Is football a brand or a product?

Last night I went to a live football game.I haven’t been to a live game since they put seats in the
grounds. When I was young we used to go to West Ham when they were
playing at home.

You had to get to the ground a couple of hours before the
match if you wanted a decent view.

Otherwise you got stuck behind one of the pillars.

And because there were no seats they could just literally cram
as many people in as possible.

By the time the game started it was like the tube in the rush

You couldn’t move.

And if anyone at the back started shoving, everyone in front
of them went down like a row of dominoes.

This also mean you couldn’t get out to go the toilet.

a) Because you couldn’t get through the crowd

b) Even if you could, you couldn’t get back.

And everyone had had several pints beforehand, and been
standing around for a few hours.

So let’s just say you didn’t wear your best suit to a match.

But since then TV coverage has improved fantastically.

There are now dozens of cameras in the ground covering every
single bit of action, everywhere.

So I stopped going to live football.

I get a much better view of the game on TV.

I see every goal from every angle.

I have an overhead view of play developing.

I don’t miss a thing.

You’re not standing in the freezing cold for hours on end.

It’s warm and comfortable, and you can get a beer when you

This is definitely the superior way to watch football.

But a friend of mine, Neil Bowler, insisted I go to Arsenal
with him.

And it was an eye opener.

Not the football, I was right about that.

You still don’t see much of the game from the stands.

The proof of this is that, whenever there’s a shot on goal,
everyone turns round and watches the replay on one of the massive screens.

So the actual football itself is still better watched on TV.

But what I hadn’t allowed for is the football itself is only
part of the experience.

The main reason to go to a live game is everything else that
goes on around the football.

For a start, you don’t have to get to the ground 2 hours
early to get a decent view.

You have a numbered seat, like the theatre.

Even if you get there just as the game starts you know
you’ve got a decent view.

Like the theatre, you can get up at anytime and go out, and
come back, and your seat’s still there.

And, because it’s a season ticket, you get to know the
people around you.

So there’s a lot of camaraderie about your mutual support of
the club.

Then, after the match everyone goes to the pub and discusses
the game, the team, the opposition.

Previous games, other teams, other matches.

And, all the while, there’s a replay of the game you just
watched on a giant screen in the pub, for everyone to talk about.

I think the part in the pub afterwards is the best part of
the whole experience.

And the lesson for me was the difference between product and
brand, right brain and left brain, emotion and logic.

If we separate out the product, the actual football, then
there’s no debate, you actually see more, better on TV at home.

So that’s the product, the left brain logic.

But that’s only part of the experience.

The visceral experience, that can’t happen on your own at
home with a TV set.

For that you need other people, shouting, laughing, getting
angry, slapping each other on the back.

You need to soak up the atmosphere, it’s about sharing the

It’s emotional, not rational.

In the build-up walking to the stadium, the expectation
before the game, the shared tension in the stadium, the massive release when
your team scores, going to a pub full of people exactly like you, afterwards.


I think it’s all about context.

Football on TV is pure product.

Live football is all about brand.

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    Football on the radio is a product…of one’s own imagination.

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    Dave, it’s football. Jayne won’t be pleased.

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    Sorry that last post was meant to say; Has football gone to the dogs?

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    Hi Dave,
    I think it’s an important distinction.
    Apparently, despite the millions of pounds spent on advertising over the last decade, there’s been a massive decline in people’s ability to differentiate between brands. I reckon one reason for this could be agency planners and creatives mixing ‘brand’ and ‘product’ up. It seems to me that most agencies of late think that to make a consumer buy a product just means making them feel a certain way. In short, entertainment with a logo on the end.

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    Absolutely Jack.
    If you’re selling beer, or cigarettes, or perfume, then maybe it is just brand.
    But there’s an assumption that people don’t ever buy product anymore, just brand.
    If that’s true, why do people pay a premium for M&S food, just because they like the brand?
    Talk to any of the white-label suppliers about M&S buyers.
    They have to supply a higher standard than for their own branded goods.
    A superior product builds brands in many, many areas.
    And it’s the same with ads.
    Branded entertainment is not the same as building a brand.
    But selling a superior product has built lots of brands.
    It’s always been true, and always will be true, that 90% of advertising doesn’t work.
    That’s good news for people who know how to do the 10% that does.

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    i was too busy frantically writing scripts to comment on football today Grilla. did you miss me? besides didn’t i see you cavorting with Kevin at the bottom of Mr Pot Meet Mr Kettle?

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    Isn’t brand just the froth on a great product or has football really gone to the dogs?

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    You cannot separate the two.

    The Emirates is full for every match and puling in more revenue in a season than the TV rights because the high rollers want to take people there. The top paying 10,000 people, including boxes, club seats and their associated expenditure, account for more revenue at every match than the whole of HIghbury did.

    But the corporate attendees are attracted to see the high quality and attractive football (the product) that the Arsenal brand now represents (and perhaps the occassional attractive opposition, particularly in the Champions League.)

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    Very Interesting Dave!

    Who buys the Shirts and the Merchandise?
    TV viewers or Season Ticket holders?
    Or wannabe global fans?

