I learnt a powerful lesson in marketing many years ago. In those days, South African channels, such as Mnet, used to be available in Pakistan. One day while watching a programme, an ad came on air for a telecom company. The ad spoke about how the company supported the supporters of Proteas, the South African national cricket team. Talk about a Eureka moment! Here was a brand positioning itself as a supporter of the team’s supporters and not the team. It dawned on me that this was a sound strategy, because teams can win or lose but sports and sports fans never fail.
I have long advocated that brands should unleash the power of the fan and as an avid football lover, I have been exposed to the awesome creativity and novelty fans around the world possess and what they are capable of producing. Call it user-generated content or a fan mobilisation campaign, brands know that the supporters of a team or a sport are a latent source waiting to be harnessed.
At the PSL this year, we saw commendable efforts by brands to rope in fans in the stands and in this respect, Head & Shoulders and Oppo come to mind. However, they have restricted themselves to mirroring the brand’s communication.
Here are some examples of the creativity fans in the stands can demonstrate. As I mentioned, I am a football fan and the FIFA World Cup is the Holy Grail and just as exciting as the action on the field are the crowds in the stands and the patriotism and passion on display. Some years ago, the French World Cup had an awesome slogan and I am pretty sure it is more likely that the fans came up with it rather than an agency. It was Liberté, Egalité et Jules Rimet. Sadly, it doesn’t translate so well, but it is a take on the French Revolution’s motto of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, with Fraternity replaced by Jules Rimet, the name of the FIFA World Cup trophy.
During the match in Peshawar (I think), as the camera panned the stands, it focused on a bunch of Australian fans with a message for their captain. Their sign said “Give Taylor Some Curry, He Needs The Runs”; an amazingly creative and simple play on words.
Holland is one of the powerhouses of football and they always excite on the field with their strength and skill. Their fans are no less exciting. During one World Cup, Dutch fans held up signs saying “In Gus We Trust”. The background is that Gus Hiddink was the coach, so the fans took the American slogan “In God We Trust” and adapted it. Cool right? I think both these slogans are from the 98/02 World Cups. Now we are in 2018, which means these slogans were so clutter-breaking that I remember them after almost 20 years!
In Pakistan, we love and worship cricket, so it would be a dishonour not to mention some cheeky cricket signs. In 1998, when Australia toured Pakistan, their captain Mark Taylor was out of form. He was experiencing a dry patch. Aussie fans are known for their wit that borders on irreverence. During the match in Peshawar (I think), as the camera panned the stands, it focused on a bunch of Australian fans with a message for their captain. Their sign said “Give Taylor Some Curry, He Needs The Runs”; an amazingly creative and simple play on words.
These are just a few examples of how sports fans are miles ahead of agencies and brand teams in creativity and masters at creating simple and effective communication. I recall that some brands in our part of the world have made efforts to harness this potential but a lot more needs to be done. In this era of social media, local brands must explore this source of ideas and passion and use it to their advantage.
Tyrone Tellis is a marketing professional working in Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org