Case Study: Everton FC
Client: Everton Football Club
Project: Home Kit Launch
Agency:HuÃ©t and Company Advertising
Everton has some of the most devoted, committed fans you’ll find anywhere in football. Not for nothing is it known as “The People’s Club”.
So the launch of a brand new Everton home kit was always going to be a big event. And, to make it even more important, prior to the 2002/3 season Everton was not just launching any old new home kit. Far from it.
The club’s kit manufacturer, Puma, had designed the 2002/3 strip to be different. In a word, it was streamlined.
As if all this wasn’t enough, this season Everton is also celebrating 100 years of top-flight football – the first club in England to pass this landmark. Clearly, the club was destined to be in the public eye this season (and all this before Wayne Rooney exploded onto the scene!).
These factors all contributed to raising the crossbar even higher, making the task of Everton’s marketing department and its agency, HuÃ©t & Co, in launching the kit that much more important. Strategic thinking and creative concepts of Premiership standard were in order.
Planning and Implementation
To appreciate the strategy, HuÃ©t and Everton’s in-house team devised, first, a few details about the design concept behind the new strip.
Before the design stage, Puma had been getting feedback from professional players. They had made some significant points, not least the fact that the baggy shirts currently in vogue have the unfortunate ability to allow opposing defenders to grab them too easily.
Then there were the trends in the marketplace. After years of shirts looking about four sizes too big, Puma felt that the tighter look was due to make a comeback. In Italy – the fulcrum of fashion in sport as well as on the catwalk – Lazio was blazing a trail with a tighter-looking, more figure-hugging kit.
The result of all this was a new Everton kit with a much more streamlined look, with shirts with stitch patterns contoured to show the line and form of an athletic physique. In trade parlance, this is known as the “International Fit”. (We’re tempted to say it’s a good job Gazza is no longer on the club’s books!)
Apart from styling, there were also other innovations. The high performance “USP” fabric (an acronym always close to an ad person’s heart) has been specially formulated to wick perspiration away from the skin more quickly, resulting in players who keep their cool in the warmer months and at the same time warm up more quickly in winter.
On the subject of kit, it’s also interesting to note that the Everton replica kit is exactly that. A perfect replica. In other words, the kit the fans buy in the shops is exactly the same as the kit the players wear on the pitch. This is not always the case.
Given the innovative nature of the new kit design, the strategy practically selected itself. In a nutshell, the marketing objectives were to:
a) Announce the new home kit launch to the club’s fan base, primarily in the North West and North Wales,
b) Convey the “streamlined” message,
c) Prompt direct sales at the club’s Megastore and other retail outlets.
So there was a ready-made strategy. The challenge was then to dramatise the message in a way that would be relevant to the key target market segment – the club’s fan base, which is primarily male, C2DE, families and teenagers, located on Merseyside and North Wales.
The next stage was a brainstorm, with both client and agency personnel attending. Out of this process came the idea that, given its properties, the most interesting and relevant way to promote the new kit was to use the female form.
The tailored, sculptured lines could look absolutely stunning on the right female model. It would also create a more original and striking image than the predictable athletic looking male.
So the question then became – how – and, even more to the point, who?
Any personality would need to be female, young, and popular with the younger end of the C2DE target group. Of course, she would have to be attractive and photogenic. And she would certainly need to look lithe and slim. Ideally, she would also have an association with the Merseyside area. And, naturally, she would have to wear the kit. In other words, put the “KIT ON”.
Now, who on earth could meet all those criteria? And would be ready and willing to become the face of Everton FC?
Maybe, just maybe, the solution could be that well-known trio of girlie singers from Merseyside. The ones who just happened to be top of the charts at the time? Whose name incorporated the very word KIT? And one of whom, it later transpired, happened to be a rabid Evertonian?
Every now and then, in marketing as in life, you find the right person in the right place at the right time. For HuÃ©t and Everton, in Summer 2002 that person was Liz McClarnon of Atomic Kitten. Stunningly attractive and a proven performer in front of both TV and still cameras, Liz also possessed exactly the slim, toned body to show the new Everton kit off to full advantage.
To add the icing to this already highly promising cake, Liz had been an Everton fanatic practically since birth. Not just a genuine personality, she was also a true blue. She had even first found her now famous singing voice on the club’s Gwladys Street Stand! It was therefore no surprise that Liz jumped at the chance to model the new kit and become the face of Everton for a while.
And although the idea now seems as natural as Brazil winning the World Cup, full marks to all involved for their creativity in hitting on the concept.
The inevitable negotiations involving agents took place – a process greatly helped by the skill and enthusiasm of Everton marketing manager Tracy Weston – and a shoot was organised. The resulting full-colour pictures of Liz, looking stunning in the new Everton kit, were featured across a wide variety of communications material. The campaign’s piÃ¨ce de resistance was the headline “ATOMIC KITON”. Snappy, highly appropriate and utterly unforgettable, does copywriting get much better than this?
A multimedia campaign was planned and implemented, including 48- and 6-sheet posters around Merseyside, a splash page on the club’s website, a concourse poster at Goodison Park, a dramatic life-size cut-out POS for the club’s Megastore, full-page ads for the matchday programmes, plus ads for the Evertonian, a popular monthly newspaper.
As well as generating awareness, the campaign also carried a response function, with fans being invited to place orders for the new kit, either by telephone or online at the club’s website.
In a word, phenomenal!
On the first day, sales at Everton’s Goodison Park Megastore were up 78 per cent compared to the previous home kit launch. In fact, more stock was sold in three days than in the three weeks of the earlier campaign – over 8,000 items in all. What’s more, over a 40-day period no fewer than 10,500 shirts were sold. It hardly needs stating that this was Everton’s most successful kit launch, by a massive margin.
One more statistic, perhaps the most impressive of all. Currently, 70 per cent of visitors to the club’s Megastore are actually purchasing the new strip.
Not that it’s all been plain sailing. After all, somebody has to actually supply the kits so that all this demand can be met. The Megastore was initially overwhelmed, with queues stretching down the street during the initial launch period. Indeed, it was necessary to extend normal opening hours.
Nor has the success of the campaign been confined to an opening burst. Puma indicate that orders from major retailers are still very strong. Production is currently flat out. The new strip is the biggest-selling Everton home kit ever, performing 50 per cent better than any of its predecessors.
The stunning results speak for themselves. However, they have been made possible by a combination of a product whose time has arrived, a marketing communications campaign with a strong and original strategy plus a creative interpretation that was able to dramatise and maximise its effectiveness. All HuÃ©t & Co has to do now is to repeat the success next year. As they say in football, you’re only as good as your last game!