Who cares about the Match Day Experience?

There is nothing sweeter to a marketer’s ears when someone who you wouldn’t expect talks about the customer experience. So imagine how I felt when I heard those words come out of the Collingwood Football Club. I may be an Essendon fan through and through, but with those two little words I may just convert!

Collingwood Fans

Collingwood has long been a forward thinking club when it comes to marketing. Part of that comes back to the amount of money that they control being in charge of the largest subscriber base in the AFL. But at the same time, this kind of innovative marketing orientation doesn’t come with money. And after looking at how to recruit new members and provide extra value to their die-hard fans outside the stadium, the focus has returned to the inside for the 2015 season.

The focus of this latest announcement has centred on the ‘match day experience’. Feeling that some of the old traditions have disappeared, the renewed focus aims to bring back these memorable experiences at the ground for highly invested fans. These strategies include large banners hung from the top level of the MCG to clearly identify the Collingwood section as well as elaborate fireworks displays before the match. And to bring back the strong collegiality, they are starting a new pre-match ritual where the hardcore fans can have a pre-game sausage sizzle at the Westpac Centre before gathering at Olympic Park and walking to the MCG together.

There are some really clever ideas in these strategies that all look to increase consumer pride in the product of Collingwood as well as providing extra, additional value to ensure that when the fans get on the train after a loss there is still value achieved from engaging.

But not everyone feels this way . . .

I was reading an article in the Herald Sun that strongly objected to thinking about a ‘match day experience’. The reasoning? Because examining the match day experience meant that the football was no longer the product. The central product is now the frivolities and distractions that the football clubs program around the match. But is this really true?

Not in the slightest!

Football is still very much the product in this arrangement. But every product needs a variety of supporting components to ensure that the original product is appreciated to the best of its ability.

Let me put it this way. Imagine you have purchasing a premium product – let’s say a really nice suit or pair of shoes. If the store was a dump? If the shop assistant didn’t care about your business? If the product was lobbed across the store to you? Or if you got home to find that the suit was wrinkled or the shoes were scuffed as a result of the packaging? Would you still value the product as much? No, because the experience and the product itself didn’t match.

But what if the store was presented incredibly well with groovy and memorable displays? What if the shop assistant was intuitive in knowing what you wanted? The products were packed immaculately. You get home and there is an extra ‘firework’ to your experience in the form of a free membership to a discount club for your next purchase. Would you value the same product now? Hell yes!

The same thing applies to the football. The match could be fantastic but all the other components surrounding this service could be appalling. And it would have the same effect on the customer experience. But if the match is fantastic and all the other components only add to the experience – well then you are going to enjoy your time as a Collingwood member a whole lot more.