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Marketing in football

:
A business versus a
culture

Written by Charlotte Tyson, BA Marketing, University of Hull
April 2015

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thanks my Independent Study supervisor, Mr Phil Robinson for his
tremendous help and encouragement throughout this particular project and my overall
time at the University of Hull.
I would also like to thank the participants of my questionnaires for their time, honesty
and kind words regarding my study. Further to this, I’d like to take the time to thank
David Burns for providing his opinions, Mark Gretton of Hull City Supporters Trust and
last but not least Everton Football Club for the time they took to contact me and provide
me with insight to their own rebrand.

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Table of Contents
1.0 Introduction ........................................................................................................ 3
2.0 Aims and Objectives .......................................................................................... 4
3.0 Literature Review ............................................................................................... 5
3.1 Marketing Definitions...................................................................................... 5
3.2 Supporters as customers ............................................................................... 6
3.3 Branding .......................................................................................................... 6
3.4 Case Study: Hull City ...................................................................................... 6
3.5 Extending a brand globally: A view from the Chinese market .................... 9
3.6 Public Relations, social media and campaigns .......................................... 10
4.0 Research Methods ........................................................................................... 13
5.0 Limitations of Research ................................................................................... 13
6.0 Data Analysis .................................................................................................... 14
6.1 Case Study: Everton ..................................................................................... 14
6.2 Case Study: Cardiff City F.C ........................................................................ 16
7.0 Results .............................................................................................................. 18
7.1 Survey one: Generic supporters ................................................................. 18
7.2 Survey two: Hull City supporters ................................................................ 21
7.3 Survey Three: Internationals........................................................................ 25
8.0 Conclusions ...................................................................................................... 26
8.1 Recommendations ........................................................................................ 26
9.0 Appendices ....................................................................................................... 28

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1.0 Introduction

Throughout the 2013/2014 Barclays Premier League campaign, Hull City AFC owners
and chairmen, Dr Assem and Mr Ehab Allam, controversially released plans to change
the name of the club from ‘Hull City AFC’ to ‘Hull Tigers’ which caused uproar between
fans of the club as well as capturing the nation’s headlines.
Dr Assem Allam claims to have conducted sufficient research to prove that by
changing the name of the club, there will be a larger marketing potential in the Asian
market. Despite the uproar and clear supporter disagreement, Dr Assem and Ehab
Allam continue to protest against the football association’s refusal for the name
change.
Dr Assem Allam stated in Conn (2013a) that he “cannot afford to run the club by fans’
feelings”. During the course of this project, I am looking at football branding as a
business versus culture comparison and looking into whether a name change can
increase marketing ability. Dr Assem Allam has openly explained his belief that the
term ‘City’ is redundant, common and meaningless, believing that by dropping the
‘City’, the shorter name would be more powerful in marketing terms to be globally
successful (Conn, 2013a).
This report will look into the current academic beliefs in Marketing, two different case
studies in which clubs have rebranded or changed something traditional and failed as
well as primary research from speaking to football supporters around the world. The
report will be concluded with conclusions and recommendations for the club owners.

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2.0 Aims and Objectives

The aim of the report is: To identify whether a rebrand of an English Premier League
football club would increase its financial performance through global marketing.
Objectives:
1. Conduct research through primary and secondary sources on the marketing in
football.
2. Comparison of clubs that have rebranded and the responses of their supporters.
3. Research the basic principles of marketing, branding and how a football club can
enter a foreign market.

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3.0 Literature Review

The situation at Hull City AFC has been widely covered by national media both in print
and online. On the other hand, the academic thinking of marketing in football is rare to
find and has not been actively spoken about by marketing professionals.
3.1 Marketing Definitions

In the terms of academic thinking, I have researched into basic marketing principles,
brand names and loyalty to customers. The thinking behind what marketing means
differs from country to country however, both the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing
(CIM) and the American Marketing Association (AMA) both state clearly what their
beliefs of marketing are. The CIM state that “marketing is the management process
responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements
profitably” (CIM, 2001). On the other hand, AMA describe marketing as “the activity,
set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and
exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at
large” (AMA, 2013). Both of these definitions suggest that the satisfaction of customers
are the key to marketing success. However the AMA definition takes the value further
looking at other stakeholders of an organisation and not just the customer. Despite
this, the main focus on marketing seems to be in relation to the consumer with
Brassington et al (2006, p.6) stating all marketing activities should be all about what
the customer wants and that if the customer requirements or desires are not met then
the marketing strategies have failed. A wider definition of marketing incorporates the
ideas of both the CIM and AMA but delves further into the relationship side of
marketing stating that “marketing is to establish, maintain and enhance relationships
with customers and other partners, at a profit, so that the objectives of the parties
involved are met. This is achieved by mutual exchange and fulfilment of promises”
(Grӧnroos, 1997).

