Football Marketing Fundamentals

Fan Loyalty as a Corner Stone of Football Marketing

Fans the corner stone of football marketing

Pay attention to the fans and you fill a stadium all the time

Does your team play most games in an empty stadium? Think loyalty, it is a gift that keeps on giving. 1

We can not understand the role of marketing in football without understanding the concept of loyalty in the game. Football is characterized by assumptions. There is a belief that football fans are very loyal to their clubs, rain or sunshine they will be there for it. This belief is responsible for the low level of activity in marketing football as compared to other forms of business. Research about loyalty in football has been carried out and the assumption of deep loyalty to the game is far from the truth.

Dr Alan Tapp Analysis

Dr Alan Tapp a Senior Lecturer at the Bristol Business School, University of West England carried out a research about fan loyalty vis-à-vis their clubs for a period of five years. The results completely shattered the assumption of fan undying loyalty for their clubs. This research was done in England, a country arguably with the best fan experience in the football loving world.

Dr Tapp discovered that not all supporters have the same level of loyalty. He discovered that the game has fanatics, repertoire football lovers (just love the game) and at the bottom of the rank we have the carefree casuals. The fanatics will go for every game involving their team and know everything about their team. The repertoire fans will go to enjoy football per say, if they can (they see game as another entertainment option) and the casual carefree will support from afar, just waiting for results. Do majority of football fans fall into the last category? This research tells us that football customers (fans) though they can not be categorized in the traditional business sense, because their loyalty does not purely depend on success of their teams, but in the same breath it can not be taken for granted.

What does this research tell us in a nut shell? It tells us that football should take the issue of marketing as serious as other businesses because people do not have similar affinity to the team they favor. There is no undying loyalty across the board among the supporters. People do love football yes, but they can switch to other entertainment if ignored or if their team struggles. The fans do not stop supporting the team, they simply withdraw their custom. Because football is not similar to other businesses this custom is not easily transferable to another team, this means that the industry of football loses in totality. In South Africa for example, football fans seem to have withdrawn their custom and football as a whole is losing.

There is need for football to realize the uniqueness of football fans and remedy the situation. Fans crave contact with the team and this is what football has denied them. To most fans clubs are shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Most fans know the clubs training ground only by name. They can not tell you with certainty, where the clubs next game will be because there is constant walk about. Due to these and many more anomalies fans have easily and often drifted away. This situation can be remedied by clubs becoming more fan centred. Creative marketing similar to what other businesses have done should come into play. This is achievable through a process I have termed as attract, engage and entertain then repeat. In short fan relationship management which is similar to customer relationship management. This is a one on one relationship with fans.

Attraction of Fans:

This process involves the team putting into place activities and actions that will bring your club closer to its supporters. It starts by the club defining its base community. This is very critical because every club must have a founding community and build from there. Manchester United started in Manchester and went global, Liverpool and Everton around Liverpool. In London we have the likes of Chelsea, Fullham and Arsenal. This source community makes the nucleus of your marketing projects. Their close proximity to your team makes it affordable to reach them and easy to attract for matches. If you ignore your community, you are like the opposing team. You are both strangers.

On defining your source area you then introduce community projects that ensure that the club is visible in the community every day. Every day is exactly what I mean. Derby County Football Club (in the UK) in its 2005/06 customer charter planned to have 40,000 impacts in its community – Derbyshire. This was done through a multiplicity of school, and community activities.

The list of projects that the club can introduce in the community and spearhead is endless; it would only be limited by the creativity of the staff concerned. The trick is that every working day the club’s “community team” must be out there reaching out to community. This visibility of the team’s community staff in the target community will increase the team’s loyalty a few notches. Your fans get very close to your club and easily relate to your cause. Closeness builds fondness of the club amongst the community. It makes the fan believe that you are in it together. They respond by filling the stadium.

Engage the Fans:

Your staff should keep a register of all prospects and fans they come across. This is what is called creating a database. Use this database to engage your fans. Send them information, questionnaires, results, anything to keep a conversation going. This is the attention they crave from your team and it is what they are not getting. This is what deepens loyalty further. In their minds you are a team to die for.

There is technology to keep this process extremely easy for you.

Entertain the fans:

Having been close to your community, armed with your database and having created a relationship with your fans, it is now easy invite them for matches when the chips are down. They will respond because they know you are in it together.

When your fans show up at the stadium entertain them to the highest degree possible. And you do not real need to do much here. All you have to do is to make sure that the fans know the club songs. Have song initiators and let every one sing. The atmosphere is what fans are looking for and this is what pulls in more fans.

The process of attracting, engaging and entertaining constantly will quickly fill your stadium. This is what teams like Liverpool in England mastered and it is what Bloemfontein Celtics in South Africa is trying to do.


This website is built for the benefit of football. The thinking behind it is that if football understands that the currency that runs football is fans then the game will be able to lure untold success. Players will be able to succeed economically right in their home countries.

If you know a club, organisation or any person who would find this work useful please past it on.

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