Test your mettle: distilling the ‘grit and beauty’ of soccer in marketing

Harnessing the fans’ passion for Premier League soccer to create successful marketing campaigns is an ongoing challenge. How can you bring together grassroots supporters and fans from around the world, along with other stakeholders, to effectively communicate to outsiders what makes the club unique and special? Here, Simon Chong, from global creative business Moving Brands, shares the tactics he and the team used for Premier League outfit Swansea City.

Test your mettle: distilling the ‘grit and beauty’ of soccer in marketing

While there is a clear divide between supporters watching their local soccer team play in front of the packed-to-the-rafters multi-million pound stadiums and TV and sponsorship deals, it is important to remember that for all fans, there is a choice when it comes to how they identify themselves as fans of the game.

With the world's biggest clubs, particularly those from England's Premier League, drawing supporters from around the globe, the traditional fan base has grown beyond family allegiances and geographical location, opening up opportunities for teams to tap into lucrative new markets internationally.

As the number and diversity of fans grow, so too does the need to develop clearer and more consistent experiences. Supporters want to feel part of the ‘club family’ regardless of whether they are able to make it pitchside or not. Clubs have to capture the nail-biting thrill of the live game, along with their heritage and identity, through every communication channel.

Every word, colour and image should be distinguishable and evoke a sense of belonging within a tight-knit soccer community. The success of a club’s marketing depends on how well it fosters loyalty among supporters, both at a grassroots and international level. By capitalising on these strong emotions, clubs are transformed into super-brands with the power to attract the best players and investors. 

The sheer scale of global soccer sides means that building bonds between a seemingly disparate fan base is sometimes difficult. Fans, particularly those that invest in season tickets every year, understandably want to feel like they are getting value for money when attending games – they want to be first to hear the news about players and take part in online discussions. As Campaign reports, people are no longer happy to sit back and passively watch the game: they want immersive experiences that take them closer to the action and players.

It doesn’t matter whether supporters are watching the game in real-life, on TV or even via social media – having a strong club identity is essential in bringing them together. There are plenty of people who get the new kit each season, engage with their club on social media and spend money on paid-for TV matches and monthly subscription packages but has never bought a ticket. They may even criticise the team when they fail to deliver results, but their fierce loyalty often lasts a lifetime.

Distilling these raw emotions into a single message was something we worked hard to achieve when designing a new visual identity for Swansea City. Launching ahead of the 2018 season, the Welsh side wanted to appeal to lifelong fans just as much as those who had only just discovered the club. Since the branding was going to appear on signage around the ground, social media channels, match programmes and billboards, versatility was key.

Underpinned with the strapline ‘Grit and Beauty’, this campaign aimed to encapsulate the players’ steely determination to succeed, the fans’ strong ties to the Swans’ history, and the poetry of the game. ‘Grit and Beauty’ was also created as a distinctive proposition to appeal to sponsors so that they can align the club with their brand.

The copper tones used across the designs were a nod to the city’s copper industry, which remains a source of great pride for local people. Swansea was forged on copper – and the bonds created centuries ago live on among fans today. It’s a subtle reference to the past, suggesting strength, hard work and grit. We also introduced a bold typeface and tone of voice that reflected Swansea’s confidence going into the new season. 

Compared to consumer brands such as retailers or hoteliers, soccer clubs are in a privileged position because fans are unlikely to jump ship even if their team suffers a string of devastating blows. Sure, some fans may even be drawn to tears by a bad scoreline, but the most dedicated will stick with it even if some match days are less than rewarding. Having said that, clubs must be mindful of taking this loyalty for granted, instead creating memorable experiences and lively discussions whatever the outcome of the game. This, of course, can only be effective if the club’s identity is instantly recognisable across every single touchpoint – and carries true meaning for its fans.

For more details on Moving Brands, including information on its projects, visit www.movingbrands.com.