[I am delighted to announce that the following article was written by Digital-Football's first guest blogger -Benjamin Stoll - who has kindly given up his time to write this article. Benjamin is Munich based and a regular contributor to the #Digisport Twitter hashtag - so has great insight into not just the Social response to the stunt, but also why it particularly angered Bayern fans at this moment in time. We look forward to future articles from Benjamin and welcome additional article submissions from anyone who wants to have their say about Football and Social Media - just email Seanmichaelwalsh @ gmail.com]
“Mia san Mia” (“We are who we are”) – that’s the Bavarian credo of the German record champion winning side FC Bayern Munich. Today motto was sorely misrepresented as the Bavarian club learnt a valuable lesson – don’t play with fan expectations and don’t underestimate the power of an angry Social Media mob. So what has happened?
At 1 pm on their Facebook Fanpage (approx. 2.7 million fans) the club announced that they had signed a new player. Shortly afterwards on the homepage of the club, Christian Nerlinger, the team manager, announced the signing of a new offensive player and that the spectacular purchase would be introduced and more details would be revealed exclusively on Facebook within a Facebook app entitled “The New FCB Star” at 2 pm.
Obviously such news fired up digital speculations across Social Media platform such as Facebook and Twitter. Sport sites jumped on the bandwagon and eagerly promoted the upcoming live event, especially since it appeared that the press has not been privy to the surprise news. Fans were discussing names like Tevez, Götze and Berbatov and at this point it’s important to recognise that recently FC Bayern lost their first Bundesliga match within 2012 versus Borussia Mönchengladbach and that young talent Marco Reus, who has been rumored to sign with the Bavarians, announced that instead he would be moving to the current champions Borussia Dortmund next season. So with emotions high and expectant fans left disappointed, this certainly wasn’t the right time to let the fans down any more!
At 2 pm the curtain dropped and all was revealed in a staged live stream press conference with Markus Hörwick (communication director at FCB), Chrsitian Nerlinger and Philipp Lahm all present on screen. What they had to say however, was less than impressive:
“The new star player is… YOU – the 12th man of the squad”
The Facebook app then ran a video that showed users names and profile photos appearing on jerseys and in fake press announcements – with supporting “mock interviews” of players like like Manuel Neuer, Bstian Schweinsteiegr and Arjen Robben expressing their delight at the new signing.
It appear that the club wanted to reward its fans with an engaging personalised video, but by completely misjudging fan expectations and the communication context this marketing “ploy” quickly deteriorated into a spectacular failure among the fans. Many fans were really disappointed and negative comments and rants crowded the app. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the app then proceeded to crash – presumably under the traffic stress. It wasn’t long until mainstream sports press took up the ball and began to publicise what an utter failure the PR stunt had been. The story soon went global and trended 2nd worldwide on Twitter.
Regardless if the execution of the plan was viewed as funny or even successful in that it got people talking, the outcome was not what Bayern had hoped for.
In only a staggering 20 minutes later the club labeled the stunt as,
“a small joke for the fans with several video clips to follow during the upcoming weeks”
Not exactly the best response to a fanbase that had just been infuriated even more. With the “joke” excuse not being kindly received, the club was forced to apologise and explained that their only attention was to engage with the fans and putt hem into the middle of the team.
What clubs can learn from this PR stunt:
- - Do not underestimate fan expectations – football fans are a very passionate audience and take it seriously
- - Do not lure fans into apps or Social Media platforms with empty promises
- - Always know the context of a campaign – Bayern failed to recognise that their fans were already quite emotive – the timing was appalling
- - Don’t judge success by quantity, the stunt collected a large number of number ‘Likes’ and noise in the social space, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into quality!