1. Home
  2. >>
  3. tom
  4. >>
  5. “Customers and fans notice fake”

“Customers and fans notice fake”


“Customers and fans notice fake”

Marketing professionals can learn a lot from football. This is what the former world-class referee and TV commentator Urs Meier explains in an interview with Dr. Clemens Koob and Stefan Lohmüller from the Ten Four Strategy Consultancy.

Mr. Meier, we are interested in what marketing decision-makers can learn from football. What does it take to be successful?

URS MEIER: First of all, it certainly takes courage. Look at the German national team: their third place at the 2006 World Cup was considered a success because they played football so aggressively and courageously. This is how you make a product attractive and create interest in the market. It’s the same with FC Bayern Munich. With Luca Toni and Franck Ribéry, footballers who play attacking and arouse interest have been hired. In order to have lasting success, however, it takes courage paired with foresight and a clear strategy. Otherwise it’s going nowhere. And it needs good organization. It is not for nothing that there are clubs in football that have been successful for years or decades. If you analyze them, you can see that the basic structures in these clubs are simply good. FC Bayern Munich, for example, is one of the best organized clubs I know. That’s why he will also be ahead of clubs like Dortmund or Bremen in the future.

What characterizes an organization that makes success possible?

URS MEIER: It’s the people and the consistency. And good organization also gives you the opportunity to work in peace. Uli Hoeness, for example, attracts public attention and criticism at FC Bayern Munich in difficult phases when things are not going quite so smoothly. This means that the team, coaches and board members like Karl Hopfner can work in peace. This is by no means a coincidence, but is deliberately handled in this way.

You mentioned consistency. Can marketing really learn something from football in this respect, when coach sackings are the order of the day?

URS MEIER: What’s important is that it’s not just about consistency at the top, but about consistency throughout the organization. When you visit successful clubs like FC Barcelona, ​​FC Arsenal or Manchester United, you meet many faces that you have known for years. Even if coaches and players change: You meet the same team doctor, the same materials manager and the same supervisors. In successful clubs there is a stable organizational basis.

What exactly is the positive thing about this consistency?

URS MEIER: The organizational consistency creates a clear identity. You can tell right away whether you’re at Manchester United, Real Madrid or AC Milan. These are very different cultures. Where there is a strong culture, there is also success. The employees feel comfortable there. A masseur at AC Milan is proud to be a masseur there, to be part of AC Milan. He identifies with his club and stands behind it wholeheartedly. That’s exactly what business needs. The strength of the Miele brand, for example, is also based on the fact that every single employee lives the brand slogan “Immer Besser” every day and is proud of the company. You also have to be able to do that as a marketing manager: that the team is proud of the brand and feels connected to the company. You have to involve the employees emotionally.

You mentioned earlier that the path to success also requires foresight and a clear strategy. What can the economy learn from football in this regard?

URS MEIER: From my point of view, it is very important that there is a clear strategy and concept – and that these are pursued with patience and perseverance. Clubs that constantly change their game concept usually only have short-term success. The clubs that are successful in the long term, on the other hand, pull through with their ideas and their concept. You take your time, because success does not come overnight. In Germany, for example, look at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, who recently got promoted to the first Bundesliga. SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp, who supports Hoffenheim financially, is working on a long-term professionalization of the club. Patience and perseverance – that’s what business needs too.

But sometimes you have to make quick decisions…

URS MEIER: That applies to business as well as to football. Look to St Gallen. FC St. Gallen has surprisingly been relegated to the Challenge League. Quick decisions are needed here. The championship starts in a few weeks, now talks have to be held with players and sponsors and new contracts have to be concluded. However, the re-emergence project will only succeed if these quick decisions follow a long-term concept.

In football it is often said: Money does not score goals. In fact, it often does. Marketing is also discussing what is possible without large budgets. How do you see it?

URS MEIER: You can see that very well in Swiss football, where the big money doesn’t exist on an international scale. Why are many Swiss players and coaches still successful? You have to be creative! You have to think about what you can do better than others. In Switzerland, people thought: we need to give our coaches and players better technical and tactical training. Today, Switzerland is one of the European leaders in this respect and exports players and coaches abroad. This shows that you can make a difference with a good concept, ideas and a lot of passion. Of course, if you want to play at the top of the Champions League permanently, you also need the right budget.

In football, team spirit is a success factor. At the same time, however, the competition with colleagues encourages the players to perform well. What can you learn from football so that employees can find the right balance between competition and team spirit?

URS MEIER: Clarity is important. Problems usually arise when false expectations are raised. If a player goes to a training camp and he’s given hopes that can’t be met, he’ll be disappointed. If you communicate openly and honestly right from the start, you can form a good team – even with the players who know they aren’t in the starting XI. It’s a question of communication. In the same way, you have to tell the employees in a marketing team clearly which role they have – and which they don’t.

What else needs to be considered when managing employees?

URS MEIER: Let’s look at the position of the goalie, as a coach you can follow different philosophies. Suppose you always use the one who is in the best shape at the moment – ​​this one today, that one tomorrow. What happens then? You create uncertainty. The defense becomes insecure, the rest of the team becomes insecure, and the goalie himself also becomes insecure. He thinks: If I let a ball in now, maybe someone else will be in goal again. But if you say to a goalie: You’re my number one, you have my complete trust, and even if a ball goes in that seems durable, you still don’t sit on the substitutes’ bench straight away. This creates a completely different starting position, which gives security. In the same way, you have to convey trust to your employees in management and make it clear to them that they are allowed to make mistakes. This is very important if employees are to be strong. Standing behind your employees is crucial.

Clubs have loyal, committed fan communities, most companies don’t. What can marketing do to turn customers into real fans?

URS MEIER: Most companies and brands have no real identity – so why should customers love them? The loyalty of FC St. Pauli fans is based on the fact that St. Pauli is St. Pauli through and through. As soon as this club tried to be like Bayern Munich, the fans would lose interest. These are very different mentalities and cultures. In order to have fans, you have to have your own style and also live and follow it consistently. You have to be and remain authentic. As soon as you show something – be it as a club, coach or referee – the fans notice it. In the same way, customers notice it when a brand pretends something that is not real.

The conversation was led by Dr. Clemens Koob and Stefan Lohmüller from the Ten Four Strategy Consultancy.

Urs Meier, born in Zurich in 1959, was one of the world’s best referees for many years. In 2004 he ended his career as an impartial. Since then he has concentrated on the systematic professionalization of internationally active arbitrators. Together with Johannes B. Kerner and Jürgen Klopp he moderates the EURO 2008 on ZDF.