Thursday, 7 May 2009

Arsenal Fan Suicide - The Ultimate Expression of Brand Loyalty?

image credit Wigo

The unfortunate suicide of a Kenyan Arsenal Soccer Club Fanfollowing their defeat to Manchester United brings home the power of club loyalty and the strength of identity association with somebody's favourite team.

As the wonderful character and ex-Liverpool team manager Bill Shankly (dec) said.

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.”

Garry Adamson, Warwick Jones, and Alan Tapp wrote a fascinating article in Database Marketing & Customer Strategy (2006 Vol 13,2) Titled From CRM to FRM: Applying CRM in the Football Industry.

In the article they remark that football fans have a 'perverse loyalty and fanaticism'. Extreme behaviour in relation to any brand not just a sports team is not unheard of. There is the example of the Gucci fanatic who had the company name tattooed on his neck, regretting the move when his fashion tastes changed and he fell out of love with the fashion house.

Adamson, Jones and Tapp, provide some interesting charactersiations of 'fan types'

The temporary fan
The local fan
The devoted fan (remains loyal despite time and geographic boundaries)
The fanatical fan (where one other source of identity apart from the team exists)
Dysfunctional fan (there main source of self-identification comes from team support)

This latter category includes hooligans and it would also seem to include Suleiman Omondi. The fanaticism of fans cannot go understated as the quote from R Taylor in a 1998 radio interview on the BBCs Nicky Campbell show reveals:

"No one has their ashes scattered down the aisle of TESCO" No amount of BOGOFs, Club Points and Two for ones could ever create that sort of loyalty!

The intimacy of personal association with a teams performance often resents the commercialisation of the club. Fans bask in the reflected glory of success, and agonise in the on-going struggles (these fans are called Under Doggers)One thing is for sure, fans are not merely customers they express a loyalty to the brand that goes far beyond that seen by the super rich players that prance and preen on the pitch.

Next time the manager asks a player them to 'die for the shirt and his team mates' how many would be really willing to consider that option I wonder. Football Clubs would be gullible to underestimate the social influence of their brands.

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