Marketing

Football Brands and the 3 Ms of Content Marketing: Make, Manage, and Market

The 3Ms of Content - 1 - overviewAccording to Marketing-guru Seth Godin, content marketing is the only marketing that’s left (Pulizzi 2008). Especially these days, where social media makes it easier than ever before to share digital content from anywhere at anytime to anyone, it should be obvious to all marketers, that Mr. Godin had a point back in 2008 and has an even stronger point today.

In this post we will look at The 3 Ms of Content: Make, Manage, and Market. We will put these 3 Ms in the context of a football club/brand and see how business managers can apply them to their marketing undertaking.

Create & Recreate

Football clubs today have two main roads they can pursue in regard to content marketing. A club can either create its own original content by exploiting and exposing their most humble core competences and products, such as match day action and content from players and sponsors, or it can recreate — or remix, as Professor Lawrence Lessig would say — available content from other sources that is relevant to the club and to its target audience. From my professional experience, the most effective approach is to create enough original content to feed the target audience on a regular basis with information and the most specific content, and encourage fans and early adopters to remix that content and spread it through the web; user-generated content is the keyword here.

Does The Brand Have Content?

In her blog post Does Your Brand Have Content?, Maria Elena Duron, managing editor of the Personal Branding Blog and CEO (=Chief Engagement Officer) of buzz2bucks.com, suggests to remember three things when creating content for a website’s blog [and other social media]: 1) content creation, 2) variety, and 3) being social. Let us elaborate on these three keywords in regard to how a football brand can go about using Ms. Duron’s idea in its content marketing approach:

Content Creation: A football brand and its respective content producers should create content about topics they have a connection with and which is appealing to their target audience. Obvious content is anything happening on the pitch before, during, and after match days; anything happening off the pitch with club’s players, staff, management, and sponsors. And, of course, portray the 12th player – the fans – as the stars every now and then.

Re-post of FC Zurich article

Re-post of a FC Zurich article by the club from a magazine, making use of externally-generated content | Source: Facebook.com/FCZurich

Variety: Even when a football brand is committed to create original content, it does not mean that they have to make everything by themselves. Ms. Duron (2011) states that ‘there are a lot of great content out there like videos, articles, and blogs that you can include in your [digital channels]. If you can find something interesting, share them with your audience.’ I suggest to always write at least your own copy for content and embed a video, photo, infographic, or link from a secondary source that underlines your message. A football club can, for instance, tweet fan-generated videos, graphs or photos of the team, where it will write its own copy; and the same on Facebook. – See the box to the right for how FC Zurich does it.

Be Social: By being social, the brand can push out a message to create more momentum and generate more traffic in a shorter period of time. This means, no need to wait until the target audience finds the club, the club should go find its target audience and tell them what the club needs to say. This can happen through an email sent to online customers at the end of their e-commerce shopping experience, asking them to connect with the brand through social media, or by including a physical flyer in the package they ordered from the online shop leading them towards an email newsletter subscription. The good thing about the social push approach is that it is based on a permission that the target audience grants the brand with a simple Facebook like, Twitter follow, YouTube subscribe, Google+ circle, and so on. Because of that, it would be a waste if the brand wouldn’t play this social card.

The 1st M: MAKE content

The 3Ms of Content - 2 - Make

The 3Ms of Content: Make. | Photo by Sebastiano Mereu

After having spent a good amount of time thinking about Ms. Duron’s approach, it occurred to me that I had been following a similar approach with my content strategy, The 3 Ms of Content: Make, Manage, and Market.

Many marketers operate under the impression that if they create content that reaches a fair amount of people within a short period of time and, in addition, reaches audiences they did not think the content would reach, they can then lean back and enjoy the attention their content has received. Unfortunately, that’s not sustainable. Consistency is crucial in regard to creating content (Parker 2011). However, in order for us to constantly publish original content, we need to first make the content.

Justine Ezarik, the creator of the popular iJustine YouTube channel, said in an interview with Fast Company, “People are like, ‘Look at all these viral videos you have.’ And I’m like, No, it’s not viral, that’s just me building an audience for the past five years of my Internet life. (Borden 2010)” iJustine is the perfect example of how important it is for a company to constantly make content. A community cannot be built with only a handful of videos, articles and photos a year. It is a constant effort that needs to be made.

