As a professional marketer who has worked for some of the biggest brands in the UK (and a fan) I’m frustrated about the current approach being taken by Liverpool. So here’s some free advice to Liverpool FC on the fans:
1. In football fans are emotional consumers
Your actions as a company need to be in line with the way you portray yourselves as a brand; if not you end up like the modern day Amazon or Starbucks whereby you’ve done all the hard work, built a successful business, gained trust from your consumers, and by trying to be greedy you destroy your consumer trust.
As football fans we’re not just consumers, we’re not going to jump ship and support Chelsea. We have something ingrained within us that makes us love our club and want to support it through thick and thin. However we are none-the-less still consumers. We pay to watch a match, buy club scarves, regalia, strips & so on. Therefore to keep shelling out our hard earned cash on our club we need to be given assurances. As Liverpool fans, those assurances need to be solid, given the heartbreaking times under Hicks & Gillett.
With no UK presence from FSG and Henry not coming to Anfield at all this season, this sends a message rightly or wrongly that you’re disinterested. Your Chairman (Werner) should be at all games. It’s important for the fans to see you care. Show them no interest and you’ll find yourself in very hot water.
2. In club communications, from Boardroom to Bootroom, stay on message
In November our chairman Tom Werner said: “our actions will speak louder than words”, yet midway through the transfer window, up pops Ian Ayre telling fans we’ve got the right mix of experience and youth. He went on: “we may or may not do anymore business in January, depending on the deal”. Anyone can see that’s not right. At the fan interview with Brendan Rodgers in December, Rodgers admitted that he felt sorry for Gerrard with all the players relying on him and playing with kids. Rodgers admitted Gerrard has been used to playing in teams with Mascherano, Alonso, Hamann and Hyypia, to now playing with Sterling, Wisdom, Suso and Shelvey.
Consistency is important, otherwise you look a mess. Have a clear vision of what you want to say and keep saying it. If you have nothing new to say then don’t bother.
It’s clear that with the club (apparently) sanctioning Suarez’s interview with the South American arm of Fox Soccer that they’ve lost control of what the players are saying in public. Luis’ comments are an unnecessary distraction for the club. Tell him to zip it; he’s clearly upset and annoyed at the treatment he gets. But help him through it, don’t allow him to fall on the slippy floor which is the media.
Likewise with Gerrard’s comments (which I wholeheartedly agree with). When a captain who kept quiet over the Hicks and Gillett saga comes out and criticizes your transfer policy you need to be careful. Gerrard is an incredibly savvy and mature man, he knows he’s pressing buttons and the club needs to work with him to resolve that before it gets out of hand. It was interesting Suarez also saying: ‘kids win you games, experience wins you Championships’.
As much as I like Rodgers, he talks about his tactics far too much. Be open and nice to the media, but don’t tell them everything you’re planning or doing. More importantly learn how to kill a story; when something controversial happens, deal with it internally and don’t comment on it. Otherwise the story just rambles on.
4. Tell people what your vision is and be clear on it
It’s not enough to say we want to win, and keep winning. You need to be clear on what your timeline is for that success. Team Sky did it when they launched and delivered quicker. They know that you have to have a credible plan, and can be held accountable for not delivering on it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built with a clear vision and timeline in mind.
Both Houllier and Rafa had slightly shaky starts when it came to winning against the top 10 teams. Kenny had the opposite problem. He could get a result against United, but slipped up against the poor sides in the league. If his results weren’t good enough, then what is acceptable? If you run a business without strict targets and don’t meet them then in any normal workplace you may be given more time depending on circumstance – if you just haven’t cut the mustard, you leave. If FSG believe in what they’re doing, they’ll have a plan – just what it is or when it’s due to deliver is another question altogether.
5. Marketing to your core fan base at home is more important than your fans abroad. Remember the fans filling the stadium on a weekly basis. Win them over and you’ll win the rest!
Whilst the new home Warrior kit is (in my view) beautiful, the same can’t be said for the away kits. What on earth the third kit has to do with Liverpool I’ll never know. Does this reflect Liverpool’s club history in anyway? Your team are your main asset as a brand, send them out looking odd and your brand doesn’t come through.
Then there’s the campaign slogan #WeComeNotToPlay…in my view an epic fail. It leaves you open to so many jokes and jibes. When your home fans cringe at it, you need to seriously rethink your approach.
Lastly, about the tradition the club was built on and what’s important to your core. Sometimes the old ones are the best ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
Follow me on Twitter @JohnRitchie84