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3.2 Supporters as customers

As all of the marketing definitions have stated, customers are the most important factor
in the marketing of a product or an organisation. Looking at the customers of a football
club, these could be deemed part of a culture in which Rice (1993, p. 242) defines as:
“The attitudes, beliefs, ideas, artefacts and other meaningful symbols represented in
the pattern of life adopted by people that help them interpret, evaluate and
communicate as members of society”. Football supporters have a pattern in life in that
they may just watch the ‘odd’ game or follow a team every now and again, another
extreme would be an individual who becomes largely involved in the passion of the
game and their own club and its values/traditions. Chinsall (1985) claims that culture
is passed on from generation to generation which relates to the traditions of football in
which a parent takes his son or daughter which then carries on through the generations
creating tradition and family values.
3.3 Branding

The branding of a product or an organization is crucial. Brassington et al (2006, p.301)
explains that branding itself doesn’t have to be physical, it can be emotional and have
a set of values in which the consumer matches to their own. Mitchell (1999) believes
that having brand values will be crucial in order to build trust and win the affection of
the consumers. Football clubs are classed as a ‘passion brand’ according to
Brassington et al (2006, p.306) in which the brand reflects the supporter in that the
values are an ‘inner belief’ and that very strong emotions are attached. The consumers
of a football club are classed as ‘followers’ who tend to buy into the football club based
on geographic location, what the brand/club stands for as well as feeling part of a
culture.
3.4 Case Study: Hull City

The change in the badge and the proposed name change at Hull City AFC may be
seen as innovative by the owners however innovation without reference to the
consumer can be seen as a huge risk. Consumers are the key to a business and the
organisation is in business to serve the customer’s needs and wants. Customers are
the key factor to a successful business and the business should be in touch with them

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through formal research techniques, noticing and monitoring changes in attitudes and
feelings towards the products and the business (Brassington et al, 2006, p.393).
Moving onto specifically looking at Hull City and the name change, several articles
have been gathered in which Dr Allam talks about his decisions, how they will market
the club better and how he cannot afford to run the club by fans' feelings (Conn,
2013a).
One of the first interviews to be released in relation to the name change was produced
in national newspaper, The Guardian, in which Dr Allam revealed his intentions and
reasons behind the proposed name change in an interview with journalist David Conn
(Conn, 2013b). Hull City’s trade name had already been changed from Hull City AFC
to Hull City Tigers and had been registered at Companies House and with the Football
Association claiming that ‘AFC’ meant nothing. In the interview Dr Allam goes on to
explain that “Tigers is a name of power and will allow the club to market itself globally,
making the millions of pounds it needs to become sustainable in the Premier League”.
Dr Allam made a comparison between Hull City and Manchester United in saying that
Manchester United are selling shirts in the Far East and selling commercial activities
globally claiming that Hull City needs to be known globally and by shortening the name
this will happen. In complete contrast to the opinions of Dr Allam, Manchester United
are a popular global brand because of their success on the field and off, their current
and former players as well as financially being levels higher than Hull City. It is
impossible to compare two clubs that are at the complete opposite ends of the
spectrum in terms of the Barclays Premier League. The only realistic way in which we
can be as globally successful as Manchester United is through years of on field
success, European tournaments and investing in popular players from the Far East.
After submitting the name change request, Dr Allam admitted to Conn that he had not
researched the global advantage of ‘Tigers’ and claimed that he ‘knows’ that it would
make a difference with a quicker impact and in Dr Allam’s own words he stated “It’s
textbook marketing” (Dr Allam cited in Conn , 2013b). It is understandable the reasons
in which Dr Allam wishes to expand the marketing ability due to the fact that football
clubs due to the opportunities from the rapid economic development of Asian
countries.

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Dr Allam’s idea of a shorter and more powerful name is derived from his ‘academic
research’ in which he cited a single article that he has claimed to make the decision
for him. This article is in the Harvard Business Review and the author, O’Connell
(2013), claims that “on average, companies with short, simple names attract more
shareholders, generate greater amounts of stock trading, and perform better on certain
financial measures than companies with hard-to-process names such as National
Oilwell Varco and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, say T. Clifton Green of Emory
University and Russell E. Jame of the University of Kentucky. A 1-step increase in
name “fluency” on a 5-step scale, such as reducing name length by 1 word, is
associated with a 2.53% increase in market-to-book ratio, which would translate to
$3.75 million in added market value for the median-size firm in the authors’ sample.
Selecting an easy-to-process company name is a low-cost method for improving
investor recognition and increasing firm value, the authors says”. From looking at this
article and relating it back to the football club case, parts of the article contradict what
Dr Allam has already being quoted in numerous interviews both on the radio and in
print.
Firstly, the quote states that a shorter name is only beneficial on average. It is not
specifying what sector the companies that have been looked at. If the quote had have
stated ‘on average in the sports industry’ then Dr Allam would have a stronger
argument but due to no specific sector stated this cannot be justified for such a
controversial step such as a name change. Secondly, this specific quote looks at the
impact of a shorter name on the stock market and certain financial measures, not
looking at the sale of merchandise and commercial activities as Dr Allam quoted in
The Guardian that Manchester United are selling shirts in the far east and for the club
to be known globally the club needed to shorten their name (Conn, 2013b). With Dr
Allam using this specific ‘research’ to back up his decision, it would either suggest that
he would like to see Hull City on the stock market or he appears to have overlooked
the impact of a shorter name on global awareness and merchandise sales.
Furthermore, this comparison is based on ‘hard-to-process names’, Hull City in my
opinion is not difficult to process and is actually shorter in character count than Hull
Tigers which further contradicts Dr Allam’s statement. Should this be the only article
used in his research, there is no legitimate point that can be proven in regards to the
name change of a football club.

