Football jerseys are the uniform of the modern football fan and stadium visitor. Real Madrid alone sold 1.4 million official replica jerseys last year (therichest.com). If we consider the numerous fans around the globe, the above-stated number gives us a hint of the very large size of the football jersey market.
My drawer counts a few jerseys from clubs from the UK, Italy, Japan and elsewhere. However, my latest purchase gave me the best experience ever – starting from the packaging to the contents and the communication that came with it. It was Eintracht Frankfurt that made me think about the customer decision-making process and how a football brand can improve its engagement with a jersey buyer, which ultimately lays the foundation for a possible emotional bond between the buyer and the brand.
Fill & Jamison (2006:129) describe a 5-step customer decision-making model that starts with (i) problem recognition — ‘I want a new Eintracht Frankfurt football jersey’, which leads the prospect to (ii) information search — ‘Where/how can I purchase the jersey?’ The next step sees the (iii) evaluation of the offer against other offers on different online or bricks-and-mortar shops (amazon, Zalando, Footlocker, etc.) and, then, make the (iv) purchase decision. The process ends with the (v) post-purchase decision, which aims at establishing a lasting relationship with the football brand in terms of any kind of involvement.
According to Fill & Jamison (2006:131), “Marketing communications, at [the post-purchase] stage, should be aimed at reinforcing past decisions by stressing the positive features of the product or by providing more information to assist its use and application,” – and that is exactly what Eintracht Frankfurt does. They do not only send you a jersey wrapped in a plastic bag and add one or two random flyers. Their shop sends out a complete package consisting of a branded, nice and stable box that contains a comprehensive merchandising catalogue of the club, two high-gloss flyers promoting pay-per-view Eintracht Frankfurt matches, return-forms, and finally the actual purchase – the jersey – wrapped in a nicely designed paper-poster. See video below for details.
The Eintracht Frankfurt Jersey Package includes:
- A Eintracht Frankfurt branded carton box
- The Eintracht Frankfurt jersey
- Paper-poster (used to wrap the jersey)
- Merchandise catalogue
- Flyer to join the fan club
- Flyer to order Sky Eintracht-Receiver (branded pay-per-view receiver)
- Flyer about sky broadcasts (again with club branding)
- Administrative forms
Fill & Jamison (2006:136) state that “Purchase decisions made by consumers vary considerably, and one of the factors thought to be key to brand choice decisions is the level of involvement (in terms of importance and relevance) that a consumer has with either the product or the purchase process.” Building upon that statement, Brian Solis (2010:173) underlines, “In the human network, brands that incorporate emotional hooks stand a far greater chance of connecting during engagement in critical touchpoints than those that rely on brand legacy.” The involvement concept includes the following three phases as explained by Fill & Jamison (2006:137):
Phase 1: Contextual elements
The first phase of involvement confronts us with the expectations a potential buyer has in regard to the experience, which can be based upon her/his values and prior experiences. For instance, the potential buyer has bought football jerseys from different clubs in different online or offline shops. Those past experiences created expectations in regard to future jersey purchases of other clubs (brands). A further element is the reason of the purchase. Is it for oneself or is it a gift? If it is a gift the experience might not be as important to the buyer as if it is for oneself. The experience, then, might be regarded as a very crucial part of the buying process. In our case, the buyer has a history of buying different football jerseys and definitely has some expectations. For the Eintracht Frankfurt brand this means measuring itself with other clubs that receive international broadcast exposure and have a following of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
The nature of the stimulus needs to be considered as well: Does our consumer want to buy the jersey because all her/his friends also have one? Does s/he use it for sports, or is as a fashion statement? All of these questions (and others) are viable and to be considered. Furthermore, phase 1 of the Involvement Theory looks at the nature of the product itself and asks the question, Does the product provide a direct or indirect experience? In regard to our case, the jersey can provide both experiences; a direct experience when simply wearing it (even just for fashion) and feeling close to the Eintracht Frankfurt brand, as well as an indirect experience when wearing the jersey at the stadium and being part of the supporter group.
