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Branding and the beautiful game

Posted by Tom Croft - Head of Marketing at PHMG on

Football fever is upon us again, with August marking the return of the world’s most influential football league. More than just a competition, the Premier League possesses an enormous global reach, with an audience of over 2 billion in 189 countries. As their fan base and subsequent profits continue to rise, we’re exploring how the Premier League, and football clubs in general, are asserting their brand – and audio – identity with valuable results.

Last year, the Premier League went through a drastic rebrand, dropping their Barclay’s sponsorship and debuting a completely new look and sound. Bright, colourful visuals replaced the traditional blue, while a punchy, electronic-based audio identity was established. The reactions to the changes were widely positive, and this month, the league took their sonic strategy one step further by releasing an official anthem – ‘This is the Premier League.’ The track will now feature on Spotify, giving fans the chance to relive the sense of elation experienced in the stadium watching their favourite team in any setting they choose. If this wasn’t enough, there’s also a campaign to have the music feature on EA Sports’ popular video game, FIFA. With this repeated exposure, the track will become synonymous with football as a whole – ensuring the Premier League brand remains at the forefront of the sport’s continual growth worldwide.

Football is unique in its ability to transcend geographic, cultural, linguistic and ethnic borders to reach huge numbers across the globe. One of the main reasons for this is the careful branding behind each of the world’s most successful clubs. From the selection of players, use of social media and those big brand sponsorship deals, every decision produces an overall picture of the club as a brand. In this season’s Premier League, just four teams out of 20 have UK-based sponsors – while the remaining look as far as America, China and Thailand for backing. As the world’s most expensive football club, Manchester United has developed a brand that’s recognised around the world – and their consistently high-profile sponsors are a defining factor in this value. The club signed a seven year deal with US car manufacturer Chevrolet back in 2014, and their subsequent success in America surpasses that of rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona and natives LA Galaxy.

It’s not just the sponsors that mean big money – individual players can in fact be one of the most valuable ways to generate exposure for a team. This year, Paris Saint-Germain’s purchase of Neymar from Barcelona for £198 million set a new world-record transfer fee – and is likely to have ramifications across the globe. The move will no doubt develop the PSG brand internationally, as fans of the Brazilian star will scramble to own a shirt with the famous name. The additional exposure and revenue will allow the French team to compete commercially with the big hitters of the football world, as one of the world’s most marketable athletes puts his famous face to their club.

Not every football team, or business, has the funds at their disposal to spend such life-changing amounts of money in the quest to take their branding to a more global place. But all the aforementioned decisions have one thing in common. They all bring a sense of longevity – which is something that any brand can achieve without the football price tag. As the Premier League has realised, one of the simplest ways to prolong brand recognition is through developing an audio identity, repeatedly giving customers the chance to form a connection with the company. And just as every football fan devotes their time and money to their team over the years, this heightened connection will lead to brand loyalty – something that’s priceless to every business.

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