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3.5 Extending a brand globally: A view from the Chinese market

Looking at his idea to be able to brand the club in the Asian market, Bodet et al (2010)
previously conducted a focus group with a number of Chinese students based on
building global football brand equity. This research looks at different perceptions of the
game linked with brand associations and loyalty. The movement of the marketing
strategies of clubs from the UK to foreign markets began with Manchester United who
were the first to break into the Asian market. They have been successful due to on
field success, establishment of foreign merchandise outlets and building relationships
with other global brands. The participation in Asian-based tournaments/tours, the
development of ‘soccer schools’ and the recruitment of Asian players. Asian markets
are emergent countries with a very high potentiality of commercial development, highly
populated, solvent with increasing levels of purchase power, they are passionate
about sport in general and football in particularly and finally because they are “super‐
consumers” of merchandising and media (Desbordes, 2007).
In terms of entering these foreign markets, Bodet et al (2010) explains that
“professional football clubs need to clearly define who they are, how they want to be
perceived, who they want to attract and how they want to be positioned but before,
they need to determine how they are perceived on these markets.” In relation to Dr
Allam, it is important that his research is thorough and he approaches this market
segment to determine where Hull City stand at the minute and what could be done to
improve these views based on the opinions of those in that country.
In this particular study, the focus groups aimed at finding out the views of Chinese
students on the English Premier League. According to the results in the report, it
appears that professional football clubs perceived brand quality can be organised
around six factors which are club achievements, on-field performance, current
members of the club, history and traditions, marketing programmes and team kits.
When looking at the importance of players as a brand attribute, several interviewees
noted that the presence of Chinese players strongly affects their interest and then their
level of awareness – something that Hull City could look into in the next transfer
window should this be a route. One participant mentioned: “players and coach can
influence my team choice. Clubs which buy Chinese players will enhance attention of
Chinese fans”. Another claimed: “I would pay more attention to the clubs which buy

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some Chinese players. If the players can play as key player, this will attract my
attention”. An example of this working well was the signing of Park Ji-sung from South
Korea who moved to Manchester United in 2005 and is now a global ambassador for
the team, building relationships globally through a former player. Most respondents
also agreed that history and traditions are fundamental assets to the brands even if
they do not know the clubs history very well – another factor in which Dr Allam could
look into with regards to the name change.
Bodet et al (2010) also knows that “several respondents mentioned that they
supported a club because of a specific player and, if this player was transferred to
another club, they would change their mind, even to support the best rival. Then, it can
be said that the clubs do not benefit from a strong brand image because the image
does not survive to the players when they leave. This represents an important issue
for professional clubs, and they clearly need to develop a strong and distinctive brand
image on a long-term perspective.”
There clearly is an international market available for the English Premier League clubs
however, the ideas and opinions of internationals should be taken into account and
researched before the marketing strategy is implemented.
3.6 Public Relations, social media and campaigns

The Guardian interview (Conn, 2013b) was released online on 12th November 2013
and outrage sparked amongst some Hull City supporters and members of the football
community. Word spread fast across social media in which Hull City began to ‘trend’
on Twitter.
Not only have the supporters voiced their opinions via social media, but also other
clubs supporters and supporters groups. An example of which with Cardiff City who
have also gone through the same process of a complete rebrand under their Malaysian
owner Tan Sri Vincent Tan – who since has retracted the rebranding. Further
individuals who have commented on the name change include the likes of ex-players,
managers, business owners and other football associates.
It was through social media that campaigners began coming together with the use of
‘#NoToHullTigers’. This began to trend and resulted in the formation of the City Till We
Die campaign group in 2013 which would later be known as the Hull City Supporters

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Trust as of 2015. From the formation, social media from the campaign group has been
ever active with a detailed blog keeping everyone up to date with meetings and actions
and constant involvement with supporters. Digitally, the CTWD Facebook page which
had over 5,500 likes and a Twitter account with 6,500 followers within six months of
the first interview being published.
The City Till We Die campaigners
worked hard to provide an opposing
view of Dr Allam’s opinions which are
most detailed in their twenty one page
submission to the FA, specifically
collated for a meeting with Mr. Neil
Prescott, the

Financial Regulation

Officer for Club Governance at the
Wembley Stadium on January 24th
2014. The report looks into a variety of