Phase 2: Influences
The second phase of the involvement concept is characterised by (i) the intensity of involvement that reflects a high or low level of personal relevance. The next main factor underlines (ii) the focus of the involvement, whose primary importance is either based upon the product or the communication surrounding it. The third factor involves (iii) the duration of the involvement.
Applying the three factors of phase 2 to our case means: The purchase of a jersey from a mid-level European team, such as Eintracht Frankfurt, is undertaken by someone that has a high involvement in either the club/brand or football in general. For that reason, the intensity of involvement can be regarded high. The focus of involvement can be assumed to be laid on the communication surrounding it, since the jersey communicates certain values, ideologies and/or interests. However, if the jersey is to be worn specifically for sports or as a fashion symbol, the focus might be laid differently. Nonetheless, this might not be the main case. The involvement between the purchaser and the brand can last long enough for the brand to gain a return on the customer acquisition spending – and that should be the aim. Merchandising catalogues, social media, and stadium experiences can influence future spendings among high involved consumers.
Phase 3: Outcomes
Fill & Jamison (2006:136) state that “Phase 3 concerns the outcomes or responses that individuals give as a consequence to the involvement they experience. The manner and speed at which information is processed (as a result of the level of involvement) leads primarily either to attitudes being formed prior to behaviour (high involvement) or to attitudes being formed after product experience or behaviour (low involvement).” They continue underlining that messages addressing high-involvement consumers should focus on attributes and benefits, whereas messages addressing low-involvement consumers should focus on emotions, because that target group does not invest any effort in processing the submitted information.
It can be observed that the Eintracht Frankfurt brand invests a good amount of efforts and resources in providing relevant information enriched with emotional communication to influence attitudes after a customer has bought a jersey. That influence is meant to lead to the purchase of additional products (cross-selling), such as a subscription for pay-per-view Eintracht Frankfurt matches, registration to their fan-club, and other products or services.
Above we established that the post-purchase decision needs to be considered in order for creating a lasting relationship between the football brand and a consumer, and in the previous paragraph, we discussed that it is crucial to involve the purchaser of any merchandise and push his emotional buttons.
In a presentation at the E-Mail Marketing Tag 2014, Stefan von Lieven depicted his view of the customer decision-making process and the post-purchase communication by explaining that after a purchase has been effectuated, most companies only send out an order confirmation and a shipping confirmation, and that is the end of their active communication. Mr von Lieven urges to continue post-purchase communication, while, for instance, asking for a review of the product or a recommendation to friends (on website or social media), or providing relevant information about purchased product or other products, and, last but not least, simply writing a Thank you!-note (preferably via email) for the purchase.
In the case at hand, it can be observed how Eintracht Frankfurt tries to evoke emotions with the packaging in terms of brand communication. The post-purchase moment of truth was the moment when the official English Twitter account of Eintracht Frankfurt replied to my tweeted picture of the jersey and also retweeted it. As a study by Prof. Tobias Schäfers (EBS Business School) and Julia Schamari (gkk DialogGroup GmbH) with Kia Motors shows, ‘active fans have an up to 30 per cent more positive perception of the brand, feel more integrated with the brand, place more trust in it and are more emotionally engaged with it. And the likelihood that active fans will buy a [product from that brand] is much higher (20 %) than it is for non-active fans. (ebs.edu, 2013)’ The mentioned study underlines my statement that any individual, who receives the attention of an international brand and gets involved into a positive public one-to-one communication about the brand, will feel more sympathetic towards that brand. Of course it can be argued that the 1-to-1 communication could have taken place also if I hadn’t bought a jersey.
Eintracht Frankfurt provided a great jersey-shopping experience for me. Their online shop was okay, nothing fancy, and simply guided me to what I wanted: the Eintracht Frankfurt home jersey 2014/15. Nevertheless, the brand was able to create a fabulous post-purchase experience with their packaging and their online communication. After such an experience my expectations will be very high when buying another jersey from a different club. I urge any football brand to consider the importance of post-purchase decision-making and the involvement that comes with it. Creating emotions with consumers and engage them with personalised direct communication can lay the foundation for a nurturing and lasting relationship.