It’s easy to be cynical about the latest marketing trend but it works
10 July ~ Spread it over ten months, pay four larger direct debits from May or fork out a single lump sum of hundreds in July – most 2015-16 season tickets will be renewals rather than first-time purchases. What was once regarded as a luxury became, before the turn of the millennium, the most prudent way to support your team and soon the only way to attend every home game of larger clubs. Now, however, there’s a burgeoning industry in marketing the season ticket as a socially responsible family commitment.
Middlesbrough’s season cards went on general sale last month under the tagline “Our history. Our future. One goal.” A logo denoting the 20-year anniversary of Boro’s Riverside Stadium – the 0 of the number 20 transposed onto a ground plan – typified a vogue for desperately packaging local community with club history. In June I received a three-page letter from the Rangers chairman and an email from our assistant manager under the hashtag #ForGenerations. Both cited their Rangers-supporting roots while asking me to pay £38.00 more than last July for another season in the SPFL Championship.
Few clubs can rely on springtime trophy hauls or summer signings to boost season ticket sales. But attempting instead to “sell soul” is as dodgy as it sounds. Aberdeen and Hibernian produced short films to do precisely this. Underscored by indie groups with at least one locally born supporter in their line-up, they flit between overly emotive political broadcasts and the montages at the major plot point of Hollywood movies – can what happened last season be turned into new glories in the next?
However, the anthemic music connotes more than just the 2015 close season. The hashtag #WEAREHIBERNIANFC inspires a wagon-circling mindset, while highlighting the last three letters of “BE INSPIRED” in Aberdeen colours is clearly no pun. Aerial footage of Easter Road stadium nestling in a Leith skyline is juxtaposed with similarly grandiose shots of Hibs’ East Lothian training facility, used by the first team and local school kids.
Union Street, and the North Sea which financed it, segue into seeing Aberdeen FC through the eyes of a primary school-aged fan. Bedecked in the entire stock of the club shop he watches current Dons goal-machine Adam Rooney with the same awe his grandfather probably felt for prolific 1970s striker Joe Harper, who shakes Rooney’s hand pre-match.
Launching such a campaign is now seen as an achievement in itself. Hibs produced a “making of” video, detailing the sales work required when you go 113 years without a Scottish Cup. Drones, Steadicams, mood lighting and multi-platform cohesion of the brand – traces of hipsterdom give way to the fact the whole operation is locally sourced.
Season tickets buy us the right to spend more – not just on travel, food and drink but, increasingly, for tickets to home cup games. We’ll renew gladly as long as we feel manipulated by our own emotions rather than those commodified by ad agencies. But, like the printed messages inside greetings cards, the laughably cynical becomes devastatingly poignant the moment it’s addressed to you.
In September 2013, Puma’s shirt sponsorship led to the “Together we are Rangers” video. Legends of the 1950s, Johnny Hubbard and Bobby Brown, joined a member of the club’s only European trophy-winning side, Alex MacDonald, to talk about “Rangers tradition”. One year after liquidation it had me in pieces – and frantically double-checking I’d ticked all the right boxes on my renewal form. Alex Anderson