We are in an age when the elite football clubs seem to be escaping further away from the communities they were founded for. So for the clubs lower down the pecking order to continue to be relevant they need to come up with unique marketing ways to engage with their loyal supporters and local community.
Motherwell FC are one of the clubs proving they are more than up to the challenge. A fine club with a history, the ‘Well’s finest hour was in 1991 when they won the Scottish Cup beating Dundee United 4-3. The Lanarkshire side have also seen plenty of top players wear the amber and claret over the years, from the likes of the late great Davie Cooper, Brian McClair, Roberto Martinez, James McFadden and Phil O’Donnell who sadly passed away 10 years ago this December.
Ryan Murrant is the man tasked with keeping Motherwell engaged with their support and the community off the pitch. While he can’t influence what happens once the game kicks off for Stephen Robinson’s side, Ryan’s role as Marketing and Fan Engagement Manager is to make visiting Fir Park an enjoyable and memorable experience for all and keep them coming back for more, regardless of the result after 90 minutes.
Previously employed by English clubs Southend, Crawley Town, Aldershot and Doncaster Rovers, 39 year old Ryan took on the challenge at Motherwell just under a year ago and is loving his role at the club.
“It’s a privilege to work in the game but in contrast you can’t switch off. I’m not a ‘Well fan but wherever you work, and obviously with what I do, you get drawn in and the club becomes your life.”
Some critics of the Scottish game say it is too insular, so how did Ryan find coming in with no past experience of the game north of the border?
“I think that has benefits and also negatives. Negatives are probably that you can be a little naive with how people will react, the culture so to speak. The way the USA crowd react is the utopia of what I do. In England they are nearly ready to be full on Americanised, but in Scotland, you can suggest something and even internally you’ll get a look of “what the hell you on about pal?” Culturally it’s quite a challenge. I’m a confident English man that knows his worth and that will shout about the good that we do here. To some in Lanarkshire that is like a red rag to a bull. 99% of our fans are brilliant, but what I’ve found up here is that there is a small percentage of fans that desperately try and find negativity in any situation. That’s quite new to me. That said, I’ve not had a boss yet that hasn’t thought I was a cheesy, annoying marketing bod [laughs].
“Something I would say with the role is that I’m always of the opinion that it doesn’t matter who you support, where you are from etc, but it’s your ability to do your job that matters. I also think it’s vital in my role especially, that you actually understand what it’s like to be a football fan. You can have every qualification in the book but if you don’t understand standing on a freezing cold terrace in January in the rain as you lose 3-0 to your local rivals, then I don’t think you can “engage” to the level you need to.
“You can see a mile off in football the ideas that work well and that are from someone that “knows”. In contrast you can see the ideas that come from someone with a text book. Look at the Signing Zone Alan Burrows introduced at Motherwell, it’s niche and it’s superb.”
While the older generation may scorn at some of the modern ideas football clubs employ to engage with fans, it is this interaction that is vital to target and harness youngsters into becoming supporters of the club, hopefully for life. Making the matchday experience a memorable one for fans is firmly in Ryan’s remit and he quoted some of the examples used at one of his previous clubs, Doncaster Rovers.
“A real life example from my own experience was at Doncaster Rovers. We, off the pitch grew our junior season ticket numbers, increased matchday ticket sales in the family stand and won the Football League Family Club of the year in 2015/16. That season the team went 17 games without a win and were eventually relegated. That to me summed it all up. Control the controllables, create Monday morning stories for young fans, let them read the team out before kick off, let them meet a player, let them design a mascot, identify a first time fan and make them feel welcome! It’s only the clubs themselves that stop themselves creating those “moments of magic” as we call them. They cost nothing, but they change lives and perceptions. A kid won’t always remember a 2-2 draw but will they remember the time they met their hero, or a high fived the mascot? 100% yes.”
A perfect example of Ryan’s work creating a buzz around Motherwell FC for the new generation was local kids being given the chance to design the club’s new mascot. 1000’s of local schoolchildren entered the competition where Steelman was chosen as the new mascot for Motherwell, a story that gained national coverage, as Ryan explained.
“We reached out to 1000’s of school children who will all be invited to a game later this season as a result of them, or their school entering the competition. That’s huge for a club like us, huge. It is then down to us/me to get them back here to another game and to get them engaged further with the Community Trust. The next generation of club sponsors, a new Alan Burrows or season ticket holders are in those schools. We must capture them now. The PR we got from it was mammoth, a live launch on Sky Sports News was perfect and when you break it down, a child drew something that they created from their own imagination and now it’s a real thing at their football club! That is mind blowing for any adult let alone a child isn’t it?”
Through fan satisfaction surveys, engaging with the customers and local community, such as the #MadeInMotherwell season ticket campaign which engaged the club’s links with the local steelworks, and making sure stewards are in the right places in the stadium to help create a better atmosphere for all.
“there is no point having a scary steward in the family stand and equally there is no point putting Mr Tumble in with the Well Bois”
Motherwell FC are one of the many clubs up and down the UK that are punching above their weight in their efforts to keep up with the mega-billionaires of the English Premier League.
With thanks to Chris Samson at Sports Marketing Scotland who interviewed Ryan Murrant of Motherwell Football Club.
Original interview at:
Follow Chris on Twitter @sportsmarketsco
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanMurrant