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Mr A

A Distillation Of The LOI Brand Report

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The following is based on my notes from the launch, and from the written report itself. I don't address the issues with the report- this is simply a distilled version of what I felt the main points were. I think there is a lot here that we can use, even if the report felt like it had been rushed at the end. Another week of work on it may well have seen it much better received, it's not clear why the deadline was brought forward (this is mentioned in the report) but it seems like it was a mistake. But that doesn't mean we should not consider what might be useful in it. Many clubs already do some of the stuff mentioned here- but none do all. As always, the clubs can always learn from each other.

The LOI Brand Report

As a league we need to be cognisant of the ‘Halo Effect’. If people are saying something about the league or your club- the people around them are likely to take the same view and there is a ripple effect as this filters out. Whether the views are accurate doesn’t make much difference- once a message is consistent, it is often believed (like the ‘fake news’ effect). We need to ensure this works in our favour rather than against us. Small details can make a big difference in this regard and what can seem like trivial matters in isolation, when taken together are important for attracting and retaining fans for the league. What the league delivers is directly in line with the aims of the department of sport- it promotes a healthy lifestyle and improves overall quality of life, so we should have as much confidence about promoting it and in engaging with government for support as organisations like the GAA and IRFU.

The league has some very significant strengths- it has a level of authenticity that the cross channel football increasingly lacks and provides the ‘social glue’ for local communities. The rich history that clubs have, and the passion and commitment of their staff, volunteers and players are key elements in this authenticity. We need to communicate (subtly of course) this authenticity and that the LOI presents the opportunity to see major stars here first. We need to tie in as much as possible with the history and heritage of both the league itself and also our local areas- community engagement is absolutely vital and must be deepened at every opportunity. From working with local museums, visiting schools, improving the exterior and signage of stadia and the local environment (examples are what Bohs have done around Dalymount), clear public address systems, good food and toilets to a welcome on arrival- the details make a significant impact on the brand. Galway United are a good example of a ground interior being well presented. Meanwhile club mascots can be very effective- Shamrock Rovers have done great things with Hooperman and other clubs should be following suit. It would also be a real positive for the league if all clubs fielded women’s teams, if possible at National League level as this helps establish the clubs as inclusive, community entities.

Another example of detail being important is club shops- they should be welcoming, with merchandise of consistent quality displayed clearly. Where possible clubs should work with local manufacturers and it’s important to get your gear into sports shops to get your name out there. The likes of infant wear is important to have (people LOVE this!) as are collectables like badges and also stuff like mobile phone covers and where possible personalised items like t-shirts and jerseys.

Liaison Director:
• One of the key proposals of the branding report is for the FAI to appoint a Liaison Director for the league. This person should act as more than a mere go-between, should understand communications and marketing, and drive improvements and co-operation in the league.
• This person should not be ‘double-jobbing’ with any other FAI role, nor should it replace any other role.
• They should head up a team to implement plans for the league, as well flesh out technical matters like the brand guidelines for individual clubs to use. Unity is key in improving the league’s brand.
• Facilitate workshops (hosted by clubs in rotation) to get clubs talking- starting with a master workshop and moving on to regional ones. After all, the greatest reserve of knowledge on running League of Ireland clubs resides in the clubs themselves and all can learn from each other.
• Topics to be covered include the likes of: good governance, club administration, attracting local sponsorship, half time activities, engagement with former players and others, how to use to recognition to motivate and appreciate volunteers, formulating design guidelines.

It is also proposed to bring back the Club Promotion Officer initiative, with a new generation of CPOs fulfilling the role part-time as part of their college education, free of any other admin or ‘dogsbody’ roles at the club under the guidance of the FAI Liaison Director. Their remit would be to bring a positive message of social inclusion into the community, especially schools and they should receive support from the Liaison director such as templates and guidelines. Also they should form a community of practise so they can learn from each other as they work.

The report recognises that the Irish Supporters Network (which brings together people from supporter owned clubs and democratic fan bodies like Trusts to promote good governance and share best practise) has a role to play in helping improve the league. This organisation is affiliated to Supporters Direct Europe, enabling a wider perspective including learnings from leagues all over Europe.

Supporter Liaison Officers have a key role to play in helping get supporters’ issues addressed within the league. The role needs more FAI support such as workshops and training as well as recognition for the good work done through awards etc. They can help communicate and work with supporters to help address the isolated instances of poor fan behaviour that have a disproportionally large impact on the public perception of the league.

Commercial relationships

These should focus on partnerships more than mere overt advertising. Starting from the top- the League of Ireland should not change its name to that of the sponsor. This cheapens the brand which is also sub-optimal for the sponsor- so “League of Ireland sponsored by SSE Airtricity” would be better than “SSE Airtricity League of Ireland”. On a more local level clubs need to seriously improve their corporate hospitality, and again, details are key, even down to having proper spoons rather than plastic stirrers. Improving facilities for corporate hospitality has spin off benefits in terms of the ability to host events at our clubs away from match night. Also, we should try to have more promotions whereby (for example) sponsors give away free samples or discounts rather than simply relying on the more passive advertising. The partnership approach is very powerful and reaches people very effectively. For example if SSE Airtricity were to help clubs acquire electronic scoreboards this would open up a range of promotional opportunities for both parties on match night.

There has been controversy around the sponsorship deals at a league level and clubs feeling aggrieved that they don’t have visibility on the detail of these. The club should receive more information- but must also recognise that in the commercial world confidentially is necessary and that they must keep such information private. Essentially the FAI must trust the clubs with more information and the clubs must also prove they will be responsible with this.

Social Media

Video content is of ever increasing importance and preview videos for all matches would be a great addition. Some grounds suffer from poor camera positions and addressing this is hugely important as it has a very negative impact on the impression made by television coverage.

The report recommends that league clubs use a common social media platform and recommends that Irish company Mobstats fill this role. This platform is already used at several clubs, and Finn Harps have demonstrated that it can be used to build an incredibly loyal audience (average attention minutes in excess of ten minutes- this is massive!) that is very attractive to sponsors and provides an excellent interactive experience for supporters. Mobstats provides clubs with a level of data lacking on the more mainstream social media platforms and have proved they can work in a responsive and productive relationship with league clubs.

Background of author: Mr A (Aidan McNelis) is Supporter Liaison Officer at Finn Harps and has been part of the marketing team with the club for a number of years. Also a board member of the Irish Supporter Network. The views here are not those of either of those bodies, they're purely a personal take.

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Updated 21/12/2016 at 7:59 PM by Mr A (I don't need to answer to you)

Categories , FAI , First Division , Premier Division , League of Ireland



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