You’ve all seen the photos. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Kieran Tierney

It’s these almost weekly images we see appear on Twitter, Facebook and in our daily newspapers that I’m questioning here. [Insert player or manager here] poses with a bit of cardboard promoting [insert Scottish football match here]. These pieces of printed cardboard more often than not contain information on them regarding tickets to attend the match. My question is, have you been indecisive about whether to attend your clubs match and then been swayed to go because you open up the paper on a Friday or a Saturday and see your promising young left back posing for pictures with a piece of cardboard? I know that this enables the papers to fill their pages with a big image (maybe they could devote more inches to other clubs or the lower leagues, but that’s for a different day) and it gives the clubs free ‘advertising’ space, which businesses in other sectors would potentially pay thousands of pounds for. My question following on from that point is, how do the clubs know that this method of promoting Scottish football works?

Build, Measure, Learn

I’ve got plans for this to be given a dedicated post of it’s own, but it’s very relevant here. Like I said, I’d argue whether clubs actually know if the method in question is one that works in promoting Scottish football matches and encouraging fans to attend. To start off addressing this issue, I’m going to make the point that I think Scottish football clubs should adopt a startup mentality. Your initial impression of a startup might be pizza boxes strewn across a house in a Californian suburb, or a group of college or university students hunched over computer screens in their digs, but startups can be, and are, everywhere.

I don’t doubt that there are some very talented individuals working in Scottish football, they should be unleashed and allowed to channel their inner-entrepreneur. Ideas should be hypothesised, experiments should be ran and learnings should be validated. Frequently building, measuring and learning is a necessity in a startup. The theory behind this being ideas can be actioned by creating a minimum viable product, enabling the maximum amount of learning to be collected with the least effort. Consumer responses can be measured and if it’s a success, keep on rolling with it. If it doesn’t resonate well with the target audience, that’s a good thing too. Any failure should be celebrated as much as success, then the whole process starts again.

Using Fans to Attract Fans

Here’s my alternative idea to promote upcoming Scottish football matches and try to get fans through the turnstile, use your fans. Why not run a weekly competition or pluck out a lucky fan from the season ticket database to come to the stadium or training ground and promote that weekend’s match? The fan could be pictured having a kickabout with the player, giving the papers their usual shot of a player to go along with the interview they’ve just got from him. Just imagine if Jimmy Bullard was replaced by a fan in the video below and they got the chance to take part in a training drill up against one of their clubs players. Not only would this massively enhance that fans feeling towards their club, it would encourage other fans to get involved in this ‘meet and play with the players’ experience.

Last season, fans of Livingston and Alloa entered a competition to win the opportunity to present their team with the Petrofac Training Cup trophy. The final was billed as a ‘fan-focused final‘, with a fanzone set up outside the stadium for families to take on numerous challenges, and it culminated in Graeme the Livi fan handing over the trophy to his team.

This season they’ve taken there focus on fan engagement and ran with it again. Fans could enter a competition via Twitter to experience the Petrofac Training Cup first-round draw live. Marrying fan engagement and social media is how I want clubs to be promoting Scottish football. The number of people in Scotland buying and reading newspapers is declining. Celtic have more followers on Twitter than people reportedly buy and read the Scottish Sun. They can (and do) Tweet a link straight to the page on their site where fans get information on how to get tickets for their upcoming match. The engagement numbers on the Tweet below are probably comparable to the effect a picture in the newspaper has on ticket sales. Why not try something different to shift those last few seats and then actually be able to measure and attribute that ticket sale back to your innovative method of promoting Scottish football.

My hypothesis is that the next generation of Scottish football fans aren’t walking to their local shop to buy a newspaper in the morning, they’re on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter waiting to be advertised to by brands vying for their attention. Let’s reach them, get them interested, and get them through the turnstiles.

What would your idea be? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @sportsmarketsco