Bryan Elliott (2011) interviewed Ms. Ezarik for Mashable and summarized her explanation of how she creates successful YouTube content by saying, “It is about running a marathon, not a sprint. You gotta do the work.” According to the Mashable interview, the two most important ingredients in iJustine’s content recipe are a) creating consistent content that people want to watch, and b) building a community.

Consistent Content And Opportunity To Be Shared
Opportunity to See OTSBy creating consistent content, a football brand can achieve organic growth on all channels. The more content the brand pushes out, the more opportunity to see – or more importantly, to share – will their subscribers, followers, and fans have. Additionally, by pulling the content from the brand, early adopters can spread and multiply the opportunity to see and share the available content.

Definition: Opportunity to See (O.T.S), that is, the number of times that a person is likely to see a particular advertisement, used as a measure in advertising. (Source: lexicon.ft.com; retrieved 16 June 2015)

Since the cost of hosting and pushing content online is virtually equal to zero, the cost of raising the opportunity to share content is limited to the cost of human resources needed to organize and push it out. In this case, we can refer to these costs as ‘too low to be relevant‘. This means, that the more content a football club creates and pushes out, the more effective the undertaking becomes. The reason is: If there is more content, there is more opportunity for the content to be shared. The same is true with subscribers of the content.

opportunity to be sharedThe equation is very simple: If the brand has 10 pieces of content and 10 subscribers, it has at least 100 opportunities to share it. With every new piece of content and every new subscriber, the opportunity and possibility for content to be shared increases.

Definition: Opportunity To Be Shared (O.T.B.S), that is, the product of the amount of content published and ready to be share’ and the amount of subscribers that company has.

Build A Community
Building a community is essential for sustainable growth of any (football) brand online. However, the first step to building a community is to share relevant content with the target audience and establish the football brand as an authority in its industry, sector, or niche.

There are a few basic rules a community manager has to follow in order to build a thriving community around a brand online. We will discuss these rules in the next section.

The 2nd M: MANAGE Content

The 3Ms of Content - 3 - Manage

The 3Ms of Content: Manage. | Photo by Sebastiano Mereu

The second M of Content brings us to a more managerial activity, the management of content. Seasoned marketers know that they have many different format options, that one message can be used in different pieces of content, and that they are able look at messages from different angles and recreate content by applying different point of views.

Andrea Vahl (2011), Community Manager for Social Media Examiner and the co-author Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies, gives four tips for effective Facebook community management, which can be used for any community:

  1. Be a resource
  2. Respond and engage
  3. Moderate
  4. Measure

Let us elaborate on these four points:

LA Galaxy info tweet

Be a resource: This online info flyer was tweeted by LA Galaxy and includes basically all necessary information for that specific gameday.

Be a resource: This refers us back to the 1st M of Content: MAKE relevant content for your target audience. Fans of a football club will only come back to enjoy more of its content, if it is useful and relevant for them. A football club is always an authority. That is why fans want to follow the club and talk about it, and they will come back for more. Because of that, there needs to be constantly new, relevant, and useful content.

Respond and engage: I like to believe that it is common knowledge for football club marketers today, that responding to basically every message received on any platform is a must. Imagine, you’re the person tweeting, commenting, sending an email, and nothing happens. No reply, no nothing. How would you feel? Any engagement should be taken seriously, no matter how irrelevant the message seems. If someone comments, ‘Cool!’ on a video you posted, a simple, ‘Thanks!’ would already do the trick. If someone asks a question, do never leave it unanswered, because ‘there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers’. If you do not know the answer, comment back saying that you will check and get back to her as soon as possible. The rule here is simple: Do not leave anyone indifferent. – I am aware that if a football club has millions of followers it might be relatively difficult to reply to all. Nonetheless, most football clubs have a manageable amount of engaging fans. Therefore, respond and engage is a viable operation for any football marketing department.

Arsenal Home Kit 2015/16 Launch

Puma and Arsenal presented the Arsenal Home Kit 2015/16 live on YouTube and included the hashtag #ForeverArsenal for user-engagement. Great opportunity for either brand to actively engage with fans and influencers.

Moderate: Ms. Vahl recommends in her article to “be present and make sure people are playing nice.” (2011) For that reason it is advisable to use simple monitoring techniques like a monitoring dashboard that keeps track of all activities happening in your community on all platforms. Moderation does not only happen when people do not play nice. It also needs to happen when there is an interesting discussion unfolding.

