So if Biz Stone, Twitter's founder, is right in his proclamation that "the future of marketing is philanthropy," the Premier League has a mountain to climb. I'm singling out the Premier League because it is that organisation that demands the megabucks and yet, as a grassroots coach I'm sure, like many volunteers, I've never come across them offering to help develop the game. The FA, which regulates football in England, by stark contrast has offices in every county from which it runs schemes to get youngsters and adults interested in the beautiful game as well as to encourage adults to help develop the sport through coaching, refereeing or being an administrative help to a club.
The Premier League came in for a lot of criticism last night, as soon as the inflated price for three years of tv coverage was announced. In my opinion, it's completely warranted. Take a look at the Premier League Web site and the only mention of any kind of corporate social responsibility you see is a "Communities" page. There are a few photos of kids being trained and when you click to find out more about its Communities scheme, you get a single page with no clickable links to anything of any value. There are some mentions, not backed up links, of giving kits to some kids clubs and a line about helping to fund artificial pitches around the country. There's no detail, however, and there's no links to click through to and, more importantly, there's no "click here" if you're a club looking to see how the Premier League's billions could help.
Put very simply -- the past few billion-pound deals to televise football could surely have led to artificial pitches being built in every town across the country. So how many have been? Actually, it's really hard to tell because the Premier League doesn't mention how many it has rolled out, nor how many kits its provided or grants it's handed out for safer goal posts. The Football Foundation Web site, which is funded by the Premier League, doesn't really help out either. Clearly help is being given to some clubs, although the majority appear to be schools. It's hard to tell how much, though, because the data isn't made clear.
There have been calls for the Premier League to force clubs to bring down ticket prices but it's not clear how an organisation can tell other businesses how much they can charge, particularly at the top clubs where it costs a fortune to go to a game but the grounds are still nearly always full.
What the Premier League club clearly can do is take a look at its marketing -- at its image. If it really is doing great work, then come clean about it. Let us know how much comes in to ensure the Ferrari dealers in Cheshire and Park Lane are kept busy but then say the funds have meant x pitches have been built, x goals replaced and x kits bought, and so on.
If the Premier League was in touch with the real world, with the way its image will be judged, it should've announced the figures and immediately pointed out that will lead to every town getting an x by such and such a date or a doubling of our current free kit initiative.
It leads two options for the public. They already think the money at the top of football is crazy but they could be persuaded that either the Premier League is doing some really useful work with they money it gets or that it is involved in a little bit of CSR work so it can post the odd picture of happy kids, the football equivalent of 'greenwash'.
The Premier League's current stance can only be seen as encouraging the latter
When I heard Biz Stone talk last year about the future of marketing being philanthropy, a key component was to not just do good but also tell people about it.
It's a two staged process. It could be doing the right thing, it's just if you don't tell anyone, how are they to know?
The Premier League needs to learn this lesson, and sooner rather than later.