“It’s all about the brand” has got to be one of the most annoying phrases of the 21st century. When applied to football, you can crank the annoyance factor up way past 11. If we put all that to one side for a moment, however, maybe there is something to it? Like it or not, we are in a footballing world where money talks.
We may not always agree with what it’s saying, or the tone of its voice, but it talks. To attract outside investment, sponsorship, or even players, there is more to a club than just the twenty-or-so squad members, the gaffer and his staff, and the ground. When you mention to a stranger that you support the mighty Stevenage, what is the first thing that comes to their mind?
Boro’ Glory: Does We Need A ‘Back Story’?
If you’re fortunate, it’s probably the Newcastle game. But when you take a quick look at the clubs swimming in the same pond as us, many have some sort of ‘back story’—something that instantly identifies and differentiates them. So, is that something we should try to do? Is that even possible?
Don’t get me wrong, no matter how good a back story, Stevenage won’t trouble the odds for the Champions League, EPL, FA Cup, Caribou Cup or even the Europa League anytime soon. Surely, though, it would help the club find an identity, not just with our own fans, but also with football fans across the country.
At the time of this writing, the top seven teams in League 2 all have something that is intrinsically linked to their club. I’m not suggesting for a second that this is why they are performing the way they are; it merely demonstrates how many clubs do have a readily-identifiable image—a brand. Taking the league as a whole, a non-scientific analysis puts 18 of the 24 clubs in that group. We are one of the six denied entry.
There are a variety of ways that those clubs have found their identity. For example, Morecambe and Chesterfield achieved it merely by virtue of being based in a town having a peculiar building or profession associated with it. You can throw Grimsby into the same ring. Forest Green have found international “fame” by becoming the world’s first vegan club. Stanley have two: the moniker “the club that wouldn’t die” and, for those old enough to remember, the Scouse-tastic milk advert.
Others have achieved their reputation by more football-related means. For example, Coventry are still dining out on their FA cup victory from ’87. Mind you, that has probably been trumped by the shenanigans that have occurred off the field in recent years. Exeter City played a fundamental role in the formation of the Brazilian national team, while Notts County (of course) are the oldest league club in the world.
Boro’ might have missed the boat regarding the historical events that have distinguished Exeter and Notts County. But surely there is something that we can cling on to? We are hamstrung by the fact that Stevenage itself is a fairly unremarkable town. Is it any wonder if the football club follows suit? Maybe we should make more of the fact that our nickname no longer bears any relation to the club’s name? Whichever way you look at it, there are slim pickings.
Perhaps, after all, we should forget it. If we concentrate on getting things right on the pitch, we can achieve fame and glory the right way. Then we can look smugly down upon the other clubs that are desperately clinging to some faded and jaded history; grasping at marketing techniques instead of simply trying to put the ball in the onion bag.