Partick Thistle, the club that arguably brought us the best mascot in the world, Kingsley, are improving year on year. The club achieved their highest league finish since the 1980s in the 2016/17 season and unveiled plans for a new multi-million-pound training ground. A good achievement nonetheless. However, for a team almost on the verge of bankruptcy only 10 years ago and lamenting in the third division, this achievement is somewhat incredible. During this rise through the divisions, the ways in which the club have engaged with fans has been admirable, and could be seen as a key driver as to why Thistle’s average attendance increases with every passing season. How do they bring fans through the turnstiles in a city dominated by Celtic and Rangers though? Quite simply, by offering a unique fan experience.
Partick Thistle- A Family Club
While it could be argued that Celtic and Rangers will always be able to sell tickets, due to their large fanbase, not just in Glasgow but around the world, Thistle have created schemes and offers designed to bring new fans to the club. For a number of years, Thistle have offered free season tickets to under 16s and discounted season tickets for students, a move designed to bring more young people through the turnstiles but also to make the cost of attending games more affordable for families, thus marketing themselves as a family-friendly club. For example, to take a family of four, two adults and two kids, to a game at Firhill this season, it would cost £44. In comparison to their city rivals, where a family day out to the football would cost just over double this figure, this represents an attractive option for many families. They have positioned themselves as the club for everyone with their pricing strategy, and this can only be a good thing. With families saving money on tickets, they may then be inclined to spend more on club merchandise, driving brand loyalty and encouraging families to return to Firhill. You only need to take a walk round Firhill to see proof of this in action as kids with their replica shirts sit with their parents and grandparents. It’s clear that the club have strived to cater for all age groups, and this is paying dividends. As mentioned previously, their average attendance has risen every year since their promotion to the top flight of Scottish football, an admirable achievement considering the sheer number of other attractions competing for the attention of the people of Glasgow. Should they look to build upon these initiatives in the coming season and turn those u16 season ticket holders into paying fans, the only way is up for the Jags.
Use of Media Channels
Thistle have also strived to improve their social media content over the course of last season, and even though, as George Francis stated, they run a relatively small staffing team, it is clear there is a very strategic approach taken when devising the club’s social media content. Arguably, this could be due to the viral sensation that was Kingsley, Thistle’s infamous mascot. There were more than 187 million impressions on Twitter surrounding the mascot, and the increased media attention was the catalyst driving the club to produce better content to engage with fans. On Twitter, matchday coverage for fans unable to attend the game has improved, with a detailed matchday commentary available for all first team matches and the majority of Under 20s matches also. They also haven’t forgot about their fans overseas, and their Twitter and Facebook accounts advertise that fans outside the U.K. can watch Thistle games for only £4.99 a month. An innovative idea, one would argue, as it highlights to overseas fans that the club still value their support by providing them with a means to watch matches, but also increases matchday revenue as people are paying for matches that Thistle are filming anyway as part of their highlights package.
Much like many other SPFL clubs, Thistle launched their new Jagzone subscription service, providing fans with behind the scenes access, exclusive interviews as well as highlights from all home and away matches. Thistle have identified this as a key growth area moving forward into the new season, and with George Francis stating in his previous interview with the site that initial feedback on the service has been positive, it is clear to see why. With many fans sometimes having to choose to do other things rather than spend a Saturday afternoon at the football, providing good subscription services allowing fans to engage with the club is key to retaining and growing their support, and may encourage fans to go to Firhill in the future.
With the club on somewhat of a high at the moment, there are endless possibilities for the club with regards to their relationship marketing management with fans. The Jagzone subscription service will be a key focus for the club, and should the club continue to promote the service across all aspects of social media and their online service, there is no reason as to why numbers subscribing to the service will not grow. However, I believe they should look to clubs such as Celtic at ways to improve their presence on Facebook. Thistle have struggled this season to gain many impressions (measured in likes and shares) on Facebook compared to Twitter and their reach is far smaller, as the number of followers to the Twitter account is significantly more than the number of likes on the club Facebook page. Although some argue Facebook isn’t as important for clubs anymore, it still represents a huge opportunity for the club to reach new and existing fans who do not engage with the club on other social media sites. You only have to look at Celtic’s coverage on Facebook throughout this season’s treble winning season, as they created Facebook-specific content which captured the imagination of fans around the world. Obviously, Partick do not have anywhere near the same budget as Celtic, but Thistle could look to capitalise on the use of video content on Facebook, as it was incredibly successful for Celtic throughout the course of the season.
To summarise, Partick Thistle are no longer “the cuddly toy” of Scottish football. Their performance on the park, and the work of their marketing department behind the scenes have catapulted the club forward and they now compete with some of the biggest clubs in Scotland. The possibilities are endless for the club and it is clear that the club is heading in the right direction. Should Thistle continue to engage with fans and successfully bring new fans to the club through good relationship marketing management, there is no reason why the club cannot continue to improve in stature in the future.