With a strong heritage, passionate fans, and constant pressure to succeed, it might be said that football clubs are in a unique position when it comes to digitising their product offering. But that is exactly the challenge that Brentford FC rose to when it stormed to recognition in the Championship. Kurt Pittman, Director of Marketing at Brentford FC, spoke to Figaro Digital ahead of his presentation at our summer marketing conference, about how the club has been evolving its digital strategy to reach a premier-league standard.
Progressive Strategy: Rapid Trajectory
“We are talking about a football club that has bounced between league one and two for a number of years, and then all of a sudden found itself in the Championship. From a business point of view, we needed to adjust quickly,” says Pittman. After five years at Fulham, moving to a club on such a rapidly rising trajectory provided Pittman and the massed marketing, media relations and content teams with the impetus to pivot Brentford’s existing strategy into a comprehensive and agile reflection of the club’s progress and success.
A Reimagined Identity
One of the key features of this transformation was the redesign of the club’s crest into a slick new emblem, which would be easily printable, shareable on social media, and would reflect the club’s spirit and history. Creating a new symbol which resonated with fans and the club’s heritage was a huge challenge, and one that Pittman was determined to focus on only when the club’s digital infrastructure was sound. “We very quickly identified three strategies we needed to employ –building a brand for the football club, getting some insight in order to drive the decisions that we made, and finally using this to get a cost effective strategy in place, making the most of our modest budget.” Before releasing a reimagined identity for the club, Pittman and his team wanted to reflect the effort of the wider Brentford FC team within its existing online strategy. “By getting the brand right first, we could make the most of all of the good work that the rest of the business was doing in delivering their own work programmes. We decided to focus on getting the brand positioning right in the first instance and deal with the crest afterwards.”
Preventing Drift: A Collaborative Approach
The release of a new badge is an emotional moment for a lot of fans, and the club made the announcement across its platforms to a vocal and passionate crowd. “Since the club was formerly owned by the fans, it creates such a difference in terms of transparency,” explains Pittman. It was clear to the club that the creation of a new badge would have to be a collaborative process involving key figures and shareholders, to ensure that the heritage, culture and personality of the club were represented fairly. “When we went through the design process, we connected with key stakeholders and individuals, both internal and external, to ensure we weren’t drifting anywhere. Integral figures from within the club’s structure, as well as well-known figures from the wider football and fan community were part of this collective effort.”
The design process aside, the strong voices and opinions of Brentford’s fans is another resounding influence on the club’s digital strategy. Communication with these key consumers is vital to drive engagement and maintain Brentford’s presence online. “Our engagement is multi-faceted across a number of different platforms. We’ve done a lot of a work in improving our community management on social media, and our new responsive website. We’ve also introduced an official app enabling integration with fan club accounts, so we can start personalising some of the content,” says Pittman. “Our email strategy is pretty comprehensive in the background in terms of how we engage – a considered approach with the journey in mind.”
Maintaining a presence across the customer journey is vital to ensure that Brentford provides a user experience that is responsive and enticing – being present at the aspirational, pre-booking stage on email, right through into the stadium via app. By remaining fan-centric, Brentford ensures that it will secure the opportunities for both commercial innovation and product development that will spur the club to success; bringing the fan community closer to their team than ever before.