“City Till We Die has made clear our full
support for Dr Allam’s ownership of Hull City.
He was the financial saviour of Hull City
when he bought the club in 2010, addressed
its debts and avoided possible liquidation. He
then invested further to pilot The Tigers back
to the Premier League. Dr Allam is a Hull City
hero who has now loaned the club over £70
million from his own wealth – we only
disagree with him on one matter, that the
playing name of the football club should be
changed.”
The CITY TILL WE DIE campaign group January
2014

different areas, which include; the
history of name changes in the English football league looking at how name changes
have impacted previous clubs in the past, the dismantling of the rationale of the name
change which similarly criticizes the choice of words and lack of research conducted
by Dr Assem Allam, the wider implications of a name change and also, most
importantly, how to maximize revenue modern day without changing the name.
Today, Hull City Supporters Trust are still fighting issues within the club including the
ongoing battle with the proposed name change. Each member of the supporters trust,
957 as of 19th April 2015, are shareholders in the trust which allows members to voice
their opinions and attend the annual general meeting with the member selected board
of directors.
April 9th 2014 also saw a turnaround in the name change as the Football Association
Council rejected the name change. The name change was put forward to a number of
representatives across football and the vote of no came from 63.5% of the member
vote (FA, 2014). Despite this, a year on Dr Allam formally appealed against the FA’s
decision against the name change in which the Hull City Supporters Trust will be
putting a new submission to the FA to oppose changes.

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It is important to look further past the newspapers, past the academic research and
explore rebranding in reality; looking at multiple football clubs as well as the true,
honest opinions of individuals around the world.

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4.0 Research Methods
In order to gain a varied view of opinions on the subject of marketing in modern day
football and the traditions in the game, three surveys will be made available online and
will be advertised through the use of social media. The first survey will look at the views
of Hull City AFC supporters, looking into the current name change situation at the club
as well as how the club are currently marketing themselves to the nation and
worldwide. The second survey will look at the views of all other football supporters and
will ask similar questions to survey number one however, adding on how they are
impressed with their own club’s marketing strategies.
An additional survey will be targeted at individuals from other countries and will be
based on recognition and what makes them interested in a team within the English
leagues. This will look at the importance of kit colours, badges and names for teams
and how they affect the marketing in different global locations.
Further to this, it is also important to try and take into consideration the views of
marketing managers at a number of premier league clubs. For this particular section
of my research I intend to contact senior club representatives of Everton FC, Cardiff
City FC and Hull City AFC to gather their thoughts on the changes that have been
made previously at each club as well as how the fans influence their marketing
decision.
Ethics and confidentiality will be critical in the research due to the use of human
participants.

5.0 Limitations of Research
The research was conducted as unbiased as possible – sharing the survey via public
social media platforms and fan forums. In terms of research with regards to the foreign
market, language barriers proved to be a slight limitation of my research. Despite this,
I have still managed to gain sufficient research through my literature review.
In terms of conducting interviews with senior club representatives, this became a major
limitation. Cardiff City FC didn't reply to my contact request and the communications
with Hull City AFC began well but unfortunately never came as far as an interview.
If this project was funded with a bigger budget and a larger time frame, the research
would have been completed on a larger scale and more football clubs would have

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been approached with regards to the marketing and opinions if their own senior club
representatives.

6.0 Data Analysis
6.1 Case Study: Everton
One club that have changed their Club badge in the last few years are Everton FC.
The club decided that a new badge was needed in order to maintain consistency
throughout national and international media on print and television as well as making
a suitable reproduction for the digital era.
The new badge was unveiled prior to the
2013/2014 football season with that season’s
kit already being in production with the
updated badge. Figure 1 shows the previous
badge to the reproduction which shows a
noticeable difference with the change in the
design of the tower, the removal of the scroll
Figure 1

and wreaths. The reproduction was suitable

for digital use as well as looking a lot smarter and tidier. Despite this, many fans did
not like the badge and over 25,000 signed a petition against the badge change.
Speaking to a club representative at Everton, the reasons behind the badge change
were mainly to simplify a complicated badge that was often poorly reproduced. In an
interview the club representative admitted that the process in which the club went
about changing the badge didn’t work, in part due to not fully involving fans in the
process.
In my own primary research it was discovered that Everton fans have high values of
traditions, keeping the history of the club alive and the importance of name, badge and
heritage. The wreaths and the scroll underneath the badge were both deemed as
being traditional and important features of the badge. As the new proposed design
had neither of these, fans took a negative stance to the badge which may have also
contributed to a drop in kit sales during the 2013/2014 season, although the badge
was not the only factor in this- the kit was similar to that of the previous season, for
example.

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Knowing that the opinions of supporters and shareholders were important, Everton
then rethought the idea of the badge change and gave everyone related to the club an
opportunity to voice their own opinions. The club representative went on to explain
that “around 300,000 surveys of 10-20 questions were sent out to Evertonians about
what areas were important to them. We collated all of the feedback, held focus groups
with fans, directors and shareholders to gather all opinions which we then forwarded
to an external design company who came up with three designs which all had elements
of the opinions of the Evertonians”.
Figure 2 shows the three
designs that were developed
from the feedback given
which was then put up to the
test of the supporters who
were given the chance to
vote for the favourite of the
three in which badge number
one was voted favourite by

Figure 2

78% of supporters and the
one that was produced and used in the latest 2014/2015 Barclays Premier League
season.
When asked whether taking the fans thoughts into account was the best way to go
about the changes, Everton’s club representative went on to say “absolutely, fans are
crucial to the process; they are tattooed, children have bedrooms full of our
merchandise and people have badges on their gates outside of their houses.
Engagement is key and done properly has showed that fans are willing to adapt but
just wanted to be in the know with changes and be able to have their voice heard. The
new badge is not as simple as the 2013/2014 edition however it is what the fans
wanted and it is still replicable and digitally fit”.

