You may take it as an indicator of the depths to which our society’s values have sunk, but wearing the shirt of a football club you don’t support is now considered such hardship that people will compensate you financially for doing so. The decision of a football fan on a BBC phone-in today, to turn down an offer of twenty-thousand pounds to wear the shirt of an opposing team may have sealed the case for the video ref, but this is reality folks and this weekend football fans throughout the UK will be wearing the colours of opposing teams to raise money for Sport Relief. What we are talking about here is intrinsic to the human psyche and very much a marketer’s primary responsibility – brand loyalty!
Football teams, like religions, and car marques and most everything else today, are brands and our relationships with them (Brandships) define us, our values and beliefs. Football shirts, religious artifacts and Ferrari key fobs are the badges of belonging that Maslow told us about. Which is why asking an Everton supporter to wear a Liverpool shirt is not asking him or her just to betray their club, but to betray him or herself.
The fact that this charity event will work is a measure of the potency of brands today and the tremendous influence that smart marketers can and do have on society. If you aren’t playing this game already, think again. Nobody is free of the need to belong. Maslow calls the liberation from the need to define ourselves in brands “self-actualisation”. Few realise it. Even if you don’t discriminate positively you will do so negatively. For example, I may not go out of my way to buy a specific brand, but there are brands that I absolutely won’t dally with, because I don’t agree with their ethics or values.
So, if you see red at Goodison Park this weekend give a thought to what that means to you and the future of your business and start planning your brand strategy, because, in the post recession marketplace, if your brand community isn’t de rigueur you’ll probably lose your shirt.