Who really controls the A-League brand?

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Hundreds of thousands have been spent on print, billboards, radio advertising and TV by the A-League and the clubs like the Brisbane Roar before and during this football season. All the clubs have an active website and some have even set up Facebook pages. All of these touch points are repeating the one clear and consistent message. The brand is tightly controlled all through the media, right up to the frontline staff on match day. When the customers walk into the stadium, this is where everything should come together. Unless stadium security is having a bad day, or a cashier at the food stand is rude, or someone gets food poisoning. It is here where the brand message can fall flat on its face.

A company’s public face is controlled using tools like advertising, public relations and community and social engagement. Some organisations go beyond media and actively use every point of contact between a customer and the brand. These companies treat every interaction with themselves and the rest of society as a form of marketing communication. Often a football club has limited control over the actions of contractors like stadium staff. Unfortunately these people have a direct impact on the product experience of all customers, both casual and loyal. Through both their impact and the minimal control the brand has, this can be a real critical point of failure.

The A-League has been promoting itself as a game of passionate fans. Imagery of large crowds standing, shouting and cheering has filled the advertising material in print, outdoor and on TV. As a brand, it has promised that the A-League can be as exciting and intense an experience as any of the international leagues. Rivalries between clubs have been fabricated and promoted and a lot of photos taken of packed stands and fans wearing a lot of merchandise. To stand out in Australia, the A-League has chosen to become the fan’s game, crammed full of passion and excitement.

But you won’t find passion and excitement in the crowd at Suncorp Stadium. Thanks to the over-zealous activities of stadium security and a muted home end, the match day experience watching Brisbane Roar fails to deliver on the A-League brand promise. At the most important point, the money spent to market the Brisbane Roar and the A-League is wasted. The product is not the same as the one promised.

It is here in the grounds where the Brisbane Roar lose control over the brand and the product. It is not the club, but the actions of the stadium staff that have the greatest control over the product. Though they are not tied to the club directly, they become its public face every home game. This is where the dissonance surrounding the advertised message and the actual experience really sets in. You cannot build a brand on the imagery and language associated with European football club culture and then have security tell people to sit down and shut up. As long as stadium staff behaviour is at odds with the marketing message, the money and effort taken to get passionate fans into the grounds is wasted at the point where reality does not meet expectations.

One response to “Who really controls the A-League brand?”

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