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6.2 Case Study: Cardiff City F.C
Another club to have a dramatic change of marketing direction was Cardiff City FC.
Long known as the ‘Bluebirds’ the Welsh team ended up having a complete rebrand
which was announced June 2012 after a the proposal leaked in May 2012. The
rebrand consisted of changing the kit colours from blue to red and changing the badge
from a bluebird to a dragon with further talks of potentially changing the name of the
club to Cardiff Dragons. This move came as Malaysian investors Tan Sri Vincent Tan
and Dato Chan Tien Ghee met with directors as they wanted to extend the appeal of
the club. They claimed that the new investment package would allow the club to
resolve a longstanding debt with the Langston company – a valid reason for a rebrand
should debts be wiped.
In an interview with the BBC (2012) the club
explained that the changes would be introduced
with a view to exploiting and maximising its
brand and commercial revenues in international
markets, which it is hoped in turn will bring
success to the club locally, whilst also attracting

“This club will always be Cardiff
City Football Club and its name
and heart will never change nor
are any of the changes meant to
destroy any part of its history or
culture”
Dato Chan Tien Ghee, Cardiff City

new partners and investors.” This case is similar
to that at Hull City with both sets of owners wanting global recognition for their teams.
Only Eight months after stating that the name would not change, Tan Sri Vincent Tan
claimed that should the club be promoted to the Premier League then a name change
should not be ruled out. Cardiff Dragons was the name he intended to call the club
should they be successful in the on field game. Like the situation of Hull City, outrage
sparked amongst supporters.
These supporters joined together to display their anger at such proposals. Local
media, Wales Online, conducted a poll based on the name change in which 74% said
the name should not change, 10% said they didn't mind and 16% said that now the
club was playing in red its name should change. Without supporters a club does not
have customers and when asked if they would still support the club should the name

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change, 58% (Wales Online, 2013) said that they wouldn’t – over half of the fan base
would be lost and no true gain.
Within days of announcing that there could potentially be a name change, Tan Sri
Vincent Tan himself issued a statement on the Cardiff City website saying “I can
assure all supporters that we will not be changing our name from Cardiff City Football
Club, a club I am very proud to be a part of. Our name is our identity and remains at
our core” (Tan, 2013).
The rebrand began in the 2012/2013 Championship season in which Cardiff City and
Hull City both earned automatic promotion to the Premier League. Cardiff City claimed
that the investment would sustain Premier League football which failed due to the club
finishing the 2013/2014 season at the bottom of the league, relegated back to the
Championship – the second season of the rebrand.
Two years on, on January 8th 2015, after many protests, 70 representatives including
supporters groups, local government, stakeholders, travel groups, message boards
and campaign groups are invited to the club for a consultation meeting in which Tan
Sri Vincent Tan confirmed that the club would rebrand back to Bluebirds and
confirming that the kit would return to blue after spending £100m on the rebrand in the
first place (Wathan, 2015).

Figure 3

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7.0 Results
From conducting three different surveys it has been possible to segment the
respondents based on their location and football team. Survey one was conducted
with football supporters who support any other club other than Hull City.
7.1 Survey one: National football supporters
When collecting the results, it is important to note that there were 59 responses which
were all fairly gathered through the use of social media sharing tools such as ‘retweets’
on Twitter and ‘shares’ on Facebook.
The age of the participants ranged from 18-64 and spread over four continents with
94% being from Europe, 2% from Australia, 2% from North America and 2% from
South America. The main question in this survey was based on the opinions of
marketing in football and the modern changes that clubs are making as discussed in
the Hull City, Cardiff and Everton’s case studies.
As shown in figure 9.1a, only around 20% are ‘for’ modern marketing changes with the
remaining 80% all being ‘against’. When asked for reasoning with regards to their
answers, there is a vast range of different opinions. Out of those that were ‘For’ the
changes, almost half mentioned that fans

an eye on the traditions and history upon

“The increasing
influence of big
business in the
game is alienating
the supporters that
make the game
what it is.”

