What does it take for a club to click in neutral territories? Of the top of my head I would try and list some factors:
1. Success – Of course nothing succeeds like success. New followers, converts, youngsters develop interest in watching the recently successful teams and ultimately become fans.
2. Marketing and Promotions – Promotions either directly or thru the kit partners or other partners help increase visibility and awareness. There are instances where people simply just buy a jersey or a bag or bottle or something because they like the design and then start discovering about the badge on the merchandise and thus become fans.
3. Family tradition – Like me, most parents like their children to share the passion they have for their favorite club. My 4 year old doesn’t even know if there’s any other club on planet. Even to his friends, I like to talk about LFC, show them the logo etc. Needless to say, my son would be an LFC fan at least until I am paying for his tuition and food. Jokes apart, this only succeeds if there is a tradition for following football in the family in the first place.
4. Television – At an international location, people need to be aware of the club and watch them regularly to follow them. As good as the football may be, if there are no viewers, there are hardly any followers.
5. History of the Club – Some clubs have a history or tradition strong enough to keep inviting interest. At times, even without the other 4 supporters listed above.
6. Stars – The more one follows a club, the more this point becomes irrelevant. For hardcore supporters the stars, or simply the players, are plain names. However, the new football viewers/ followers like to follow the progress of a star name they take their fancy to. Stars definitely have some sort of pulling power. Although it’s usually complimentary. In my humble opinion, I don’t think the Torres Chelsea shirt or the Carroll Liverpool shirt would be as successful as the Torres Liverpool shirt (atleast until Carroll establishes himself as a Liverpool ‘star’). [That said, of course Abramovich can buy 100,000 Torres shirts for himself to make it #1].
7. Friends: Watching games with friends of a particular allegiance tend to incline the newbie towards that club.
Of course what finally matters is the football, but these factors act like catalysts in hastening the process of directing a football lover to club.
In my opinion and experience, India doesn’t have too many Liverpool supporters. At least not as many as there should be (then again, in my opinion, every football supporter should be an LFC fan). Of course, we didn’t do too well recently apart from the CL2005 and PL2008-09. Since there are very few football and LFC supporters in the first place, the onus of promoting the club rests on marketing and history. History too, cannot promote itself. It has to be heard. Some stars have either not performed or left. Only real red who has high marketing power is Gerrard (and now Suarez probably but it is early days).
That brings us to the disappointing fact that the LFC partners have not done anything worthwhile to promote the club in this country. Adidas uses it’s marketing space to promote Chelsea apparently because some youngsters follow Chelsea owing to their successes in the past 7-8 years. The Liverpool 2010-11 away shirt wasn’t available in most Adidas stores till much later, and is still not in some. Standard Chartered has done nothing of note except sponsoring an interview column in one on of the national dailies. Even Carlsberg don’t promote LFC events or the club. Surprising since liquor advertising in India is illegal and these companies and brands look for fronts to market their products. There was a competition on the official website some months ago for Indians but all the marketing was from the website; nothing from SCB India. Jack Wolfskin, 188 Bet et.al. don’t have an Indian presence so I don’t expect anything from them.
I think when a brand associates with a club or a sporting entity, the idea is not just to tap the existing base commercially but also to develop the base. The relationship can only work if it is symbiotic. Hence, the rights to use the logos are ‘exchanged’. LFC have the right and responsibility to use the Standard Chartered logo and Standard Chartered Bank have the right (and responsibility) to use (and market) the LFC logo.
India, with a population of 1.2 Billion doesn’t have a huge domestic structure. Hence, the market for foreign clubs is huge. Almost the entire market is available for the foreign entities. With TV channels now airing Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Eredivisie, Champions League, Europa League the need to establish the demand for football is not required. Manchester United have (as far as I know) three or four bars already in the country. From some reports, Bayern was trying to tap into the market and setting up an academy with a national footballer. Adidas promotes Chelsea. Barcelona anyway have a huge following in Messi supporters. What’s keeping Liverpool?
I, as a fan, would try my best to promote the club to all and sundry. But, over a period of time, I have realized that efforts from other quarters are required. There is no reason why Nike should sell more jerseys in India. The relationship between LFC and India has been on a perpetual simmer but is waiting to explode.