    90% of football is crap, yet millions of people every week put-up with the 90%
    crap for the 10% of brilliance. I suppose that’s what you call Irrational Brand Loyalty.
    The golden cow for any advertiser. Being a football fan can be just as frustrating as
    working in an ad agency, but isn’t that what it’s all about?
    Being there come fair or foul weather.

    I recently visited the Colosseum im Rome and imagined what it must have
    been like to be a fresh piece of Christian lean meat 2000 years ago with 50,000
    people screaming at you “KILL HIM” or a Gladiator having to kill someone, but
    hey!… “That’s Showbiz” someone’s got to foot the bill to keep the lions fed.

    This cameraderie thing is very peculiar, I mean, I rememeber one of the worst
    ever games in the premier league I saw between Charlton and Middlesborough.
    My daughter laughed at this Charlton fan who was so angry all he could do was
    smash his peaked cap on the steel railings til he caught his knuckles. (Ouch!)
    She went to see them play Hartlepool a few days ago. The score was immaterial,
    ( well it wasn’t really) but she told me how a streaker had invaded the pitch.
    It’s just not the same on TV. This needs more investigation

    Is buying a season ticket tax deductible for brand research?
    If it is, I predict a spike in the market.

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    This is a link to a terrific blog about the truth about brand advertising:

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    That’s a great link Dave.
    Jumpers for goalposts, eh Chris?

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    Imagine two customers who have just paid out £500 for a brand, to see their branded product break down in year, and they just go…

    tut…oh well, that’s life innit.
    Yeah better luck next year with that product eh?

    The cheapest Arsenal ticket is around £1,000 and it doesn’t even come with a 2 year guarantee.

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    Just thought I’d pour some petrol on the bonfire:

    Here’s a few interesting facts from the Telegraph 11/2/09:

    Deloitte Football Money League –
    2007/08 revenue (previous year in brackets)
    1. (1) Real Madrid £289.6m
    2. (2) Man United £257.1m
    3. (3) Barcelona £244.4m
    4. (7) Bayern Munich £233.8m
    5. (4) Chelsea £212.9m
    6. (5) Arsenal £209.3m
    7. (8) Liverpool £167.0m
    8. (6) AC Milan £165.8m
    9. (11) AS Roma £138.9m
    10. (9) Inter Milan £136.9m

    Man U:
    Gate 76,000 Average ticket price 48 Eu.
    That’s £3.64m per home game. (Ask .com)
    US sportswear giant deal: £23m per year over 13 years!
    £50m from domestic TV per annum.

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    Frantic is a noted 1988 thriller film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Harrison Ford. Doing a remake, Jayne?

  • I agree, Dave.

    Situation 1: Pernod in Paris, sunshine, sitting beside the Seine. Experience: magic.
    Situation 2: Pernod taken back home to London, sunshine (rare), sitting in back garden to relive the magic. Experience: utter crap.

    I think Rory Sutherland calls it ‘contextual consumption’. He’s right.

    Come on Chels.

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    Anyone know why my post suggesting that football might be better off without marketers (like myself) poking their noses in has been removed?

    for what it was worth I said “football is a game not a product, Arsenal is a team not a brand that is supported by fans, not customers”. Hardly controversial and a fairly widespread feeling amongst those who go?

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    As a CCFC fan, I’d like to see some football with a ‘product’ at the end of it – and preferably not some scouse f*ckwit knocking it past our own keeper in the dying seconds.
    Play Up Sky Blues.

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    It’s all about the end product.

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    Hi Chris,
    I deleted it.
    Not because I disagreed with it, but because it descended into name-calling.
    I’m really happy to have controversial opinions expressed in a way we can debate.
    But if it’s just insults shouted backwards and forwards, then there are other blogs for that.
    Maybe that’s why I don’t go on the terraces much.

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    Hi Dave,

    Just thinking about including the girls here:
    Is Tennis on TV a product?
    Is live Tennis all about brand?
    Does branding work differently across televised sports?
    What about THE OLYMPICS ????

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    Hi Kevin,
    the Ladies may already be included.
    Sat next to me at Arsenal that night was a pretty young woman in her mid-late twenties.
    She was wrapped up warm, arrived just as the game started, and left just as it finished.
    I said to the guy who next to me “She doesn’t say mucj.”
    He said, “No she takes it very seriously. She’s the football correspondent for The Guardian.”

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    Imagination 0 v Reality 1

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    Hi Dave,

    Now you mention it, I’ve got an old schoolfriend I went to Charlton with who married a female fan whose mother we all affectionately called “Mum” and I knew her mother as “Mum” too. For an adopted child I seem to have done exceptionally well with collecting mums at football grounds.

    As you mentioned earlier, some of the females can get so emotional about the game regardless of education it can turn the air blue. Talking of blue, I managed to get tickets at the last minute a few years ago for a Charlton Millwall game at Charlton. Unfortunately the tickets were at the wrong end. I’ve never heard such consistently abusive langage in all my life, but we won, so it didn’t matter.

