Motherwell took control of Group E in the Betfred Cup as they trounced Morton 4-0. It was a balmy but rainy Friday evening at Fir Park in front of the BT Sport cameras but this isn’t a match report. I’m not going to go into detail about whether James Scott could’ve scored more than the double he got, Motherwell’s flying wingers or Morton not really doing very much at all. I went behind the scenes with Motherwell’s three-man marketing team to see how they operate on a matchday.
Grant Russell is officially the club’s Communications Manager but we all know by now that these kinds of roles at Scottish football clubs encompass much more than that. I previously spoke to Grant back in 2017 while he was still working for STV. It was always clear from not just that interview but from the opinions he regularly shared on Twitter that he had plenty of ideas around the way clubs should operate marketing-wise and he’s now turning those thoughts into actions at Motherwell. Laura Brannan (Senior Producer) and Ally Reilly (Graphic Designer) complete the team and, again, it should be unsurprising to read that their roles aren’t confined to what their job titles suggest.
Once the 2018/19 season finished attention quickly turned to 2019/20 and beyond as the marketing team, with additional input from other areas of the club, pushed the reset button on their approach and took stock of what they wanted to do going forward. They’ve broken down what they’re setting out to do into strategic pillars to really get across the “why” of Motherwell Football Club to their fans and beyond. This, of course, involves telling stories of what’s happening in and around the club but it’ll also involve shining a light on the wider community around the town too. An example already this season is the below video on Windmills Cafe, which provides training in hospitality and employability to individuals with additional support needs.
In a week that featured the management team earning new contracts, the preparation for this specific matchday started earlier on in the week and continued throughout. The message was “homecoming”, with it being the club’s first home match of the season. Five Tweets were posted referencing this, attempting to tap into the feelings of fans a bit more rather than just a standard Tweet a couple of times during the week mentioning that there’s tickets on sale. The attendance was slightly down versus a comparable match last season in the competition against Queen of the South, however it was live on BT Sport and it rained virtually all afternoon and evening, two things that would have put a few fairweather home and away fans off from attending.
Video is a key medium for the club and it forms a big part of their matchday coverage. Laura will be pitchside every week, while Grant and Ally will be rotating between them who mans the live-coverage across their social channels and who mans the second camera position. There’s no big pre-match meeting in the countdown to kick off, just a short chat to determine the camera positions across both halves. One of the aims is to build up as much stock footage of each player as possible which they’ll in turn be able to use in any future promotional material produced, and of course the other is to capture the flash points of the action.
As kick off approaches tasks need to start being ticked off. Alongside Grant delivering the manager to the BT Sport studio, another is ensuring the referee and the opposition receive the teamlines on time as per competition rules. A very good relationship between the management and the marketing team means that the line-up has been shared a good few hours before this moment, meaning there’s no need to rush back to the office to get the squad graphic created. In what is a nice touch though, alongside a bespoke sign for the away dressing room door and dugout, the media team have also created a squad graphic for the away side which does need to be filled in and posted out just after the home side’s image. Preparation is everything and any club worth their salt nowadays will have these templates nailed down at the beginning of the season ready to pull up, fill in and post when required.
One introduction for the 2019/20 season is a prematch team photo which has gone down really well with fans so far across preseason. Laura follows the team out of the tunnel to then capture this ahead of kick off, as soon as it’s taken the memory card is passed to Grant who edits it and posts across their social channels. What struck me was how keen the playing squad are to be involved in, captain Richard Tait remembered to bring the players together for it to be taken.
If there was such a thing as uproar in the Scottish football Twittersphere across individuals with an interest in marketing then Lawrence Broadie seemed to cause it recently with the below Tweet following Motherwell’s win against Queen of the South.
