Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: A Strong Brand Is Not Built Overnight

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: A Strong Brand Is Not Built Overnight

Article excerpt

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood made the headlines last week when he dismissed Chelsea and its plans to 'turn the world blue' as fantasy.

Hill-Wood pointed out that it takes more than a decade of success to build a great club and concluded that the two biggest names in English football are Liverpool and Manchester United. While I agree with Hill-Wood, I think he got it only two-thirds right.

There is another club that should be counted in any reckoning of great English football brands. But to include it, you must leave the exclusiveness of the Premier League and travel through the Championship, and into League One. There, nestled almost at the foot of the table, is the 64th-best football team in England and one of its top three brands - Leeds United.

It is imperative to measure brands beyond their current success and look to their brand equity. In Leeds' case, it is impossible to argue with the fact that it deserves to be where it is, based on its recent history of second-rate football. It is an even worse operation off the field, with a succession of dodgy management decisions and poor finances resulting in the club going into administration in May and unable to pay its players' wages in June.

Relegated from the Championship at the end of last season, Leeds was handed a 15-point deduction by the Football Association because of its perilous financial operations. Manager Dennis Wise was barred from recruiting players for much of the summer.

Despite these problems, more than 24,000 fans turned up for the first home game of the season - only 900 fewer than turned out to watch Chelsea play Rosenborg in the glitzy Champions League two weeks ago Leeds are unbeaten this season and reached zero points in early September after five consecutive wins. The celebrations that day at Elland Road far exceeded anything that the stands at Anfield or Old Trafford have seen this season. Indeed, Leeds' merchandise sales and average attendance this year are better than those of many Premiership teams.

Too often in marketing, we confuse current success with brand equity. The real test of a brand comes over time, as it suffers from the inevitable misfortune and bad management decisions. Strong brands are not just able to generate higher profits and revenues, their superior brand equity and enduring brand loyalty also make them more likely to re-emerge from challenging periods. …

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