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World Cup 2014: Seven lessons brands can learn from fans

11th Jun 2014
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With the World Cup kicking off in Brazil today, all eyes will be on Neymar, Rooney and co, on the pitch. But what can businesses learn from the supporters on the sidelines?

Roger Brown gives us seven insights into the football fan’s psyche, and what brands need to do to tap into some of that dedication fans offer their teams by the shedload.

1. Don’t let your customers switch sides

Football fans have an unflinching allegiance to their team, which retailers should be envious of. The strong sense of brand affinity and commitment to their fan journey is not limited to their team’s success. For instance - we will continue to support England long after this World Cup is over, regardless of the result.

However, football teams and brands have very different relationships with their supporters and shoppers, and so they should. The concept of football loyalty is centred on a belief system, that transcends brand values and, where supporters are devoted to each game, regardless of the result. Whereas brand values are critical to retailers as consumers are constantly evaluating whether the brand has lived up to it with each experience. A brand needs to personalise the engagement to each individual customer and deliver the best value. 

2. Make sure they feel at home

Traditionally supporters were aligned with their clubs and teams because of their proximity of the team to their home. However, today football fans transcend geographical boundaries. Football teams have created an environment that allows fans to have a sense of belonging to something more than a brand, but an overall customer experience where they are not limited to location but united in common interests and aspirational brand values. 

Modern retail has a different challenge as brands are operating across several different locations, both offline and online. Retailers need to deliver a seamless brand experience across all of these channels. Social media has provided an opportunity for brands to interact and nurture its community online. Consumers can engage with the brand and discuss their shared experiences with fellow consumers, which will allow brands to create ambassadors who will champion the brand values.

3. Understand their aspirations

As England fans, we’d like to win the World Cup, but we don’t expect it. Brazil fans, on the other hand, expect to win and go through each game with style and panache. There’s different aspirations expected through each team’s ‘journey’.

To transfer this into the world of business, it has become more of a challenge for brands to determine Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) in this multichannel digital age, but it has also become imperative that this is a priority. Having an understanding of who your customer is, what their shopping journey will be and the ability to provide them with services, products and content that is relevant is key to developing brand loyalty and ultimately increasing sales.

Having a focus on the customer journey, beyond a one-off transaction is vital to delivering a richer and more engaging brand experience. With return visits, brands will understand more about the individual customer behaviour and deliver a memorable experience, where the customer feels like they have been treated with respect and a valuable part of their business.

4. Make the experience personal

Football fans have a strong sense of pride when it comes to team allegiance through a collective experience. However, this is not created through a personalised experience but through unwavering loyalty. Whereas retailers are committed to the individual experience as they need to analyse customer behaviour in order to optimise the customer journey through one-to-one real-time engagement.

Brands need to focus on delivering strong and consistent brand values across all customer touch points. Customers want to feel appreciated and engaged throughout their journey. This can only be achieved by engaging with customers one-on-one and providing them with the right content, messages and opportunities. This will not only increase sales but deliver a richer experience for customers that show their brands really know who they are.

5. Give them something to shout about

The concept of football loyalty is unwavering commitment. It would be absurd to think that an Arsenal supporter would switch allegiance to Tottenham Hotspur or that a Dutch fan would support Germany after a low performance game, and yet it isn’t so ridiculous for consumers to switch between one brand and another after a poor customer experience.

One of the strongest assets a team has is its supporters, and the key to a successful brand is its customers. Social media allows consumers to engage with your brand and fellow consumers, so it is essential that brands focus on engagement, honesty and transparency to build a loyal following.

6. Think about their long-term aims

Have a real conversation with customers! Gone is the age of a brand monologue, where brands say why they are the best. We are in a multichannel dialogue where customers tell brands if they are the best and more importantly, why.

We will continue to support England long after the World Cup because we want to go with them on their journey, and experience the emotional rollercoaster! Brands should want to engage with their customers at every step of the experience, both good and bad. Often a brand is truly tested when something goes wrong. Consumers want to feel appreciated and satisfied. Feeling a part of a brand experience will ensure that consumers continue to buy into the brand and ultimately develop a sense of absolute loyalty.

7. Deliver a premium product

Football teams deliver more than products, they offer a premium experience. Fans will live and breathe every minute of each World Cup game through a sense of pride to the team and what they stand for. For brands, they need to deliver a sense of individuality in the experience they offer to all of their customers, so that they feel unique and understood by the brand. A premium product doesn't necessarily need to be the most expensive thing; but it does need to have that sense of individuality. 

Roger Brown is CEO for Peerius, a European marketing leader in personalisation for multichannel and pure-play retailers.  

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