Transparency & Influence

The incident with Man City and their now former agency PHD Manchester last week highlights some key things about working with influencers.

In recent years, I’ve become increasingly wary of the screenshot. I fear it on behalf of celebrity clients who post the odd misguided tweet and don’t delete it quick enough, as well as brands who may not have a full team of savvy enough customer service agents responding to the messages they receive. One of the main reasons I am so wary of the screenshot is that I am so quick to take them myself. Any time I see a potential error online I preserve it for future presentations on ‘what not to do’!

So I can see why the Man City marketing team would be so annoyed by the listing that went out on Tribe last week. Once something is out on a platform, you’re no longer in control of who sees it and how it is interpreted. It doesn’t matter if people are in a private network or part of a specific group. If you are not happy for something you post to be on the front page of a newspaper then don’t send it, it’s the only way you can be certain to avoid it getting onto the wrong screens.

Influencers can be a great conduit to get a message to your target audience, but this channel works a lot better if you use it in a non-cynical way. That’s why I distinguish between ‘man made’ influencers (who ‘influence’ as their entire job) and people with influence who do something else as their main job. The former can be great as a form of amplification of your message, but they are very much like standard advertising. It’s the latter who can offer you a way to enrich your campaigns and engage with your target audience. As with all marketing, if you start from the consumer’s point of view and what they want, then you should be able to create a great campaign to meet their needs.

Let’s look at Man City (or at least, their agency’s) brief on Tribe:

The problem (which incidentally, nobody except the brand or the agency ever need to know about) – filling the Ethiad Stadium for the Champions League matches against teams who are relatively unknown and uninteresting in the UK.

The brief says that is why their ‘Core fans’ are less likely to attend. I would suspect that they are less likely to attend because it already costs them a fortune to go to all the Premier League games. I know there are rules for league matches about discounting tickets – both to avoid Season Ticket holders being worse off and also to make it equal for home and away teams – but for CL games I would imagine if both teams agreed they would be able to do a deal for fans?

The brief

They wanted to use male influencers aged 18-55 to target students, young professionals and people new to Manchester to show the great atmosphere with an element of FOMO. So let me get this straight…….for matches which die-hard fans can’t be bothered to go to, they want to find random Mancunians and/or Man City fans to show what a great atmosphere there is at these low attendance matches, in order to encourage people who don’t usually go to games, to come?

There are multiple reasons in that short brief that I would be parting ways with my agency

  1. They disclosed the problem publicly which hinders it being solved
  2. They don’t seem to think that the amazing players in the team have any sort of influence to encourage fans to attend
  3. They don’t seem to see the value in the existing fanbase and how they could work to encourage more of them to attend
  4. They seem to be totally lacking in any sort of creativity in the way that they approached the problem.

If I had this problem to solve, I would firstly be looking at what I could do on ticket prices – better to have 50% of the proceeds from all of the tickets and a fantastic atmosphere to encourage future attendance, rather than 100% of the proceeds from 20% of the tickets. I’d explore things like

  1. Family/friends ticket deal to get groups of people attending – majoring on the message that you would be getting to see world class players for Man City
  2. Champions League Season Ticket – with some sort of benefit or guarantee to get tickets for the later stages of the competition if you show loyalty at this stage
  3. Targeting tourists – a chance to get in this great stadium and see the English Premier League Champions when it is usually impossible to get a seat

If I was going to look to amplify my messages outside of the Man City owned channels (which I guess they will want to do, particularly with the recent study by Pilot Fish showing that 50% of their followers are fake) then I would look to relevant influencers within the Man City Community. I wouldn’t expect that they would need to go to a platform like Tribe to find them.

There are so many options to solicit UGC from the fans who do go to those games. It wouldn’t take much to identify the right sort of influencers from a cross section of their fans:

  • The die-hard fans – perhaps who run blogs or vlogs
  • The ‘supported them as a kid’ crew – you could do some great nostalgia posts there, maybe even tying in with retired players (shameless plug for AxisStars ;))
  • The celebrities who support them – easy enough to look at their blue tick followers on social
  • The Manchester bloggers/vloggers looking for different stuff to do in the city
  • The parent bloggers who have never taken their kids to a match before

All of the above groups of people could have been contacted in a much more proactive way either by the marketing team or a specialist agency. They don’t need to know that Man City are trying to fill seats, they could be made to feel part of something much more special and encouraged to create some really brilliant content around it. Nobody wants to feel used or like they are just part of a transaction, if you genuinely research the sort of people you want to work with and then go to them telling them what you love about what they do and how you think you could collaborate, you will get far better results.

It will interesting to see what Man City do next……

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