During a workplace discussion on brand loyalty and customer retention (yes, my job really can be THAT exciting), I was asked which brands I felt a close affiliation with.
I had nothing.
But that was before I had read Karren Brady’s recent interview and stopped to consider the link between branding and football clubs.
Like our own chairman, Brady is a regular on the television screen, swapping the boardroom of West Ham for the boardroom of The Apprentice on the BBC.
But in contrast with ‘our Ed’, her appearances have seemingly attracted little attention or criticism – presumably because they allow her to display business acumen rather than displaying sequinned vests, fancy footwork and a pair of jazz hands.
However, it is precisely that business acumen which might warrant some concern from the West Ham supporters in light of the following comments.
“The Olympic Stadium had been built less than, sort of, a mile away from us [sic] and we saw that as a real opportunity to change the brand values of the club.” she said. “Rebranding ourselves was really important with our stadium. We’re in the London Stadium. We added the word London to our crest because we felt it had real global appeal.
The aim is to change the image of the club; to establish a worldwide presence; to increase and alter its fan base and to try and take it to the next ‘level’.
Admirable stuff – but at what cost? For whilst cosmetic changes to a club crest have become increasingly common place and are little to worry about, changing the club’s underlying core values is something else.
After all, West Ham is a club which has basked in its traditions and history (they even beat West Germany in the World Cup final in 1966, in case you haven’t been told).
But how do you position a club like that on a global stage without fundamentally losing its sense of identity and jeopardising the cultural ties with its current supporters?
Over recent weeks, the discussion here on MyFootballWriter has often focussed on Norwich City’s current position in football’s hierarchy and our ability, or otherwise, to progress and develop into something more.
We’ve had debate over increasing the capacity, either through redevelopment of Carrow Road or relocation; debate over the merits of changing the age profile of the fan base and reinvigorating the atmosphere at games by altering the balance of season ticket holders and casual supporters.
Exactly the challenge taken on by West Ham as it seeks to brand itself as the London club and attract new faces to its new stadium.
But what are the current brand values of Norwich City? What is it that makes us want to show our allegiance by wearing the colours and buying all manner of assorted merchandise that sports a canary sat on top of a football?
Like West Ham, Norwich City is a club firmly rooted within the heart of its community. The club is not just another business that operates in our fine city – it is part of the fabric of the city and the wider region.
And maybe that’s what we’re all buying into – a sense of identity and community.
It is a family club supported by good ‘ol boys and gals who call up the local radio station to question what’s going on in training (Neyul).
A club full of character and characters – whether that’s on the terraces or in the boardroom.
Much has been said about the role of our majority shareholders in creating and cultivating a ‘Little Norwich’ mind-set based on deep-rooted cultural values which limit ambition and progress.
To some, the brand has become dated and tired. Like a small traditional shop that refuses to adapt to a changing world or meet consumer needs.
But does that mean we should bail out and head over to the new ‘megastore’ instead?
If it was solely about the end-product, we’d spend our money on subscriptions to the various TV sports channels and watch the best players in the world from the comfort of our living rooms rather than traipsing down to Carrow Road to watch Norwich City.
Or we could swap our allegiances to other brands that offered fewer heart-aches and better products and end up having more sides than a fifty pence piece?
In her interview, Karren Brady suggests “at football clubs we don’t make anything, we don’t manufacture anything, we don’t really produce anything other than more players”.
But I disagree. Football clubs do make something – they make memories.
And whilst that may sound twee, consider the attachment you have for Norwich City and the basis on which it’s founded.
Memories, right? And memories you could never get from watching ‘Super Sunday’.
These are the memories that are built on and reflective of the emotional investment we’ve made as supporters of the club.
I love being a Norwich fan; putting on my colours and going to a match whether at home or away. Sure it’s not always easy – in fact at the moment it’s bloody awful – but it’s a club that I am proud to support; a club that reflects my community and where I come from.
That’s not to say that I don’t recognise the need for change or want the club to progress. Merely that in taking the club forward, I would be gutted if it lost its sense of identity and the things which lie at its very heart.
Steve posts on Twitter @stevocook