cup experiences, using the #nogutsnoglory hashtag.

The campaign makes use of the BBC’s owned channels. You’ll see characters and content appearing on places like Football Focus and BBC Sport online. There will be support from football fan communities around the clubs, with media partnerships with the likes of Bleacher Report and Snapchat, and additional support through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Don’t let anyone tell you the magic of the Cup isn’t what it used to be. The FA Cup is far more than a nostalgia fest for fortysomething white men. It’s for everybody. The magic has just begun.

Jim Dowling is managing director of HSE Cake.

#NoGutsNoGlory is a creative collaboration between the BBC, RKCR/Y&R and HSE Cake.