which the given club was founded, another

Everton FC supporter

should be included in a consultation regarding
the changes. One respondent mentioned that
clubs do need to have the flexibility to
embrace modern marketing whilst maintaining

stating that stadium rights could increase
revenue and may be more accepted by supporters.
A view in which fan consultation was not mentioned
“The C in FC
stands for
club. It’s FC
not PLC”

detailed “I don't really see the big deal on changing

Tottenham Hotspur supporter

new name if the FA (Football Association) approve

the name of a Football Club, if it's for marketing or
not. For example, Hull Tigers would be Hull City's

it. If they did, so be it. Same club isn't it? It's like

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buying a Night Club and changing the name. You own the deeds to that Night Club.
Same applies to Dr Allam, he has bought Hull City, he pumps money into it each
season, let him change the name, they're surviving in the top division of English
football, I can only imagine his goal is to add to their previous success each season.
They were in the FA Cup Final last year against Arsenal, they've never done that. If
it's not broke don't change it, right? The history will always be there but times change,
the world is changing. I personally don't support Hull City, I support Manchester United
but if we changed our name, I'd maybe argue over a better name but I love the club, I
love the history. I will always watch them despite their name, colours or league
position” (survey results, 2015). Looking at the 80% of respondents who are ‘against’
changes, the high majority (84%) talk about tradition and how that shouldn’t be
changed or intervened with, one in particular stating “If fans have supported the club
for many years and they don't agree with something as major as changing kit colour
or the clubs name then changes shouldn't be made as at the end of the day these are
the people that are keeping the club running by buying tickets and merchandise”.
Following modern marketing changes, the next question looked into what impresses
the respondents about the marketing at their supported club. 68% of football
supporters at Everton claimed that little or nothing impressed them about their clubs
marketing strategy. However community work was a big factor as well as appealing to
Everton’s traditions and values. The West Ham United supporters seem to be the most
pleased with their club’s marketing efforts
with the support of charities, the use of social
media on all levels from first team to
academy. One Arsenal fan recognised that
the team is already recognised worldwide
but emphasised that they often have

“I like the fact the
WHUFC talk and listen
to the fans. The
Chairman is very
visible on social
media.”

to a greater audience. Looking further afield,

“It still feels like it's
about the supporters
and the game rather
than making money.”

one respondent from South America talked

West Ham United supporters

advertisements in other languages to appeal

about his local team, the Corinthians, and
explained that the communication with the fans and the encouragement given to
female fans in what is a predominantly male sport, in an incredibly patriarchal country
was what impressed him the most about the marketing of his club. Overall, the majority

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of supporters are not currently overly impressed with the marketing of their clubs with
respondents from Leeds United, Newcastle United Tottenham Hotspur all having
nothing much to say.
As much as marketing in any business has moved or is moving to digital platforms
with the development of technologies, it was also important to ask about supporters
opinions of their clubs efforts on social media. Today, social media is one of the easiest
and most effective forms of communication from business to consumer in football
especially with news updates, match commentaries and other features such as
competitions or engagement. As shown in figure 9.1b, 74% claim that they are happy
with the current social media channels that are been updated by the club and the
remaining 26% either are not happy at all with the use of their club’s social media
channels or believe that much more could be done.
The final part of the survey is based around the importance of different aspects of
being a supporter and the traditions at a football club shown in the table in figure 9.1c.
With one being the most important, it is clear to see that the two most important
aspects are the traditions of a club and how the owners treat those traditions as well
as being able to afford to go to regular games/ticket prices. The least important to
these particular respondents is the half time entertainment as well as the level of
quality of the corporate facilities within the stadium.
The final table in figure 9.1d shows the main traditions in football and how they are
ranked amongst each other. They are all ranked at a similar level of importance
however the history and traditions of a club are the most significant traditions to
supporters.

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7.2 Survey two: Hull City supporters
The second of the three surveys was aimed specifically at Hull City supporters, looking
at their opinions in the recent proposed changes as well as their overall opinion on
marketing at the club. In order to receive a varied response it was important that a
range of different aged individuals were interviewed. Through promoting the surveys
on social media, word soon spread about the survey and there were soon over 100
responses.
Figures 9.2a and 9.2b show the varied age ranges of the participants who took part in
the specific Hull City survey as well as their locations.
As both of the results have a wide range of responses, the overall results received will
vary in opinions whether it is from a 25 year old living in another part of the UK or a 68
year old who has been to every game since his childhood. 67% of the respondents
are season ticket holders at the club and around 30% of all participants, as shown in
figure 9.2c, have supported the club for over 36 years – before the success of the
premier league and an FA Cup Final.
The current situation at the club with the proposed name change, badge change and
the phase out of the ‘AFC’ is a topic that has divided supporters, causing uproar and
a broken relationship between a lot of the supporters and the club itself. The survey
was sent out fairly and was advertised on the public, online platforms meaning that
any chance of bias had been eliminated. Figure 9.2d shows the breakdown of the
participants when they were asked whether they are for or against the name change
proposal in which 6.25% claimed that they are ‘for’ the changes, 16.67% are
undecided and 77.08% are ‘against’ the name change, which already shows a strong
trend in the responses. In order to gain further detail of the supporter’s reasoning’s
there was also an option to state why that particular choice was chosen in which the
majority of respondents answered. The minority that stated that they were for the name
change mainly felt that it is the owner’s decision, they have earned the right to change
the name and that if it benefits the club then it can only be a good thing.

