NO MATTER how many times you say it, when Leicester City were officially crowned the champions of England, it just did not seem conceivable. The victory was by far the greatest feat ever witnessed in the history of not just football, but sport in its tota
Each Premier League season spans a period of 10 months and management have to deal with various trials and tribulations across that period.
This was never meant to happen, not by any stretch of imagination, but the fact of the matter was that it did, and I’m here to reveal some of the implications to this story.
Naturally, I have run out of superlatives to describe this unprecedented event, with the words “miracle”, “fairytale” and “inspiration” becoming far too synonymous with the rise of the Foxes and various media publications throughout the world quick to congratulate and report this wonderful story.
I won’t delve too much into the details or statistics of how they conquered the world’s toughest football league. Rather, I will indulge in the business conversation of things and how it has affected the media and consumer sentiment, and what opportunities can be exploited in this once-in-a-lifetime fairytale.
Social media rise
According to IPG Mediabrands Thailand’s proprietary social-media listening tool called “Prophesee”, the context of Leicester City’s crowning received 4.3 million global mentions across all social-media platforms (except Facebook) during the three days until Tottenham Hotspurs drew with Chelsea. Twitter alone accounted for 98 per cent of those conversations, while more than 45,000 reports were covered in official news publication throughout the world.
Significantly, it is also worth mentioning that 95 per cent of the sentiment across the board was deemed favourable.
During the span of only six months, the number of fans on Leicester City’s official Facebook fan page increased from fewer than 650,000 to 4.6 million, surging almost seven times, according to the analytics tool.
Digging deeper, you will be surprised to find that Thailand represents the second-highest number of fans on the page, behind only Algeria (because of its association through Riyad Mahrez, the current Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year), even more than the total number of fans from the United Kingdom.
Thailand’s link to the football club has become apparent across the globe, and many Thais jumped on the bandwagon and pledged their support to this underdog club with a huge heart.
The football club’s local fan page, Leicester City FC Thailand, also tripled the number of fans during the same period, rising from just under 200,000 to more than 600,000 to date.
The power of context
The numbers have proved how much contextual relevance means to people. The underdog theme is one that resonates with the masses, and has appeal across the globe. When we analysed the Prophesee heat map the conversations triggered, it didn’t just come from Europe itself, but spanned every single continent.
The context of this underdog story is the stuff of true inspiration that not even a Hollywood scriptwriter would dare compose. It runs from the perennial under-achievements of Leicester’s coach Claudio Ranieri, who had never won a league title in a 30-year career, to the meteoric rags-to-riches rise of striker Jamie Vardy, who not long ago was still working in a factory as a technician producing carbon-fibre splints.
The story here for challenger brands would serve as a lesson that success can be formulated in many ways and the path can be achieved through various means.
Leicester has shown that there is more than just one way of doing things and a big budget doesn’t always guarantee big success.
Challenger brands are best advised to adopt this context and translate it into content that their own brand narrative can associate with, turn it into content-marketing strategies that have appeal to the mass market who love David-versus-Goliath stories.
The sky is the limit. The club’s imminent participation in next season’s Uefa Champions League will mean many brands will need to act fast to secure sponsorship deals or miss out on opportunities for greater brand exposure. The Leicester public relations team was quick to evolve its hashtag from #fearless to #foreverfearless since achieving the holy grail of football to make sure that people are reminded that this story is far from being a flash in the pan but is rather a first step in the journey towards sustainability of the brand.
Leicester City have already written themselves into the folklore of sporting greatness, and that narrative will be translated into huge commercial value, whether directly or indirectly.
I leave today with one famous quote: “It’s hard to be champion; it’s harder to stay champion.”
Pradon Sirakovit is associate director for corporate communication, IPG Mediabrands Thailand. Reach him at [email protected] mbww.com; Facebook, LinkedIn: IPG Mediabrands Thailand.