Does England Really Need Agency Branding?

Deep down, I'm rather envious about the team at Wieden+Kennedy that will be leading the creative charge and assisting on branding as England heads to the World Cup in Russia next summer. What a great gig. Honestly, can you think of a better job if you're an England fan?

The trouble is that appointments like this hit my "you're kidding me" button. Why? Well, for starters, I often wonder why huge associations appoint someone to the marketing director or the head of campaigns and then that person just goes off and hires an agency to help them do whatever it is they are supposed to do.

I would love the opportunity to go into a meeting at the FA and say I have a couple of points I'd like to explore, but mostly, I will be bringing in an agency and pay them millions to help me out. 

No, I'm not against agencies, per se -- of course I'm not. But the England football team? What branding do they need? They wear three lions on their shirts -- they represent England. If you're trying to come up with a logo and tagline, you don't have to look very far.

I was once talking with the guys at my favourite team, Chelsea, and they were incredibly excited about their new campaign. It was the same as every other year -- only this time, instead of being something along the lines of "True Blue" the line was "We're all blue." I forget the details, but that was just about it. Rearranging the same words each year is apparently a career?

I can't help but get the feeling that we will get exactly the same situation with England. Apparently, VCCP's big previous contribution to the national team was the tagline "For All." I'm just left wondering how big the invoice was for suggesting those two words? Now, I'm sure there were some brochures and fliers and a rebrand of the shirt-selling website, but honestly, is that it?

The best thing the FA has ever done it did for itself. I talked to its chief executive a year or so ago and he had just launched tickets where an adult can pay just GBP20 and take up to two children for GBP10 each. For GBP40, a parent can take two kids. The FA knew that the team's abysmal form, as usual, meant it had to do something to get backsides on seats.

To a large extent it has worked. It might want to have a look at the crazy price of food and drinks within the stadium, but at least there are people there cheering on England.

So here are the two problems. The FA should have a good view itself of what it should be doing around branding, and secondly, there's not an awful lot it can actually do. It's a bit of a catch 22, but let me explain. The team will be summed up in the public by how well it does on the pitch. No marketer can influence that. No catchy two-word "Together Stronger" type tagline will influence that.

And another catch 22 success is at least getting out of their group this summer, but the nation isn't stupid. If our multimillionaire players can't even beat the likes of Tunisia and Panama to move forward, then it's time to give up. A knockout match will then follow -- most likely against Colombia or Poland -- and England would need to win at least this game as well for the nation to start taking notice. 

England has to go back more than a decade, in terms of form, to reach at least a quarter-final for the cup to be even begin being a success. Marketers will play no part in this whatsoever. The only people that can help with England's brand perception are the eleven men on the pitch.

"Roar them on" or "Triumph Together" might help sell a few shirts at the top of an ecommerce page, but it will not win new fans. You're either English and an England fan, or you're not. No amount of clever marketing will get a Welsh, Scots or Irish kid to put a Cahill shirt on their Christmas list.

And if you're looking beyond the UK, a foreign shirt buyer will be buying the name on the back of a player they admire, and again, we're into that territory of it all being up to the players.

Check out the prices on the Nike store and you'll be left wondering how even the most ardent fans can afford a GBP90 shirt. I'd be more interested in how they managed to find their way around what has to be the world's worst e-commerce storefront by the FA but seemingly powered by Nike?

And here's the rub. Not only do I rather think the FA should be able to decide its own branding and strategy, everyone in marketing knows what will happen.

If England humiliates themselves, as is so often the case recently, the ad agency will shrug and say not our fault. If England lifts the trophy the campaign will be a huge success. Lovely work if you can get it.

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