With Brentford Football Club hoping to fill a shiny new football stadium with shiny new Bees fans a few years down the line, and in the wake of the club’s ‘Pay What You Can’ initiative, Beesotted loyalist and long-time contributor, Dan Suh, puts his not insignificant business head on and looks at what else the club could be doing to attract new fans.
Those who may remember Ron Noad£s will remember his desire to achieve ‘Target 10,000’ yet lacked any real cohesive ideas, instead relying simply on success on the pitch. For the younger fans who don’t remember him, think of Monty Burns from The Simpsons and you’ve pretty much got him spot on, other than that Mr. Noad£s thought he was a football manager and that our rightful home was in Woking or Kingston. At the time, I can remember criticising the club for their lack of proactivity, their lack of creativeness, their lack of drive to make Target 10,000 happen.
During this close season just gone, the club again communicated the need to attract 10,000 fans in order to make Lionel Road sustainable, that is IF we get planning permission. But I am still concerned about the club’s ability to make this a reality. Of course, should Lionel Road happen, I do not want to be sat in a stadium devoid of atmosphere, only a quarter to a third full, losing money due to low attendances, and so on. But that could happen. There is no guarantee that a new stadium will boost our attendances, especially because we are in amongst a highly competitive city for football fans, with QPHa and Foolham on our doorsteps, not to mention the bigger clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham vying for kids’ attentions with vastly higher profiles than our own.
Looking around the entire Football League, I wonder what is it that makes Brentford unique? What makes Brentford an attractive football club to support if you are a kid, or someone who is interested in football, but with no club to support? Ask almost any football fan (who actually attends games) what makes their club special, and often you get the same answers, such as “the fans are what makes us special”, “the atmosphere”, and other cliches that even I would come up with if asked the question. So, if most football fans all think the uniqueness of their respective clubs are all pretty much the same, then football clubs are not unique, and that includes Brentford.
For starters, I would applaud the efforts of Brentford FC over the last few years, in making Griffin Park a fantastic place to come and watch football. Our play is exciting and easy on the eye. We are winning, which helps immensely in attracting supporters to the club. This is surely one big step in achieving the 10,000 goal, and sustainable success will go a long way further. It is not unfair to say that we stand a great chance of playing in the Championship within the next two seasons.
We do also have a fantastic community scheme that gets Brentford FC engaging with the local community far better than I can ever remember. It is no real surprise to see a lot of younger faces around the stadium on matchdays, far more than I can recall, and being successful will retain a lot of these younger fans.
But, is there anything else that we can do, either as fans, or the club, to attract more supporters? How are we marketing ourselves? “Real Fans, Real Football” is the strapline used by the Bees on adverts that you might have seen on the back of buses, for example. I understand that it’s positive PR, but looking at it objectively, that’s all it is. A pat on the back for the person who came up with the idea, but has it achieved the return of investment? How has the success of the campaign been measured? Is it part of an overall campaign, where we can expect more PR activities to sustain the momentum? If it is just a one-off, then frankly, we are way off the mark. We are either dreaming of this Target 10,000, or we need to assess our marketing activities in its entirety and invest monies wisely into a sustained campaign, utilising all the positive PR channels we can possibly get.
Of course, it’s easy for me to sit in my armchair, typing up my thoughts. I simply don’t have access to information that the club has, and for all I know, they are ready to launch the kind of campaign that literally drags people in off the street to get them to watch Brentford FC. But if not, then I think we should assess what will get people out of their armchairs and get down to Griffin Park, now!
I’d look at creating some kind of PR video, highlighting some of the “Real Fans, Real Football” message, and distribute it to every school in the area, offering free “packs” and tickets for kids and teachers to come down and watch. The message being that we are hugely passionate (insert clips of this atmosphere at GP and Wembley), we play some unbelievable football (insert clips of some of the great goals we have recently scored), that we actually have a blooming terrace with which to jump around in (insert clips of fans going bonkers on the terraces), and so on (I’m sure you get the idea by now).
Then, make another video showing the number of fans from ethnic backgrounds who regularly support the Bees, and include the likes of Gurdev Jassi, owner of Skyex, to push the message within the community.
I like the idea of advertising (like the ones on the buses), so long as it is part of a campaign where there are other activities, adverts in magazines, and so on. Maybe in key locations on the underground for example? I’d also encourage an upsurge in proactive social media to engage with the local community, run competitions to win tickets to games.
But, most importantly, I would run a massive market research campaign online and on the streets, to assess why people don’t come to Brentford and what would make them come.
To me, I think the teen market, who can’t afford to go to Chelsea and similar, are our market. Many teens probably like football, play football, but their Dads support another team. Getting them interested in Brentford is key and I would personally reach out to all the amateur football teams in the area. Saturday morning sides, youth sides, Sunday sides, and so on. Get an army of ambassadors to sell our club, give out leaflets giving reasons why Brentford is the club to watch, incentives to get them to come (discount vouchers for example), and invest in some “cool” freebies that people would actually keep.
I don’t know what the budgets are at Brentford, and running such a campaign takes a lot of man hours. But, using Bees fans to help spread the word, using the existing resources that are already contained within the club and its fanbase, I think, is the way forward. I believe that should the club believe in its own fans, create working groups to devise and implement tactical marketing plans, then Brentford FC will retain its links with the supporters.
My point is that the club can only do so much, but to avoid becoming ‘another’ football club with no point of difference, the links with the fans can forge the kind of PR campaign and growth that can make a difference.