    I must admit, although I do go as often as I can, there is one place where football on TV feels more like a brand than a product. It’s the way Jeff Stelling, presenter and Hartlepool Fan makes a great programme into a brand for Sky Sports. He makes the commentary so exciting you feel like you’re watching a major event take place in multiple cities. You feeel part of the greater picture, but then again, in a way is that live football?

    He certainly makes it feel that way.

    Stoke 2 Arsenal 1
    Oh dear…..must go….
    Correction, 3-1
    That was written in real time!
    Come on Stockport !

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    Correction: “Come on Scunthorpe”

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    hello boys, i’ve been to two football matches in my life, apart from ‘Leeds’ i can’t even remember who was playing, but i do remember i loved it both times. i loved it because of the ‘atmosphere’ and the way the crowd reacted when watching the game. i love watching ‘any sport’ live, i hate watching ‘any sport’ on TV and i’m not really into talking about it but i understand why other people are. i guess i’m more of a brand person than a product person, it’s all about making people feel something, an emotional connection for me.

    hello Grilla, no, no re-makes, just a few virals. i’d rather be working on an original film idea with an intelligent, funny, talented co – writer, know anybody human or otherwise that would fit that description Grilla? so many depressing films out at the mo – tho i saw Up In The Air the other night which was brilliant. The Boys Are Back is pretty good too. both great examples of very good writing, in my humble opinion, for what it’s worth etc 🙂

    Kevin, how DO you get your posts laid out so beautifully! mine always seem to go all over the place! i blame it on my messy childhood, not far off the living arrangements in The Boys Are Back in fact.

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    An original film idea, Jayne. They’re rarer than a Steak Tartar or a hen’s tooth.

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    about as rare as a Grilla on BR Grilla. If Kaufman, The Coens, Niccol, Anderson, Spielberg, Campion and many more had said that, just think of all the wonderful films we would have missed. film is one area that’s booming, cinema audiences are up, people can’t afford to do anything else and there aren’t enough ‘good/great’ films. there’s a gap in the market, me thinks.

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    A spacious void, Jayne Mararrrrrrrrrrr.

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    Hi Jayne,

    Scriptwriting is a very sobering experience Jayne.
    So is typography. I’ve never tried either drunk, and
    wouldn’t want to. 30 years ago I handlettered the contents
    for a dummy packet of Trebor Mints in 6pt type drunk.

    Let’s just say a heavy lunchtime session down the
    pub with a bunch of animals from McCann’s didn’t help.

    Nowadays I’ve learnt to be messy all over again. It started
    when my son came back visiting from university and
    accused me of living a totally perpendicular life in Apple white.

    Note the branding: Apple, not Microsoft (product) white.

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    Kevin, your blogs always look damn tidy to me. have you written many screenplays? i’m struggling with two, it’s not easy to get it right, but possible, i think?
    Grilla, did you jump or were you pushed? if you or Kevin (if you’re not one and the same, sorry to blow your cover if you are 🙂 have the time or inclination,
    i’ve got loads of ideas i’m struggling with. in fact i think i need about six writers to finish one of them!

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    I am me and, Kevin, I gather, is he. Me, I have no covers to blow. How about you Jayne, do you have any to be blown?

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    sorry if i upset you G, i was only teasing. it’s clear to me you and Kevin are not one and the same, your writing styles are very different. as for me all i am is a cover, i ceased to exist after i was knocked on the head.

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    Jayne, my skin is as thick as that of a rhinoceros; albeit a rhinoceros that has been skinned by a poacher, thereby rendering it raw, exposed, and unable to fend-off cruel teasing. Remember that next time you aim a tease in my direction. I detect a hint of Scottish in Kevin’s writing style… Maybe he should lay-off starting every word with a Mc, unless, of course, he’s referring to McHammer.

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    or McDonalds or McCarthyism. think you’re right Grilla, ‘Gordon’ does sound Scottish. and i would imagine losing ones skin would make any person or Grilla sensitive. there’s a toe curling, skin peeling scene in Haruki Murakami’s ‘Wind Up Bird Chronicle’. i gave the book to a friend once and told him to beware the italics, but he couldn’t sleep after just reading about a skinning! a very sensitive soul is he, unlike MC Hammer, who can’t be touched 🙂

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    Buffalo Bill was skilled at peeling human skins, Jayne + Clarice Starling avoided becoming the fabric of his macabre dress by the skin of her teeth. For me, peeling bananas takes precedent over all else when the hunger takes hold…

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    I have an absolute horror of being in a crowd and being unable to get out to the loo.

    A few weeks ago I watched Triumph of the Will. As I saw Leni Riefstahl’s shots of the Nuremberg Rally (, my main worry was about the toilet facilities. Especially as, being Bavarians, they would all have had a few pints before kick-off.

    So that’s why they all wore black, I suppose.

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    I have never thought of football like this before but yes I would agree with the analogy. Football most cetinally is best enjoyed at home especially with Sky plus where you can rewind and pause freely. Being at the game however does have so many benefits that you dont get at home. Good job – well written and conveyed.