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“Allam saved us from going out of business and invested the cash that got us at least two
seasons in the premier league and an FA Cup final. He believes a name change can
make our club more marketable in Asia which can only benefit the club financially and
build its reputation. Even if he is wrong about this (I'm undecided), for the money he has
put in to this club as a non-footballing man to give back to the community and bring Hull
success I don't mind the name changing. If it was a random Thai billionaire like at Cardiff
I would be more resistant. The new badge is modern and represents the club better.”
18-24, other UK location

41% of those that stated that they were against the name change claimed that history,
traditions and values should not be changed and this is an important factor to
supporters as well as the English game. Many others displayed their concern as to
whether a name change would increase revenue and global status. Without any true
proof from Dr Allam, many fans do not believe his theories and believe that survival in
the Premier League will be the way to drive revenue with the new television rights
which are due to be introduced as well as the £200,000 of the away supporters
initiative which, as of 22nd April 2015, has not been spent in the way it was intended
and no news has been released based on that income.
“I don't see the benefit to the club in alienating thousands of its 'die hard' support on a
whim - what is the point in destroying history and tradition chasing non-existent Far East
Support - the money potentially in increased sponsorship is dwarfed by TV rights and if in
the event of relegation telling your hard-core support to 'die as soon as you want' how
much support/income will be lost - never felt more dis-enfranchised from a Club I've loved
since 1974 with my family having supported since 1920”
35-44, East Riding of Yorkshire, season ticket holder

The remainder of the supporters remain undecided with the decision, many of them
due to the fact that no real information and proposals have been released.
“I'd like to keep the original name as it ties every player and fan of the club together.
However I can see the business decision behind changing the name and want the club
to be as successful as possible”
25-34, Hull

Identical survey one, Hull City supporters were also asked about their opinions on
social media and how well Hull City use it. Figure 9.2e shows the proportion of
supporters who believe that the social media is used well to those who believe that it
isn’t used well at all. Those who stated that social media is used well all said that they
were happy with how Facebook and Twitter were used and love the updates, match

22

commentaries, interviews and past game highlights. On the contrary, many fans
disagree and are not happy about how the social media channels are currently being
“Social media is constantly
updating, and keeping the fan
base entertained with interviews
and past game highlights,
however more match day
information regarding traffic and
alternative routes could be
applied in real time”
18-24, East Riding of Yorkshire,
season ticket holder

run. One of the first complaints that stood out from
the responses was that the correct hashtags are
not being used on Twitter in the opinion of the
supporters. Hull City currently use #UTT however,
this is also used by Huddersfield Town and their
supporters. For many years, Hull City fans have
shared their thoughts by using #hcafc which the
club did originally use and then dropped even
though the majority of supporters still talk about

football over this hashtag, not #UTT. Many others simply refuse to interact with social
media due to the name change and the change of names on those specific platforms.
For example, one participant said that he searched for Hull City and could only find
fan groups, not the team that has been known as
Hull City for over 100 years. Other factors include
a lack of engagement between supporters and the
club – replying to tweets would increase brand
reputation as well as brand awareness and having

“As a journalism student I believe
the social media isn’t the best at
Hull City, yes we see tweets with
links to stories however, we don’t
get a social trend of visuals
instead of text”
18-24, Hull

inconsistent branding across all platforms.
The important aspects of the game were also proposed to Hull City supporters in which
the top two factors were identical to that of all other supporters; being able to afford to
go to games as well as the tradition and how the owners treat those traditions. The
lease favoured factors are also the same as those in survey one – showing that all
football supporters generally have the same opinions in the game, as shown in figure
9.2f.
Figure 9.2g shows what areas of marketing could be improved within the club
according to the supporters in which much related to merchandise and affordability if
the general match day experience.
Some participants stated other ways in which the marketing could be improved which
included:
-

Consultations with supporters on marketing decisions and other activities

23

-

Giving away signed merchandise at half time

-

Reducing the prices of refreshments and changing the alcohol available

-

Safe standing

-

Allocation of away tickets based on preference of standing/seating

-

Work with fans to generate a better singing section

-

Fans having a genuine stake at the club

All of which would be easy to take on should the club choose to listen to the supporters
and their opinions.
Local sports presenter, David Burns of BBC Radio Humberside conducts weekly
interviews with the players and the manager and is the heart of sports on the local
radio. When speaking to Mr Burns he said “it’s sad but I feel the proposed namechange at Hull City is one of the low points in the club’s history. It’s divided the fans at
a time when there needed to be unity. I don’t think a convincing financial case has
ever been made for the name change and the PR and marketing around it by the club
has been lacking. I’m an old school football fan so am wary of sharp marketing men
(and women) in sharp suits even though my degree is in Business Studies and my
dissertation was on the Financial Management of The Football League. Football
marketing for me should be about enhancing the fans experience not enhancing the
clubs bank accounts.”

