Norwich City has stared into the financial abyss at least twice in the past 20 years and the people who run it are turning their attention to international shores to help free the club from external debt.
The club is partnering with sports and entertainment marketing agency Front Row Marketing Services to develop what is says will be its first “major push into international” markets as well identify new sponsorship and touring opportunities. Additionally, the tie-up will look to market the club’s Carrow Road stadium as a venue for high profile musicians and entertainment acts to perform.
In a statement of intent the club says the partnership is not only to raise the profile of the club around the world, but also to monetise the Canaries, as the club is known, brand.
Will Hoy, head of sales and marketing at Norwich, says: “We’re competing with 19 other football brands for supporters in new markets but do not have the scale as some of our rivals to do this. We’ve got a great team here but recognise we’re going to need outside help to build a global brand. The partnership with Front Row was about us having to be realistic with our targets and progressive with the way we expand the brand.
“In order to attract investment to survive and progress we’re looking at how we use the data we capture on fans through all our online touchpoints to create engaged clients and consumers and not just passive viewers around the world.”
The convergence of multi-media channels offers ill-defined but attractive revenue generating opportunities for all clubs. “Clubs own the content fans crave” says Hoy and Norwich is looking to Facebook and Twitter to engage with overseas fans who cannot get to matches.
“Social media will not grow our fan base on its own, but it does open up a window to them”, adds Hoy, “there are more opportunities for communicating and interacting.”
The club claims it has around 72,000 followers in over 200 countries around the world with a significant proportion coming from North America and Indonesia. The club is focusing its brand building efforts in both markets to begin with.
With so many Premier League teams pursuing similar strategies, Hoy believes a combination of the club’s distinctive yellow and green football kit and the presence of Delia Smith, the club’s majority shareholder and only female owner in the Premier League, will give the band cut through.
Frontrow, is a subsidiary of NBC owner Comcas. The US broadcaster will have the rights to the Premier League next season.
Matt Rogan, managing director and co-founder of sports marketing specialists Two Circles, says the club needs to make sure there is a long-term plan beyond its three-year deal with Front Row to ensure it creates a compelling proposition for fans to buy into the club’s history.
He adds: “Personally I don’t believe celebrity is sufficient in its own right to deliver a fanbase for Norwich or any smaller club. My experience from working at the NBA years ago was that celebrity drives initial curiosity but not ongoing passion or supporter engagement. Once this deal spreads brand awareness, Norwich need to be able to provide a compelling case to a fifteen year old in Sao Paolo or Singapore to remain a fan. Sponsors will only buy into a sustainable footprint. Celebrities may buy initial eyeballs, but digital delivery and excellent customer management will seal the deal.”
Norwich reported a profit of £13.5m for the year to 31 May 2012, its first positive return for three years. Income was lifted by the £50m increase in revenue from its first season back in the Premier League. The importance of the club’s Premier League survival to its global aspirations is emphasised by the payday top flight clubs will recieve from next season. The Premier League’s new TV broadcast rights contract is worth £3bn over three seasons, a 71 per cent increase on the last deal