“Don’t judge a book by its cover”
…except we all do. It’s absolutely no different for your football club or league; if you realise that and act on it then you can reap the rewards!
Perception is subjective, so what you think about the image of your club is not what Joe Public may think. You need to put yourself in the shoes of an outsider. Who is a player more likely to choose? Who is a partner most likely to work with? Terrible Tim’s Tinpot Team whose social media hasn’t been updated in months and doesn’t have a website… Or Amazing Anthony’s Athletic FC who keep on top of their social media and have a decent website?
Being visible, and then looking good when you are visible, is a major part in attracting new participants – whether that be in committee/volunteer roles or players on the pitch.
I have been studying marketing for five years now and every day in my role for Somerset FA, I see clubs who could thrive to a much greater degree if they considered some simple aspects of marketing and branding. By no means am I suggesting that you throw a large budget at marketing your club; even I do not even get a large budget working for the Football Association. Being smart about what you use and how you use it can make all the difference.
If you have nothing else, you really must have a website. A website is your ‘face’ to the entire world outside of the confines of your club. A simple yet engaging website is essential to making sure that Joe Public knows about your club. You can have sections about your teams, fixtures, results, match reports and essential information about your club, such as contact details. Creating a website in the first instance can be a big job, but it is a worthwhile investment of your time. Once your website is up and running, keeping it updated weekly is essential in keeping people coming back to your site. You may even then be able to earn some money from placing adverts on your site via Google Adsense, once you’re established, and in turn, earn some money for your club.
In my experience, grassroots football is all over Twitter – don’t get left out! In fact, I wouldn’t have a clue about what was going on in Somerset if it were not for our active Twitter feed (go give me a cheeky follow – @SomersetFA). Twitter is a very public and open space where clubs, players, leagues and County FA’s can interact.
All users of Twitter can search across the platform for the information more easily than on other platforms. Of course, if you require or wish, you can make your profile private – perhaps a useful feature for a youth team, for example.
Facebook is a very closed network, and even when someone ‘likes’ a page, they may hardly see your posts. This is due to changes by Facebook in the way that you passively consume content, where you will now see posts and messages from friends and family before sponsored content or even pages which you have liked.
In my role with Somerset FA, I have also linked our Twitter feed to our Facebook page, so that all our content feeds through with no work from me. I used the free, third party service “If This Then That (IFTTT)”, which uses triggers (such as Somerset FA tweeting) and creates an action, in sharing that Tweet to our Facebook page.
“A picture speaks a thousand words”
You don’t have to be the next Annie Leibovitz to take a decent snap on the smartphone of your choice and upload it to your Instagram account. Instagram is a great way of engaging with younger people – the future of your club! A carefully hashtagged picture can be seen by many and shared by your players and fans alike! You can either add hashtags in captions of your Instagram posts or in the comments.
In my experience photographing the Somerset representative squad, players love a decent action shot of them on the pitch. I’ve stumbled upon profile pictures and cover photos of some of the players in their kit – all advertising Somerset FA, whilst giving them something back to share with their mates.
I hope you have, thus far, found this article to be conversational in tone; friendly and accessible. It’s key that your club comes across like this as well. Attracting new people into your club will be very tough if your persona is too formal or staid. Take, for example, Bristol City and their infamous goal scorer GIFs on Twitter. For a Championship club to take the boldly informal step of producing silly animations of their players is brave – but it paid off in spades! Now I see new clubs following suit every week. Having a sense of humour and humility about your club, without verging on being laughable, is a very successful strategy to engage with a broader audience online beyond your closed network like fans and players.
Please, please, please have a decent logo! The exact composition and content of which is subjective, and often dictated by club history – that’s fine. But, have a clear digital version that you can use, not a picture of it embroidered on a shirt! If you don’t have a decent digital version and can’t create one, I guarantee someone within your club will have the necessary nous to knock something up; let a player off his subs for a week for a nice high-resolution logo.
You don’t need expensive software to create nice digital assets for you to use online either. I’ll let you into a little secret, I manage to create everything I need for Somerset FA on Microsoft PowerPoint! It just takes a little creativity… Obviously, there are other tools out there, for more advanced users, such as Adobe Photoshop.
Growing your Club
The FA spent a lot of time and effort producing a great guide to growing your club, which is available free-of-charge on the Somerset FA website. The guide looks at clubs just like yours, and larger clubs as well, to collate best practice in a number of areas into one document. Aspects of growing your club covered include:
- Developing an identity
- Building a team of volunteers
- Talking to fans
- Strengthening your community presence
- Promoting fixtures
- Attracting and retaining supporters
- Improving the all-important matchday experience
Building relationships with local businesses can benefit everyone. Sponsorship is an excellent way for your club to raise revenue while raising the profile of the organisation that is sponsoring you. Grassroots football offers businesses and organisations with a unique opportunity to communicate with their customers and put something back into the community. Finding and securing a local sponsor will be a huge victory for your club, but it can be difficult to know where to start.
Following the above advice is a great start to making your club attractive to potential sponsors. Following that, there is some great advice out there from Club Matters, funded by Sport England. You can find more information on the marketing section of the Somerset FA website.
If any Somerset FA club would like to talk to me about marketing, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Conor is the Marketing Officer for Somerset FA, having been in post since January 2017 following a three-month internship the previous summer. Conor controls Somerset FA’s online presence, branding and photography. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Marketing and is currently studying toward a PhD.