The difference between rugby and football as brands

I have loved this Rugby World Cup so far and have been getting up early on a Saturday and Sunday morning to watch the England games. Watching England at football World Cups’ is normally a pub based sport, so seeing the rugby without a drink opens up a whole new way of watching the game and is highlighting the difference between two of our national sports in exceptional clarity.

So what does the rugby brand have that football really needs, if it is to remain as our national sport of choice?

1. Respect. It’s being spoken a lot in the game of football, but never lived. The level of dissent in football is horrific and can be seen every saturday in kids games up and down the country.

2. Ref’s with authority. Related to the above, but the refs are exceptional, make very few mistakes, rely on their ‘fourth official’, have linesmen who help and do see things and manage a game beautifuly.

3. An advantage rule worth the name. In rugby, the advantage has time to work through, or it comes back to them. It’s a genuine advantage and penalises those who break the rules.

4. Players who care. The England Rugby players look and act like they are genuinely proud to be there. Name one player on the football side whose proudest moment is pulling on his England shirt, other than maybe David Beckham?

5. Players who think about the consequences. During a rugby game, there are fists and fights all over the place. At the end of the game, they are all hugs and hapiness. It’s incredible to see and wonderful. If football could breed better losers, they’d have better winners too.

6. They admit when they get it wrong. Tindall has been a proper fool. No doubt about it, but he did confess and not try and put a press gagging superinjunction, to try and hide it. Getting all the bad news out fast is always the best solution in the long run.

7. The management are more honest too. If their team have been dreadful, they say so. Who believes most of what the football managers say in their post match interviews? It was amusingly refreshing to see Neil Warnock after QPR’s 6-0 thrashing to say they were awful and got thrashed – But he is a rule unto himself and always has been.

So what does this say for the future of the rugby and football brands?

To me, it says that rugby is on the way up as it is a brand built on sustainable and real values. Football is built on money. when this stops rolling, or even slows down, there will be massive casualties and many fans walking away.

Looking at the number of kids on a rugby training pitch these days, i’d be very surprised indeed if it doesn’t become an even bigger participation sport than it is today, into the next generation.

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Some predictions for 2011 (and beyond)

Okay, I know it’s early for 2011 predictions, but after a good holiday, my thoughts were turning to what will happen when I get back to work.

So this is what I predict will change – or start to change – for 2011.

1. We will get bored of electronics
when we were on holiday recently, I was looking at six kids on a sofa with two iPads, six iPods and the TV on in the background with MTV blaring. This was in a house where the garden literally opened up onto the beach. As old men chatting, we asked ‘Are they really having more fun than we did as kids?’

And the answer is no.

Parents have to let children have a bit of slack again, take some risks and make their own mistakes. Electronics are not a substitute for play, they are a substitute for imagination and our children will be far duller because of it.

When they did go onto the beach, they were entertained for hours, with digging, building, wave jumping, skim boarding and even skimming stones. I don’t want to sound like a real old fart, but I honestly believe that it’s changing. We have enough electronic stuff.

2. Time is everything
We have so many different ways to take in our news now, be it iPad, phone, RSS, texts, or heaven forbid, newspapers. How do we choose? Mostly we seem to dip in and out of all of them, so delivery of great content across every platform will become vital.

But deciding when to take this in will also grow. Rather than just grazing and developing such a low boredom threshold that we never actually take any of it in, will stop, so I predict that long copy (if it’s relevant, engaging and well enough written) will make a comeback.

Twitter is fine, but it’s all a bit Chinese meal. You are left wanting more, without ever getting full. I’m a little bored of it myself and am tweeting far less than ever before.

So I’m going to be more defined about what I do and when.

3. Drinking will decline
Our generation of 40 somethings have become very lazy drinkers with a glass of wine or two with every evening meal and then a thrash at the gym to try and work it off.

The Telegraph and others reported this week that there has been the sharpest drop off in drinking since 1948 – and again, I’m not surprised.

The drinks we are now consuming have gone the same way as our food. Full of additives and designed to a price point. If they can’t make it naturally, then they make it un-naturally. Find me a wine without a Sulphite in it these days and you are way above the everyday drinking range. Is that good for us? I doubt it. Are we getting more aware of what we eat? Without doubt.

4. Gyms are a waste of money and we’ll finally see them close (or change hands)
The gym market is busted. People who join gyms, don’t lose weight. They may shift it about a bit, but it very rarely drops off completely. So what’s the point?

It’s much nicer going for a walk or a ride along the river on your bike, than sweating it out with beautiful people anyway, so why pay for the privilege?

There are two gyms near me that are breaking new price points. One at £10 per month, literally across the road from Purple Circle’s studio and the other, that I go to is down at The beautiful National Watersports Centre in Nottingham and is only £15 per month. Great if you want to hammer the rowing machine looking over a lovely lake, but crap if you want to be seen by beautiful people.

5. Lifetime warranties mean better products
Kia started it with Cars, Vauxhall have half-heartedly followed suit with a lifetime warranty that’s chock full of caveats (not if you sell it, 100k miles, only if we service it, etc etc etc.).

But for me, this means that things will be built better again. It’s no use offering a long warranty if you’re going to have to keep repairing it every few months. The only way around it is to build things to last, like they used to do, you know in the old days.

I hired a Kia on holiday to see what it was like. It was actually fine. A bit like a domestic appliance, but as a cheap and cheerful vehicle, it was just that, fine.

6. Make do and mend
there is no doubt that we are not out of recession in the UK yet. The government’s announcement of where their cuts will fall that is due later this month or in October is keeping many on tenterhooks to see if they will be out on their ear and that will continue to curb spending.

In a way this is related to the point above about warranties but I think it is more so.

People are making more considered purchases. Either buying fewer better things that they have thoroughly researched on the Internet to find the best price, or zapped using the RedLaser App. If they can’t afford what they want, they are not buying cheaper alternatives, they are not buying. Full stop.

I can see this continuing right through 2011 and maybe lifting the gloom for Christmas 2011.

7. Happy brands win
If all is doom and gloom around us, then we still want to feel good, so those that offer a dose of happiness will succeed, as long as it’s not too short term in its gratification.

I’m not talking just about sweets and crisps, but about those that warm the soul too. They make you feel good about your purchase and allow you to reflect with a warm glow into the long term.

Innocent still fall into this category as do the likes of Covent Garden and BeWILDerwood, but I think it will be a long, long time before we start buying Bernard Mathews or anything with an England Football logo on it – despite their win last night over Switzerland.

So that’s it.

I’m sure there’s more. Feel free to have a think and add your own thoughts. I’d love this list to grow and grow.