Following up on my previous post about how LFC support and efforts make a mutual effort of not doing anything for each other, I would try and enlist some ways of tackling the situation here.
A. What can the club do?
1. MERCHANDISING: To reiterate, there is very little that is being done in terms of marketing the club in India. What is there as of now is one little campaign by Seagram’s Fuel (the campaign’s punchiness is quite sad, to be honest), a newspaper column every week in a national daily by Standard Chartered and some scattered efforts. There was a small promotion on liverpoolfc.tv at the beginning of the season too. What they can rather do is increase the presence of the club in media and retail. Adidas as an outlet, has a very unremarkable stand for LFC jerseys with limitations is sizes and other merchandise usually in shortage. The bags, bottles, t-shirts, flip-flops, shoes, beanies, jackets, fleece etc are usually absent or have limited presence. Other things like stickers, decals, banners, scarves, mats, mugs, phone sleeves etc are all absent from the market. What it also does is that it fuels the unlicensed goods’ market. While an LFC store is a good option but considering the size of the geography, one store would not suffice. Not sure if the ROI would justify opening multiple stores given the high real estate prices. But joint retailing with concepts like ‘store-in-store’ and having visibility campaigns like a cardboard Shankly gate in adidas stores near the Liverpool inventory. Ensuring the availability of LFC gifts, souvenirs, stickers, posters etc is paramount.
2. BAR: LFC bars in major cities is a huge requisite. I hear people wanting to go to the MU bar. That may not entirely be contributed to the fact that people want to go to ‘enemy land’ but more so because those bars are football flavored. The fans need to be able to go to a place to connect with people of similar interest. As of now, there are very few supporter groups who organize some screenings but that’s not visible to people unaware of the group. The culture of sports bars is picking in India. Converting an existing bar into a themed sports bar should be a low investment affair ranging around 2.5 – 3.0 Million Rupees and the interested franchisees would be more than willing to shell the money in return for recognition. I am sure there is a model in place to take care of royalties, franchisee fee and other such commercials.
3. OFFICIAL SUPPORTER GROUPS & MARKETING: It doesn’t take much put a fan group in place as far as the club is concerned. With the lack of official supporter groups, there are several tiny groups that keep popping now and then. While the intentions of these groups are honest, they cannot attract fans in the absence of marketing to making themselves known and the lack of official recognition. A few groups in major cities like Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, and Calcutta should take care of the organization of fans. The onus is entirely on the club to introduce these groups to the fans in India. More than anything else, it would certainly help the census. These groups can in turn market the club, organize screenings/meetings, can get in touch with major associates to organize competitions and trips to Anfield etc. etc. The scope is vast and only sky is the limit.
4. APPEARANCES: Making your audience feel special is something that goes a long distance in ensuring loyalty. One or two visits from a player or two of the starting XI, some training camps, some space on the webpage, a few shouts on twitter should do the trick. I am not going overboard to call for a friendly here, but the little things would go a long way.
Of course, the club can also do the easy thing of winning a couple of big trophies to win thousands of new fans.
B. What should the fans do?
1. Spread the word: Like they say, no advertising is better than word of mouth advertising. It’s like a religion where bringing more people to the faith would help the good karma.
2. Refrain from buying fake merchandise: If someone is making money selling the crest or the name of your beloved club, you need to ensure that a part of it is going to the development of the club. If we fail to do it, we’re just wrong. I’ve personally never bought any fakes or counterfeited merchandise. I did not even buy from the official site when H&G were in charge. And I was one of the first ones to place an order on the website when FSG took over (although the flat 20% off that Mr Henry put up on the site helped a lot).
3. Stand up and be counted: The fans need to be present on as many fora as possible and be counted. Helps determining the fan-base and should help the club in determining the market size.
The market in India is anyone’s guess. But the most conservative of guesses would yell that it is HUGE. Football is not completely tapped and the awareness is on the rise. There are people pleading ESPN to not dedicate all their channels to cricket during the cricket world cup. The TRPs for the FIFA world cup were very very high. People from India are traveling to England, South Africa and other countries to watch football. The population is 1.2 Billion with a massive young urban class with money to spend. The appetite is on the rise. Over to you Misters Henry, Werner and Ayre…