The FA Could Learn From Biz Stone's Prediction On Good Deed Marketing

It's interesting to read that the Football Association (FA) is making all the right noises about being on Instagram and Twitter and getting higher levels of engagement around the Emirates FA Cup with Millennials. Trouble is, I think the organisation is in for a shock this year, or next as its most treasured asset -- outside of the England national teams -- surely cannot compete against the massive money flowing into the Premier League.

It's obviously good marketing practice to look at engagement levels with key audiences, particularly when talking about your first branding of the FA Cup, which will be known as the Emirates FA Cup for the next three years. However, I'm always reminded of Twitter founder Biz Stone coming to Oxford to tell excited conference delegates that marketing, for many, would become a process of doing good deeds and then telling people you have done them. I can't think of a not-for-profit organisation that could benefit from this approach more than the FA.

As a grassroots coach, I know how hard the FA works on getting a new generation of players developed through the modern game via an army of well-trained grassroots volunteers. I'm not so sure the general public does. Rather than counting engagement with Millennials around the FA cup -- as useful as that is for a conversation around sponsorship -- the key for me is how many coaches we are developing, how many boys and girls of all abilities are playing the sport and, most crucial of all, how is central wealth being turned in to top quality 3G all-weather training facilities?

This is not just because all these things should, by rights, be on the dashboard of the success of the future game, but because the FA simply can't compete with the Premier League. If I mentioned GBP99m as prize money you would likely think that's a great sum for the Champions. In fact, that is what the team coming last in the Premier League will earn next season when even more tv money is pumped in. The GBP5bn that BT and Sky will fork out for tv rights going forward from next season is a near trebling of the league's tv income in just five years. By the way, yes, your math is correct -- that's £10m per home game for the Premier team that comes last whether or not they earn a single point or score a single goal. In case you were wondering, the Champions will earn GBP150m in tv rights for a winning season, plus inevitable bonuses for being televised more than any other team.

When you compare GBP5bn flowing into the Premier League with the GBP30m the FA will earn through the Emirates FA Cup deal, it becomes clear that this equals GBP10m a year -- the same amount of money the team that comes last in the Premier League will earn for every home fixture for the next three years. Thus, the allure of the competition is in giant-killing in the early rounds, such as Oxford beating Swansea, and then toward the end of the tournament, the chance to make history by winning the cup.

It's true that there has never been a huge financial motivation for big clubs to do well in the cup, and the competition has thrived on players wanting to become famous for playing at (FA-owned) Wembley Stadium and perhaps even scoring or lifting the trophy. However, when you have a league full of non-English players with less of a heartfelt grip on what the cup means than the average true fan and with their managers judged on how well they do in the Premier League rather than a cup, there simply is no way the cup can compete.

Put it this way. On Friday night League Two side Exeter got a draw against a Liverpool team in which even family members and friends from Liverpool did not recognise more than half the players. Two days later I was at Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea beat League One's Scunthorpe United with a full-strength squad. The difference was that Liverpool knew the far more lucrative league, that can lead to Champions League football, was the tournament to prioritise, Chelsea's dismal season means the FA Cup might be its only chance of getting Europa League football next season. This feeling of the league being so much more important than a cup will be sent into overdrive next year season when the new deal means tv money coming in to the Premier League will rocket from GBP3bn to GBP5bn.

Against this backdrop, the FA will still need to know its cup is delivering an audience the sponsor wants to reach, but it will need to start measuring success far more on a barometer of participation (players, coaches and referees) as well as facilities. If the current CEO, Marting Glenn, whom I was fortunate enough to talk with recently, can say next season that the organisation has kept watching England affordable -- a huge round of applause from this fan on that one -- at the same time as increasing 3G all-weather training facilities across the country by x% with a corresponding increase of participation of x% then, to my mind, the FA will be speaking the right language. 

These moves are all in the pipeline, I'd imagine, after Glenn kicked off a grassroots survey at the end of last year. The FA is also rolling out more all-weather pitches, and so hopefully, when the feedback is looked at by the FA they will realise as a not-for-profit organisation the best thing it can market about itself is how it's future-proofed the young players I help to coach every weekend.

The future of the game is not in fancy guys being the first GBP100m player on half a million pounds per week, it's about telling the country how our up and coming talent is being nurtured through the best coaching personnel and training facilities possible. It's about showing how the Premier League is wonderful news for Ferrari dealerships and mansion developers but, if you want to talk about the real future of the game, it's in good hands with the FA. 

Next story loading loading..