• Getting On-Message in the Off-Season

    Both sides of Manchester will be celebrating this weekend as both United and City clinched the top prizes in English domestic football. For them and, indeed, all British clubs, players and fans, it's almost time for a well-earned breather before the pre-season matches, transfer speculation and season 2011-12 preparations get fully underway in July.

    On this side of the water through, we're just into a dozen games into the season with plenty to come, not least the inevitable trials and tribulations of the Champions League and Europa League campaigns. There's plenty to look forward to over the coming months and it would seem to be the perfect time for the league's marketing department (I assume we have one) to be pushing it's benefits to those who face the next few months bereft of their weekly football dose.

    This isn't the place to discuss the complex 'why's,' but the fact is that thousands and thousands of Irish people flock to watch the English Premiership and Scottish Premier League every week, whether sitting at home, heading to the pub, or travelling across the Irish sea in their droves. These people may not be into League of Ireland football, but they obviously like to watch football (unless they're Liverpool fans). For most, if not all of them, watching the game- in whatever guise- is a weekly habit, a cornerstone of their weekend. It would be natural for them to be at a loose end and more willing to try a bout of Irish football at this stage of the year than any other, particularly without the sparkling diversions of the World Cup or the European Championships this summer.

    At this stage of the year, there's no reason why not just the FAI, but individual clubs, couldn't be running advertising campaigns designed to encourage wayward fans of British football fans to sample the delights of domestic football. Look at the way Ryanair markets itself in relation to the supposedly bigger and superior brands like British Airways- their adverts are usually irreverent, witty and tongue-in-cheek. They don't try to compete on the things they clearly can't win on- in our case, we're never going to be able to follow a European Cup-winning side or see Messi play weekly- but focus on the things they do well, and that make people come back- in our case- the community of football fans, the pride in your local team and the thrill of being at a live sporting event.

    A little imagination and wit go a long way and if clubs were to take the initiative here and make a real play for some of the thousands of football fans around the country with no football to watch at the weekends, the time invested in it could really pay off, even if just a fraction of those dispossessed discovered the buzz of supporting their local team. In fact, even if they revert back to normal when the British leagues resume, the fact that there'll be a fifth column of fans at the pub or on the ferry every Saturday that are slightly more knowledgeable about Irish football can only be a good thing- not to mention the money they paid in at the gate.

    It's time to stop ignoring this group of people and consoling ourselves with the thought that they're too far gone, or that there's nothing to be gained by chasing them- now is the perfect time to put that to the test.

    There's another reason why this is the perfect time for a second concerted advertising campaign, following the opening of the season. The fact that it's summer means more tourists, both from within Ireland, and from abroad. Around 6.5 million people holiday in Ireland each year, mainly in the summer months. Around 1.6 million are Britons- it's not unreasonable to assume some of those millions are football fans who might welcome the chance to see an Irish game. Again, poster, guides and leaflets with directions and match details should be produced by Irish clubs and placed in local bars, hotels, hostels and the like to try and entice tourists to come. The weather's also markedly better as well.

    These factors combine to mean June appears to be a very good month to make a push for increased awareness and higher attendances. Instead of trying to get people out of the cosy pub on a freezing cold February night to see a game, it's trying to get people out on a warm evening when there's little else going on. It can be done- it simply takes a little initiative and imagination- next month would be a good time to start.

    Taken from We Play On Fridays- the only online LOI fanzine
    Write for WPOF
    This article was originally published in blog: Getting On-Message in the Off-Season started by thischarmingman
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