A community manager is like a moderator of a focus group. She asks the right questions to the right people, tries to pull out some more content from those ones that are not sure what to say by giving them inputs, and slows down the output of those who dominate the discussion. Basically, she tries to balance the inputs of the involved parties. A good example could be the presentation of a new home kit. Involve fans by asking them questions and providing them with exclusive first-hand information and pictures. Connect with influencers and make them feel special. Don’t just wait for things to happen, because they might not happen the way you would want them to happen.

Measure: I agree with Ms. Vahl’s statement, “As with any marketing endeavor, make sure you measure your progress. Watch not only the growth of your community but the posts that are getting the most interaction.” (2011) Analyze the activities happening in your fan community. Try to answer questions such as:

  • How many views does which piece of content receive?
  • How far does this one reach?
  • Which demographic/audience likes which content?
  • When do we get most interactions?
  • What content does not get any attention?
  • Etc.

Analyzing the community’s activities will provide a better insight into what content the football brand might want to produce more of and which content it might want to avoid producing. This is a good tool to learn how to allocate resources more efficiently and effectively. It will also show which content fails to attract attention.

The 3rd M: MARKET Content

The 3Ms of Content: Market. | Photo by Sebastiano Mereu

The 3Ms of Content: Market. | Photo by Sebastiano Mereu

The 3rd M of Content is completely dedicated to spreading and marketing the created and remixed content available to the football brand. In regard to Roger Parker’s article 7 Content Marketing Tips for Small Business Success, this third M is about teaching, not selling, to the target audience. Maria Elena Duron’s ideas in Does Your Brand Have Content? would suggest this M is about being social. Therefore, the three keywords ruling the third and last M of this model dedicated to content are: market, teach, and be social.

The Service Marketing textbook by Lovelock et al. (2004) teaches that in regard to customers, marketing communications rely on four drivers that are set in a specific sequence:

  • to inform & educate
  • to persuade
  • to remind
  • to maintain contact

Inform & Educate: To receive the attention of the targeted group, a football brand needs to push out content that is based on facts to educate and inform them. This can be anything from opening hours of ticket counters and fan shops, events happening before and after the match, new merchandise hitting the shops, what is happening on the business-side of things, etc.

Maintain contact

Maintain contact by engaging with fans. Here an example of #ArsenalQuiz on Twitter.

Persuade: To persuade the receiver of the message, the brand needs a balanced message with an ideally equal amount of information and emotional appeal to exploit the target audience’s interest. Because this is a rather subjective matter, I suggest to market several pieces of content that might have a different balance in regard to information and emotional appeal. The reason is, some fans might be more responsive to information, whereas others might be more responsive to emotional content.

Remind: Football brands need to remind their people of interest why they developed an open and positive attitude towards the brand. According to Lovelock et al. (2004), this is best done with content that is relevant, factual and has an emotional appeal. This means that the brand needs to create enough material in the first place to be able to keep constantly pushing out content to stay top-of-mind.

Maintain Contact: It is essential for any football brand to regularly engage their people of interest with relevant content and maintain contact. This is best done by applying call-to-action methods. Involving the target audience in discussions, sweepstakes, and contests can strengthen the bond between the brand and the audience. – See #ArsenalQuiz example on Twitter in box on the right.

‘To market available content’ does not necessarily mean that the content is solely used for marketing activities. Its meaning lies on the premise that in order for content to have an impact on the target audience, it needs to either inform and educate, persuade, remind them, or to maintain contact with them. All four drivers are a subliminal act of marketing in itself and are an essential tool to bring the right content to the right target group and ensure that the messages reach and stick with the people of interest.

Conclusion

This post explained the role content has in the marketing mix. It describes the possibility for a football brand to create their original content or that the brand can remix already created content that is out there by recycling it from their early adopters. Maria Elena Duron (2011) suggests considering three things when creating content for a blog: content creation, variety, and being social. Roger Parker (2011), on the other hand, claims that “content doesn’t originate in writing. … Instead, the content needed for content marketing comes from attitudes and habits that any self-employed professional or small business owner can master.”

We created 3 categories: The 3 Ms of Content: Make, manage, market. These 3 Ms explain what kind of content has to be planned for creation, how it needs to be managed, and what the train of thought should be before spreading it. Have fun trying it out on a project of yours.

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