John Terry, Fabio Capello and the value of England's brand
Before we start can I just say this in NOT a football blog. Thank you.
On Sunday June 27th 2010 England, a team who qualified for the competition at a canter, lost to Germany and "crashed" out of the South Africa World Cup. The hopes of millions of English supporters were left in tatters. The performance of the team throughout the tournament had been lamentable. Public opinion of the team was at an all time low. Lifelong supporters said that England were "dead" to them.
England merchandise plummeted in price. The pubs were empty for the remaining games of the tournament. It was estimated that the cost of England's failure for retailers was around £1.2bn. Alright, the estimate was in The Sun, but I have no reason to believe it wasn't a good one.
England's brand value was at an all time low. Over the last couple of years the FA has been working to retrieve the situation and England's improving results on the field have helped to pull people back round.
Along the way, though, spectacular blunders have derailed the plan. The FA's disastrous bid for the World Cup 2018 and the response to the failure - blaming everyone else for losing out to Qatar - being a prime example.
Now we have Terrygate II. You will remember before the World Cup in South Africa that there were accusations of impropriety on behalf of England's captain that were played out in the press. Terry lost the England captaincy but remained in the team for the tournament. It is speculated that the affair caused a rift in the team that was at least partly responsible for England's poor performances in the tournament.
Reinstated to the captaincy for the Euro Qualifiers all seemed to be going well for Terry and the team. Attendances for the qualifiers at Wembly improved after starting quite poorly. Then came that incident. Following a premier league game between Chelsea and QPR Terry was accused of hurling racist insults at an opposition player. A complaint was lodged with the police by a member of the public and after a protracted investigation the CPS decided there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction.
The FA last week met, without the team coach being present, and decided to remove the captaincy from Terry for a second time. This week Capello has publicly stated that he strongly disagrees with the FA's decision.
Where does all this leave England? A captain facing criminal proceedings. A team split. A coach clearly at odds with his management.
I could (and buy me a beer and I would) talk about the sporting implications at great length, but this is primarily a marketing blog. So let's restrict ourselves to the marketing issues.
What is England's brand value today? Brand value is the amount of extra money a strong brand can extract from its customers. For the FA, the England brand value is realised through TV rights, sponsorship, ticket sales, membership fees etc. How much do you think sponsors would have been prepared to pay to get their name on an England shirt/website/tour bus/kit bag etc just before the South Africa World Cup compared to today? I don't know the answer but I have my suspicions. I notice that match attendances at Wembley for the Euro qualifiers are down on those for the World Cup. I also notice that membership of the England Supporters club is half price on the website at the moment. Coincidence?
I believe that we are seeing a classic example of the difference between what a "company" would have us believe their brand is and what we actually see it to be.
Brand is a short-hand for a whole range of feelings, beliefs and expectations about a company, a product or a team. For a brand to be credible the communication about the brand must reflect our experience of the brand. I don't know what the FA would cite as the England team brand characteristics. Maybe something like :
Pride. Passion. Honour. Teamwork. Strength. Character.
How well are they doing do you reckon?
Now clearly sometimes a company will define brand values that are to a degree aspirational. "We want to be like this and we're trying to become it." The Nat West bank is a well known example. It very publicly set itself the target of becoming the UK's "most helpful bank". It is then incumbent upon the company to do what is necessary to change the business in a way that will change customers experience and hence attitudes. You can't simply say one thing and do another.
You also have to recognise:
- a great brand is hard to build and easy to destroy - what is Gerald Ratner doing these days?
- everyone in the organisation has to demonstrate the brand all the time.
- the company has to publicly endorse, and enforce, the brand