by COLIN RENTON
THE upcoming move to Myreside together with the recent upturn in performances and results presents an opportunity for Edinburgh Rugby bosses to market the team more effectively. And, the possibility of a vote to allow external investors to come on board makes it imperative to address the issue of a supporter base that stubbornly refuses to grow.
While there may have been efforts to promote the product, they have clearly failed to hit the mark. So, with the proviso that some of these ideas may have been considered and rejected, here are eight things that might be worth considering. A creative marketer will surely have many more.
Use the pricing model adopted by low-cost airlines –
Learn from Munster’s dynamic pricing structure where demand dictates the cost of a ticket, making it cheaper for those who buy early. Building momentum in ticket sales needs a catalyst to kick things off. So, offer low cost (or even free) tickets for the first, say, 100 people to apply online. Then half price for the next 500, a free ticket with every full-price purchase for the next 1,000 and a half-price ticket with every full price purchase for the next 1,000. Extra sales will cover any lost revenues. The issue of season ticket holders feeling aggrieved by that process can be addressed with various other incentives. And there should be a free child’s ticket with every full-priced adult purchase.
Treat season ticket holders as valued customers –
The recent departure of Alan Solomons showed a lack of engagement for supporters that verged on contempt. An anodyne press release from the SRU (not Edinburgh Rugby) said very little and Edinburgh went into their match with Connacht having singly failed to communicate with their supporters. That episode aside, season ticket holders gain little for their loyalty. The aim should be to reward them. This can take various forms; a free ticket to give to a friend; vouchers for food and drink; discounts on club merchandise…
Offer more options for food and drink –
Take a look at what goes on around Murrayfield in the lead-up to matches. And it could be even more marked for games at Myreside. Supporters eat and drink elsewhere, presumably because of more choice and more competitive prices than those inside the ground – or maybe supporters just don’t know what’s available. Take bookings for themed dinners at Murrayfield or Myreside – Italian food when Zebre or Treviso come calling, curry nights, Burns Suppers, or barbecues when the weather improves. The same applies to drinks, with beer tastings, gin tastings or whisky tastings for the hour before – or after – the game.
Entertain the supporters before and after as well as during the game –
Offer a reason to arrive early, and possibly to stay afterwards and people will spend money that should easily cover the additional costs involved while improving the relationship and potentially attracting new supporters. Possibilities include a skills competition – sprints, kicking etc. – contested as a league over several weeks by representatives of various ages from the six BT Premiership clubs aligned to Edinburgh. Other options could be skill sessions for youngsters conducted by Edinburgh players not involved in the match, music by local bands, a display by the cycling phenomenon Danny MacAskill, a big screen showing recordings of historical matches…
Push at an open door –
More than 20,000 people attended the festive season clash with Glasgow Warriors last season. Admittedly many were Warriors supporters but average attendances at other times are closer to 3,000. So what was done to capitalise on the fact that for every regular attender there were at least six people sufficiently motivated to brave the elements? Evidence from those who bought a ticket suggests the answer is absolutely nothing. There were no follow-up emails, no leaflets handed out at the end of the game, no incentives to return for another league fixture – buy one get one half price, for example – and evidently no effort to engage with these people.
Follow up after games –
Anyone who has attended an Ulster game at the Kingspan Stadium will have been struck by the efficiency of the club’s communication. On the day of a match, ticket holders receive an email with details of where to park, public transport, free buses, where to eat, where to drink, what activities there will be at the ground, and which players will be available in the ‘Fanzone’. And then comes a follow up email an hour after the game listing the next three matches and a click-through to buy tickets – striking while the iron is hot. Clever but not genius.
Be creative with signings –
The overwhelming view is that Edinburgh (and Glasgow) are unable to compete with the big-spending English and French clubs. The most frequently cited example is Toulon. But, it’s not all about money – Toulon are also clever. Look, for example, at the signing in the summer of Japanese star Ayumu Goromaru. Of course, he was offered a significant pay day. But, Toulon offset this by selling television rights for their matches to Japanese broadcasters. Is it overly ambitious for Edinburgh to attempt to lure a high profile player? Imagine the impact on crowds and merchandise sales of a Dan Carter type star in an Edinburgh shirt, his wages paid in full or in part by a sponsor who, in return, has access to the player for a set number of corporate days each year.
Keep winning –
Marketing will only go so far towards attracting new supporters. The key is winning matches. The Duncan Hodge/Steve Scott pairing worked well when they were in temporary charge at the end of the Michael Bradley era. And they have made an impressive start to their current period at the helm. Recent results have clearly transformed the confidence of the players and created a platform on which to build. The team’s new-found character shone through in the win over Harlequins, a game they would probably have lost a month ago. Success on the pitch will help to attract a bigger support, but on its own will not replace a significant marketing effort.
- Edinburgh Rugby were given the opportunity to respond to this piece but declined the offer.
Images: Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk