Campaigns are wide of the post

Football fans are a captive audience on match day, but too many brands fail to understand their potential.

With Euro 2004 around the corner and the culmination of the domestic football season last weekend, football is at the forefront of many people’s minds. With the mass hysteria and loyal following associated with football’s fans, they make a prime target for advertisers. But it’s a shame that creativity in the football environment is not on a par.

Football stadia provide many opportunities, combining the moving image capabilities of television with the static visuals of outdoor, but a huge gulf exists between the creativity put into TV and outdoor media and that applied to sports stadia. Fantastic creative work for international brands such as Nike and Reebok are seen on TV as was Peter Kay’s “Av it!” campaign for John Smith’s, but people complain about brands’ lack of understanding of football.

Football fans are passionate, loyal and totally captivated by the action on match day. Last year, 32 million people went to football matches in the UK and 5.7 million of these were unique visitors. Of this fan base, 86 per cent were male, accounting for over 25 per cent of all UK males with a combined yearly spend on football of &£92bn.

It does not go unnoticed that this market is highly lucrative and there is no comparison to this unique audience for advertisers. Creative executives’ juices should start flowing at the mere thought of this gold mine, particularly as many of them are football fans.

Stadium advertising is a medium that demands individual attention rather than mere rearranging of standard formats, which I see a lot of. It offers multiple communication points including large screens, perimeter boards, concourse and washroom panels.

Recent research reveals that advertising in sports stadia achieves average response rates of about 50 per cent. If the campaigns were creative and relevant the rates soared to 75 per cent.

Many companies merely brand stadia using perimeter panels, which could be used far more effectively. Building the message using sequences of panels or with rotating panels seen at some grounds is one idea. Adding to the message on panels by using areas next to escalators at Tube stations is another; boards could even change each week to provide fans with a teaser campaign, building up to a “reveal”.

One recent success story understood the concept of making the unfamiliar familiar across multiple channels and achieved phenomenal results, immediately catapulting the brand into the major league. The campaign, by online betting shop Blue Square, consisted of using panelling in the washrooms, quoting “foot-in-mouth” one-liners from footballers and managers. Blue Square’s consumers understand sport and the campaign taps into the fans’ psyche and shows them that it understands them.

So watch Euro 2004, feel the passion and get ready for the start of the next season.

Mike Hodges, managing director, SportsRevolution

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