Issue What message do three girls and a Santa give?

As told by Michael Wood

Bradford City have been over the past decade one of the least successful clubs in the country. We have dropped from the top to the bottom of professional football, we have twice had to take the begging bowl around just to keep the club in business. In that ten years I’ve never been embarrassed to be a Bradford City supporter.

At one point this season if you had frozen the tables of the football league while Burton were scoring three Bradford City were – I believe – bottom of the pile and that was not good but it was not embarrassing. Support was needed, support was given, and we could be proud of that. Support that the club deserves with an innovative and admirable pricing policy which has brought the most affordable season ticket prices in football at a time where people need affordable season tickets.

Being a Bradford City supporter over the last ten years has been no picnic, but I’m proud of the club the fans have twice saved.

Bradford City Christmas 2010 Offer

This is embarrassing.

And before we start, dear reader, this is not a left leaning rant about the use of women in advertising nor is it “political correctness gone mad” that tries to stop “a bit of fun” it is about how our football club looks to the world and how that undermines progress at Valley Parade.

Ignoring our personal opinions – some might like the sight of a red faced Santa hovering around three young girls although I would not be one of them – one has to look at how this piece of communication looks to address the market and what would have caused the club to form the communication in this way.

It is an unsophisticated piece of communication to say the least and you could make lists of the people who would not appeal to all day long. Finding a market in advertising is like chipping away at the stone to find the sculpture. It would not appeal to Group A, Group B would be turned off, Group C not interested and so on until you end up with the group you will make happy, the ones you want.

So who is it that City want looking at this? Is it you? Is it someone you know? Is it some you know who used to go to City but had not renewed? How many people do you know will have looked at this and not cringed, or more to the point, will have been attracted by it?

It is not that it is not pleasing to the eye or not my taste it is that it fails to address the market (or at least I believe it does, the target audience might all think that comedy was at its height with On The Buses) and in doing so is wasted time, money and opportunity.

The purpose of advertising the season ticket offer must surely to underline that commitment to a pricing policy which is justifiably lauded as being not only progressive but – in these times – morally exemplary. How do Santa and the girls convey that?

A chance for the club to shout from the roof tops about the one thing that we can be proud of over every other club in football and rather than drawing attention to that the club’s strategy is able to turn progressive thinking into something approaching anachronistic attitudes.

Having worked a few years in advertising – and having worked for for Manchester United and Chelsea in that time – one has to wonder how this campaign has even seen the light of day. It stinks of what we would call a “client driven idea” which is to say the client deciding what they want and ignoring good advice. Perhaps whoever at Valley Parade was in charge of this found the idea amusing and considers it a cheeky bit of fun but advertising is not about amusing yourself any more than football is about doing keep ups. It is about getting results.

Is there any expertise within the club about communication and marketing? Friends who follow other clubs talk about offers being emailed to them, about the club sending them an update but after “the Rochdale business” last season I asked Bradford City if anyone had accessed by data (as is my right through the Data Protection Act) expecting to hear that someone had passed my name and address on to Spotland and was told that no one had ever accessed the database of names at Valley Parade.

Everyone thinks that they can do Public Relations and Marketing but then again most people think they could pick a winning eleven on a Saturday. The club find an expert to take care of picking the team in Peter Taylor, PR seems to be done by someone with less expertise.

Public relations is far more than someone being “the voice of the club” and is about shaping a message about the truth of what is happening at the club and that truth – in this instance – is something we can be massively proud of.

The message should be Bradford City are a club thinking about its supporters, rewarding them in tough times with fair pricing and inviting more of them on board. The message is that Bradford City are old fashioned, that the club is stuck in the 1970s.

So does this matter? There is an expression that half the advertising budget is wasted but no one really knows which half and any communication that City sent out inviting people to watch League Two football might fall on deaf ears or be preachments to the converted but perhaps it hints at a malaise which is more deep rooted at Valley Parade than we like to admit.

The team runs out to Hi Ho Silver Lining which has links to City but is mired in the 1970s, the club flips between stripeless shirts which echo that decade, half time entertainment is a chicken walking around and a man in a warm jacket geeing up the crowd. It is like the 90s and the football revolution never happened. That revolution – that relevance – saw Bradford City rise to heights unthinkable before with a set of supporters who represent the last major injection of new blood into VP.

You and I, dear reader, might be glad that Cee Lo Green never plays over the PA system but how are the club trying to create a contemporary, modern, relevant setting around the club to get the next generation?

With three girls and an old man in a Santa costume?