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7.3 Survey Three: Internationals
The final survey looked at the opinions of internationals, most of whom did not know
anything about Hull City. Around 80% said that the name would be the first factor they
would recognise about and English football club followed by kit colours and the club
badge.
Figure 9.3b shows what factors attract an international to a football club. It is clear to
see that the club players is the highest factor followed by national media. Club
traditions is in a surprising third place with 18% and most importantly, the club name
received zero votes – meaning that the club name isn’t something to make an
international support a football team.
The final question was based specifically on the name change itself as shown in figure
9.3c. The name ‘Hull Tigers’ received the most votes with 55% however this is very
marginally with 45% voting against the traditional name.
“It is more professional whereas Hull Tigers (in my opinion) sounds more cartoonish and
fake. Like something you'd hear in a TV show or film. Hull City AFC makes the club sound
bigger because it’s based in a city, but with Hull Tigers some people won't know where
they are based. Also, Hull City will promote the city more. It could improve the reputation
as more people will know about it therefore people may want to visit”
Hull City AFC, Europe
“I don’t like "franchise football" as suggestion, it would further take the
attention away from football as an enjoyable pas time and spectacle into a
sterile market based commodity. It is a fantastic marketing suggestion that will
give hull city an advantage in foreign markets for instance Americans would
be possibly more likely to support a team if they were branded in the
"franchise" style and if they were marketed in countries where tigers where
deemed "lucky" or "important" then they would probably gain more support i.e.
investment/consumers then they would have previously”
Hull Tigers, Europe

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8.0 Conclusions
In conclusion to all research, it is clear to see that there are many points in which Dr
Allam should take into consideration with regards to any changes at the club. These
include:
1. It appears no sufficient and firm research has been conducted into how the name
change will specifically effect Hull City.
2. It is clear to see from the situations at Everton FC and Cardiff City FC that their
rebrands didn’t work and that fan consultation was extremely important – the rebrands
cost both clubs and didn’t make any money from completing it.
3. The FA have already refused the name change, Dr Allam is now appealing against
this decision which has led to a further submission from the Hull City Supporters Trust
which will be submitted on 5th May.
4. The majority of Hull City supporters are completely against the idea and believe that
the owners have gone the wrong way about the proposals.
5. Like Hull City supporters, those passionate for the game are passionate about the
traditions and the heritage, it’s not just based on one set of supporters.
6. 55% of internationals prefer the name Hull Tigers however, none of them stated that
the name of a football club would attract them to support the club, players, form, media
and traditions would.
7. Academia tells us that customers are the key to any business no matter the sector.
Without supporters the ‘company’ would diminish and revenue would drop on a freefall
through ticket sales, merchandise sales and refreshments.
8.1 Recommendations
It is recommended that Dr Assem and Mr Ehab Allam reconsider the different options
to increase revenue and global marketing ability at the club. I believe that the
relationship between many of the supporters and the owners have been strained.
In my opinion the situation could be resolved to everyone’s benefit. I feel it would be
better for both sides to take a step back and maybe build relations by conducting a
consultation about the proposed marketing changes with directors, shareholders and
supporters alike. It must be appreciated that most supporters would recognise the

26

invaluable contributions the Allam family have made to Hull City Football Club and the
city as a whole.

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9.0 Appendices
9.1 Survey one: National football supporters

Figure 9.1a – Are you for or against modern marketing in football?

Figure 9.1b – Is social media used well at your club?

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Figure 9.1c - what is most important to you as a football fan?

Figure 9.1d - how important are the traditions of your club?

29

9.2 Survey two: Hull City supporters

Figure 9.2a – Which age range do you come under?

Figure 9.2b – What is your current location?

30

Figure 9.2c – How long have you supported Hull City?

Figure 9.2d – Are you for or against the name change proposals?

31

Figure 9.2e – Is social media used well at Hull City?

Figure 9.2f – What is most important to you as a football fan?

Figure 9.2g – What areas of marketing could be improved at Hull City?

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9.3 Survey three: Internationals

Figure 9.3a – What makes you recognise and English football club?

Figure 9.3b – What attracts you to support a football club?

33

Figure 9.3c – If you were being sold a product in your home country, which would be more
appealing?

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10.0 Bibliography
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the Chinese market", Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 22 Iss: 1,
pp.55 – 66

Chisnall, P.M. (1985), Marketing: A Behavioural Analysis, McGraw-Hill.

Conn, D. (2013a). Assem Allam courts controversy and hands Hull City an identity
crisis.

Available:

http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/sep/12/hull-city-

assem-allam-premier-league. Last accessed 24th April 2014.

Conn, D. (2013b). Tiger economy awaits for renamed Hull City, insists owner Assem
Allam.

Available:

http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/nov/12/tiger-

economy-hull-city-assem-allam-asia. Last accessed 21st April 2015.

Desbordes, M. (2007), “Introduction: new directions for marketing in football”,
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M. (Ed.),Marketing

and

Football:

An

International

Perspective, Butterworth‐Heinemann, Oxford.

Grönroos, C. (1997). From marketing mix to relationship marketing: Towards a
paradigm shift in marketing. Management Decision, 35 (4), 322-339.

Mitchell, A (1999), ‘How Brands Touch The Parts Others Can’t Reach’, Marketing
Week, 18 March, p.22-23.

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O'Connell, A . (2013). Investors Will Like Your Company Better if You Shorten Its
Name. Available: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/investors-will-like-your-compa/. Last
accessed 21st April 2015.

Rice, C. (1993), Consumer Behaviour: Behavioural Aspects of Marketing, Oxford:
Butterworth-Heinemann.

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