There’s a touch of a Hollywood ‘rags to riches’ narrative about Leicester City’s spectacular triumph in the Premier League, yet far from the showy glitz and glamour of the celebrity spotlight, the team’s success has been driven by something far humbler as well as human.
I’m no authority on football, yet as someone who works in the marketing space, there are a few points along Leicester’s path which have emphasized the importance of focus and community, both within a team and outside it.
Manchester United have spent more on players in the past year than Leicester have over their entire 122-year history, yet a commitment to win fostered by a team spirit has meant that Leicester’s lesser-known players have overcome teams studded with global ‘superstars’ – a victory of a gritty commitment to a common goal overcoming supposedly superior players. Have these superstars become complacent, and has their focus become blurred by sponsorship packages, media coverage and the celebrity lifestyle rather than being sharpened on the ultimate goal?
In retailing terms we’ve seen the ever-dominant Tesco lose market-share to smaller, earthier retailers such as Lidl and Aldi, causing the giant to regroup and abandon some of its diversified offerings. Similarly Apple has recently reported its first decline in year on year revenue – are these examples of bigger, arrogant teams losing out to smaller, more agile and driven outfits? In a product-focused approach, are these smaller, fresher businesses in the growth stage of their lifecycle simply more efficient and attractive than the more established companies who are perhaps too cumbersome to innovate sufficiently to stay at the top of their game, no matter how much they spend on advertising (or new players)?
For a long time, businesses have tried to engage customers with gifts, whether it be the Midland Bank ‘Griffin Saver’ bags (remember them? Grab one on eBay for £15…) of the 1980s, or more the more recent dolls given away to promote insurance comparison sites. However, Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s decision to offer fans a free beer and doughnut on game day to celebrate his birthday is a masterful example of engagement.
With fans of other clubs protesting at rising ticket prices, this gesture galvanized support and made fans feel part of a community, rather than part of a transaction or a few more pounds in the pot to pay for a superstar’s new house. Businesses across the board are learning that transactional exchanges with their customers propagate a ‘them and us’ sentiment, with the customers more often than not getting the dud end of the deal, and leading to reduced loyalty. By inviting fans to celebrate his birthday, and giving them free beer, Srivaddhanaprabha drew the fans closer to both him and the team, and whilst the players on the field do the work, an engaged “12th man” in the form of the fans can only go to help them!Share this: