New signings get everyone excited. The way that clubs announce new signings have become events in themselves in recent years. While clubs at the top level of world football throw resources behind these announcements, most of our clubs in Scotland seem content to just parade players in the usual manner, a quick picture with the club scarf above their head.
One club hasn’t been content with that this summer. That club is Queen’s Park. Off the pitch as well as on it it looks from the outside that they’re trying to be much more professional, as they move away from their traditional amateur status. I wanted to get some insights into what’s gone into these announcements so I spoke to Nathan Ferguson, who is a social media volunteer at the club.
Communication is key is an overused saying but that’s for a reason. It’s vital, and especially so at football clubs. Communication with fans is important but regular internal communications amongst staff can go a long way to how your club wants to be perceived. I don’t think this has ever been as important as during 2020 so far, with lockdown forcing us all apart on a daily basis. With so many moving parts to a new player signing for your club, fans just see the end point, the player being announced. At Queen’s Park, there’s currently a team of volunteers working on the marketing side of the club and naturally they communicate via WhatsApp. Nathan explained, “we’ve worked through a WhatsApp group chat even before lockdown. If someone signs for the club this is communicated by a committee member through that chat.”
When the signing is announced that’s when the marketing volunteers, and Nathan in particular, spring into action. It’s still important to work together and not go off, produce something, and then run with it alone though. Nathan tests his initial ideas on the group, “I’ll usually do a quick mock up of an idea and send it round the group to make sure they understand the idea, and to see if it gets a reaction from them.”
Nathan uses a number of the Adobe Creative Cloud apps to create the announcement graphics and videos. Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects are the three main ones. Outwith the Creative Cloud monthly subscription, there were no other costs associated with any of their announcements so far. That’s because it’s a team effort. Nathan was quick to emphasise this, “I live in Edinburgh so I’m reliant on our other volunteers to gather some of the source material like photos and interviews. Sean Davenport uses his mobile phone to interview the player, with an added microphone, and our club photographers (Ian Cairns and Fraser Marr) use their proper cameras to produce his shots of the player.”
While the cameras were likely an expensive outlay and the microphone phone attachment is an extra cost too, those are one-offs that can utilised again and again. For multiple purposes too, for example, player media days and interviews throughout the season. Every club should be investing in improving the look and experience of what they produce.
Nathan took me through the tools used in the announcements, but what about one of the biggest stumbling blocks/excuses that clubs and individuals roll out, time. Nathan’s still learning some of the programmes he’s using to produce the announcements so he estimated that each video takes him “roughly between five and ten hours to complete.” That might seem like a lot but what it shows me too is that the club are happy to be patient in order to get things right and keep standards high for their fans to appreciate.
The furlough scheme has been used by plenty of clubs in the country but Queen’s Park have inadvertently benefited from having more of Nathan’s time available to them. Nathan is Hostelling Scotland’s Digital Lead but has volunteered with Queen’s Park since May 2019, he says, “before lockdown, if I had any Queen’s Park projects to do I’d usually do them on a Sunday evening, spending roughly four hours a week on them.” His time on furlough from his day job has seen him spent a little more time on Queen’s Park activity, and taking the initiative to upskill on those tools I mentioned earlier on. Has this time without football been spent in a useful way by those working at the club you support?
One of the biggest things that stands out so far from Queen’s Park’s announcement videos is that they aren’t all the same. They might follow a pattern and be similar in some ways, but it’s not just exactly the same stock video with a player photograph or video dropped in. Each one has had a different element to it. Nathan’s obsession with how American sports promote their players has played into the theme of the announcements so far. He wanted to make a song and dance out of each player after “seasons where I would arrive at Hampden and not have a clue who all the new players were.” He recommends to follow plenty of creatives from the sports industry on Twitter, he’ll then take what he sees and likes from them and try them for Queen’s Park.
“It’s hard to stand out in Glasgow for obvious reasons so taking ownership of the Southside gives us that niche to play with.” Queen’s Park are building something, with their move to being professional and ambitious signings. Nathan and the marketing volunteers are aiming to build on that with the local area being front and centre of a few of their announcements so far. It gives fans something to hook onto, as seen by Motherwell’s signing announcements so far this summer too. Fans can also play a part in the inspiration process, Nathan continued, “I believe if fans are latching onto something, you should run with it.” That’s certainly happened with “Rayvolution”. The good form since manager Ray McKinnon joined the club led fans to use this phrase across social media, which has now been picked up by the marketing volunteers too and has appeared in a number of the signing announcement videos.
Nathan already mentioned being inspired by the way things are done in America, and if you’re reading this you’ll likely know that pop culture memes are absolutely massive. They aren’t always to everyone’s taste, but Nathan’s a fan, “As long as it makes sense, then I do think they can add to your content. Orlando Magic or the LA Clippers seamlessly weave memes into their announcements and social media content. Why can’t we?”
My Top Three Queen’s Park Announcements
It’s hard to whittle them down as all have been excellent but I’ve taken a shot at picking a top three. Do you agree?
Michael Doyle’s arrival announcement featured plenty of the elements Nathan has been introducing. Doyle had his picture taken in the local area, #Rayvolution was in there plus a Photoshopped image of Doyle onto a billboard on the Southside of Glasgow.
Tommy Robson’s signing saw the club bring Deal or No Deal into the signing announcement game. I’ve got to admit that some of the meme-style announcements and Tweets sometimes pass me by, but Deal or No Deal is right up my street. There’s also some footage of Robson scoring for a previous club along with an interview and the Southside billboard.
For my top one I’ve gone for Bob McHugh’s announcement. It’s probably one of the most simple ones to date but it was certainly effective, in addition to Nathan pointing out that this one was done during the strict lockdown we had in the UK so there’s no video interview included. The included Instagram graphic showing the likes rolling in for the announcement was a nice touch too. 43.5k views later and I think it can be classed as a successful transfer announcement for the club.
If you want to hear even more about how Queen’s Park approach marketing then Sean Davenport appeared on the Lower League Round Table episode of the Scottish Football Marketing Podcast. Have a listen.
Thanks for reading. Guest posts are always welcome on Sports Marketing Scotland if you’ve got an opinion to share on the business or marketing of Scottish sport. The email address to get in touch with is firstname.lastname@example.org, or just find me on Twitter @sportsmarketsco.