Interesting to see @MotherwellFC have decided to lead the charge and give up pointless tweeting during games. If I’m not there I want to find the score, the rest really is kinda redundant. Focus energies on creating other match content which carries value and engagement. 👏🏼— Lawrence Broadie (@lawrencebroadie) July 13, 2019
Twitter play-by-play was also part of the summer refresh. The team analysed the metrics from the season just gone, consulted with groups of fans, looked around at what other clubs were doing in this space and listened to their gut feeling as users of the platform. It’s almost as if the rest of the footballing world has passed some Scottish football fans by. The biggest and best clubs with the most resources don’t describe every single piece of the match action anymore. Motherwell are finding that less certainly is more as well, their tracking tools are telling them that so far this season they’ve Tweeted the least out of all Premiership clubs and have the highest engagement rates, however Grant did admit that they’re still trying to find the balance. 15 Tweets were posted describing the action during this match (Morton posted 29) whereas the week prior there was 11 against Queen of the South (they posted a whopping 65).
One thing I’ve always been a big advocate of is clearly posting the score on every single Tweet during the 90 minutes. Colin Millar of Hibs said the same during my last Behind the Scenes post. The vast majority of Motherwell’s do but some of them don’t and this is very deliberate. Grant explained, “with Twitter’s algorithm working the way it does and the posts not automatically being in chronological order, you’re often seeing posts from hours ago, sometimes days, when you log in. These Tweets are designed to still hook you in to interacting with them.” Again, the engagement rates on these Tweets are higher than most others during the match meaning that these are the Tweets you’re most likely to see the next time you log on to Twitter.
Something Grant hopes to do much more with as the league season starts is the Match Centre function on the club website. It’ll include an automatic stream of updates, stats and information alongside the Tweet updates too to add a bit more colour to the action. It’ll be the place fans go to if they want to continue to follow the play-by-play aspect of the game. One aspect of it I particularly like is how it collates all of the pre and post-match website posts, meaning fans can easily read the managers pre-match thoughts and watch the highlights post-match.
I’m always keen to see fans being much more involved on matchdays and one of the ways this could be done is the club interacting with them across their social channels during the match. Grant admits that they do monitor comments but it’s more around whether there’s any issues that need to be urgently dealt with, such as ticketing or live feeds, and if not right away then something they might want to address post-match. With a little bit of time being freed up by not going as in-depth with the play-by-play, I’d love to see what the club could do around involving their fans in the online match experience.
Grant has made his way to the touchline because as soon as the full time whistle blows he and Laura are straight onto the pitch for another of the new additions to the 2019/20 content, immediate reaction from a player. Grant explained that “it captures more of the emotion with the fans still in the stadium making noise and players behind still shaking hands.” James Scott is of course the player chosen for this short 30 second summary video after his man of the match performance. It builds on the relationships fans can form with the players too, something Grant and the team really do make a point of doing across their activity.
As soon as the manager has moved from BT Sport to the BBC to in-house media to the papers, it’s time to get back into the office and start editing the footage captured from the match. Key moments are stitched together from their different cameras, including Go-Pro’s behind both goals, and clipped up to post on social. A six minute highlights video is posted straight to Twitter (and across other social channels) after the midnight embargo passes, while a shorter minute long video just including goal footage is saved for the next evening sandwiched between clips of each of the goals individually. It’s the perfect way to serve up everything the fans want to see, while also prolonging the matchday across their various channels. It doesn’t just stop when the referee blows his whistle and everyone leaves the stadium.
The thing that struck me the most was the relaxed nature around the club. There was hustle and bustle, plenty of things happening, but everyone knew what job they had to do and they just got on with it. Stephen Robinson was making jokes with security guards on his way to the BT Studio, CEO, Alan Burrows, joined us in the office before and after the match for a chat on all things marketing and comms while the players were all too happy to assist with any media requests or duties. The club has more bodies in their marketing department than some and less compared to others but it’s about what they do with the resources available to them. Plan ahead with a clear strategy in place, maximise those resources and the rewards will follow. Grant cites MLS as the inspiration for a lot of the ideas being developed at the club across the content they produce and how they portray the club’s identity. If more of our clubs did the same then Scottish football as a whole might start to reap the benefits it may bring.
A huge thanks to Grant and everyone at Motherwell for having me and being so accommodating. The only negative being that my team got pumped. If you enjoyed this piece then please do consider sharing it.
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 Tweet @sportsmarketsco.