Could Scottish Clubs Boost Crowds The North American Way?

I got to take part in a very unique experience on Tuesday evening – a photoshoot. An actual proper photoshoot, with professional cameras, lighting and even make up!

Vancouver Whitecaps are about to launch their ad campaign for the season to attract fans to their games and build their on the continually growing interest in their move to the MLS next year.

When you’re competing in an ice hockey mad city and are up against a CFL team (Canada’s NFL) that play games during the same part of the year, it’s hard for the Caps not to just get media attention but to get the punters through the turnstiles at the same time.

One key component to attracting new fans is the uniqueness of football fans in the North American sporting culture. We’re still looked at as a very odd bunch by your general American or Canadian in the street. The fact that we sing and chant and actually create an atmosphere that isn’t generated by some guy on a mic or an electronic scoreboard telling you to “make some noise” is still alien to a lot of North American sports fans.

There are some really good, really active and really vocal supporters groups for football teams on the continent and Vancouver has the Southsiders – a key marketing asset for the football club and a group I’m very proud to currently be a part of.

The Caps new ad campaign (of which we’ll post the finished results once they’re live) is trying to capture the passion and raw emotion that you only get at a football match and I think we did that last night in the three ad premises that we shot with the Club. They really play up how important fans can be to a club.

The ads will run all over the city and in local media. They should generate a lot of interest and talking points and hopefully bring in more fans, especially the couch potatos that probably think it only happens over in Europe and not in their own back yard.

It got me thinking though. Are we missing a trick in Scotland when it comes to trying to get the punters back to games? We do very little to advertise or promote the game here most of the time or the passion and enjoyment, along with the heartbreak and sadness, that can be found supporting your local club and not the bigot brothers.

When you have teams like Cowdenbeath, Clyde and Stirling Albion fighting for their actual survival as a football club, never mind in their respective divisions, and the fans can’t be arsed getting along to give them their money, you have to start asking what can we do to bring people back to the game in Scotland? Something has to be done.

I’m not saying we could do the same kind of campaigns as the Vancouver Whitecaps have done (seeing a handful of fans yelling at an empty Cliftonhill might not have the same impact), but we should promote the game.

Growing up I always remember the ads in the East Fife Mail and around Levenmouth advertising the next East Fife game. They stopped some time in the 90s I think and although the Club dallied a little with repromoting themselves in local shops, pubs and Leven High Street a few years back, it eventually came to nothing and has seem to have counted for nothing as our crowds continue to dwindle.

The Scottish Football League should take note of campaigns like the Whitecaps ones and try and generate some interest in the lower leagues. Play the local card. The fact that you can actually feel close to the action and part of the club. Capture in visual form the joy that Ross County fans are feeling right now.

If attendances in Scotland keep going the way they are then there’s going to be more and more clubs facing financial peril. The North American way may seem a little too razzamatazz and un-Scottish but let’s face it, no matter how far fetched it may seem, anything’s worth a try.

Something has to be done to get attendances up before it’s too late. Or maybe it already is.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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