Thursday, 15 July 2010

The new aggression

Last season was a season of many firsts – both on and off the pitch. Away from the field of play there appears to have been a great deal of work done on the club’s image and marketing strategy. Even if we are not quite there on the pitch, off it the club has adopted an aggressive, winning mentality that I think puts us ahead of the majority of other clubs worldwide.

Aesthetically speaking

Everyone can see that the club has gone through a major cosmetic overhaul. This is perhaps most stark in the kit department. Last season, fans were finally rewarded with three fantastic kits to wear, easily the best in the Premier League, and probably the club’s best kits since the 1960s. The home strip was the real statement, with the club going for the maxim ‘less equals more’. Simplicity was the key word here, with the kit being kept very basic, all light blue with a white round neck. A return to Umbro as our kit sponsor has proved a fantastic move, with the partnership producing some top class training gear.

City’s online presence has been wholly revamped for the better. The website now looks very slick, with plenty of video content, plenty of interviews with top players, and new downloads. More creativity went into selling match days last season too. The Big Four Campaign (referred to in greater detail later) was a massive part of this, but also smaller touches, such as turning the stadium lights off just before kick off at night games, and projecting shining blue moons on the stadium screen – this kind of thing contributed much to the atmosphere of the games.

Customer relations

The club’s relationship with its fans has also improved. There has been some setbacks along the way to be sure (seat relocations come to mind), but overall the club is connecting with its fans in new ways.

A great example of this has been the worldwide web. There are a dedicated group of City bloggers out there who follow and report on developments at the club religiously. City have made strong links here, inviting bloggers to Eastlands to test the new website, inviting bloggers to write for the match day programme, placing links to each blog on the fan sections of the official website. These are all nice touches of recognition to City’s online community.

The club is also listening to its fans. The front page of the City website always contains a quote from fan blog or the club’s official Facebook page on recent developments. That the club actually took the design of its kits back to an old school style is – I think – further evidence of a club that wants to pander to its fans interests.

Focusing aggression locally

In a broad marketing sense, all of these moves have been aggressive. Improvements to the club’s image, improvements to how the club deals with its customers are all designed to pull in more money through keeping existing customers on board, attracting new customers and making sure all customers stay loyal.

But’s there’s another side to being aggressive, and that is competing with your rivals – in this context other clubs. And locally, we all know who that is.

At the beginning of last season, the new aggression was focussed specifically in and around Manchester. Its messages: the Blue half of Manchester is resurgent, belligerent, controversial and is the new kid on the block. Of course this took shape with the now infamous Tevez ‘Welcome to Manchester’ poster, slap bang in the City centre for all to see. The poster certainly put the cat amongst Ferguson’s pigeons, and it did so because it was a master stroke. The significance of the Tevez move could not be overstated, a top class player, a 20 goal a season man making the switch from United to City in his prime. How that must’ve rankled the red half of the city.

Then throughout the season came the creative Big Four campaign. This was a campaign that reared its head every time City played one of the traditional big four clubs (Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Liverpool) at home. The key message was that the club wanted to “celebrate those cult players who relish [big four] occasions and transcend the barriers between culture and football.” The key objective was to put “Manchester City at the centre of the cultural fabric of Manchester.”

With Arsenal’s highly charged visit in September, the club chose Emmanuel Adebayor as its first poster boy. A huge graphic was rolled out on the floor of the Manchester Arndale shopping centre before the game, and on the day of the match, posters with the same graphic were littered all around the stadium.

In December came the visit of Chelsea and it was Shaun Wright-Phillips’ turn. Iconic images of the little winger dribbling with the ball were graffiti-ed near the East Stand reception. The image was 50 meters long and young fans were challenged to run the length of the artwork to beat SWP’s own time and win prizes. This artwork was also replicated up the side of the four story Printworks in the middle of the city.

In February the campaign was upped a notch again with the visit of Liverpool. This time, Craig Bellamy was the centre of attention. The Welshman was the subject of an edgy video entitled ‘I give my all’, which featured a cinematic recording of Bellamy getting ready for a big match. A special piece of artwork was commissioned that signified Bellamy’s style of play: a snarling beast. All very unique stuff.

Finally, as the season came to a close with the visit of United, Carlos Tevez once again became the focus of the campaign. Clearly the club’s best player of last season, the Argentinean was the subject of another artistic design completed by the same people behind Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign. The new design, entitled ‘Tevez Pasion’, was very chic and iconic and is still available to download from the club’s website.

Whilst the campaign achieved its stated aims, I felt that it was about much more than just emphasising key players. Here was a campaign specifically directed toward the traditional hierarchy of English football through emphasising the links of current City players with their former clubs. Of course, there was plenty of room for needle here. It was clear that the Arsenal fans hated Adebayor before his reckless antics last year – pictures of his face around the stadium weren’t exactly designed to calm tempers. Bellamy the player is disliked by all except the club that he plays for, and the Tevez link with United needs no explanation. In short it was a campaign that sought to antagonise, challenge and a threat all rolled into one, with the message: ‘we are coming for you’ emblazoned on its forehead.

Channelling the aggression for 2010/11

Backed by this aggressive philosophy, off the field last season was a highly successful one. The real trick of course is keeping that aggression flowing and channelled in the right areas for the coming season. Key challenges lie first in the realm of aesthetics. How on earth can the club improve on last season’s kits? I have little idea and await the new designs with anticipation. I have always wanted the club to take a nod to its own history and produce a kit in the fashion of the old St Mark’s (West Gorton) black and white strip. The other key challenge is this: so far the new aggression has worked well locally, but how will this translate as the club continues to grow globally? Developing the new aggression for the global football market will have a massive bearing on whether the club increases its global appeal to rival the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan.

No comments:

Post a Comment