Creating That Sense Of Belonging (And The AFC Bournemouth Promotion)
We have to stand behind what we believe in, even when there are times when it’s hard. When it works, there is a real sense of belonging.
This post is going to go in a purely sentimental angle. Whilst I can’t quite go down the route of ’15 things AFC Bournemouth’s Promotion To The Premier League Can Teach Marketers’ because Ian Rhodes would never let me live it down. It does give time to reflect.
It has been less than 24 hours since the team that I have supported as a boy, AFC Bournemouth have won promotion to the top flight of English football (for the first time in our 125 year history), the hallowed Premier League. The words AFC Bournemouth promotion to the Premier League, I have to write twice!
The School Boy Bucket List
I can remember thinking to myself after England lost to Germany in the World Cup semi final in 1990 (when I was 15), would I get to see, in my lifetime, either England winning the World Cup or AFC Bournemouth playing at the highest level of English football. I can now say that I have achieved 50% of my schoolboy bucket list.
I won’t use this as a platform to highlight any form of loyalty and the ‘I remember when this was fields’ mentality to build a sense of diehard loyalty or proof, but the point I want to make is that no one knows what the future holds, all that I know is that you have to ‘keep at it’. This is where that link from me turning this into an outpouring of emotion and to what this means for our businesses to build an audience, comes into play.
By ‘keeping at it,’ I mean the times when things are looking pretty meek and efforts seem to be going nowhere ie. no one is reading your articles, the email that you send out gets barely any response, and the work you produce gets no recognition. By bringing the football analogy into the equation, there were times back in 2008/2009 season when the club was rooted to the bottom of the lowest league (Division 2) and the -17 points deduction was like an albatross circling a ship that had run out of food a week earlier.
Watching a painful FA Cup defeat to non-league Blyth Spartans and the desperation of losing 0-2 at home to Barnet during the Christmas fixtures, was probably the lowest moments of supporting the club. However, this is my club, I stuck with it, it’s what is in my heart.
The Relentless Pursuit Of Sticking To What You Believe In
We don’t know what the future holds, we just have to keep at it. It’s what we believe in. From persistence and dogged determination, even in those moments when you still stand for something and it isn’t recognised, you have to persevere. I can remember many friends from school supporting Southampton as they were in the top league.
It was easier to hold onto something that represented success and the promise of watching the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool every week, rather than the likes of Oldham, Northampton Town and Shrewsbury (no disrespect to any of those clubs). Next season, we go head to head with Southampton.
When others begin to recognise what you produce has meaning and something that they can relate to, you can slowly begin to build your audience (I’m coming back to the business side here). Kevin Kelly (Wired magazine co-founder) wrote a seminal article back in 2008 called ‘1,000 True Fans.’ This concept, looked at the belief that all an artist requires, in order to make a living off what they produce, is to have 1,000 fans. From a business perspective we need to adapt what we do so we resonate a chord with someone else. This is what will make them come back.
Over the past five seasons, supporters have started to come to watch Bournemouth on a more regular basis, to the point where watching a game in the Premier League will be non existent if you don’t have a season ticket. The fans have seen promotion from Division Two, Division One and two seasons in The Championship playing against teams that I would never have expected us to compete against, apart from the buzz of an unexpected cup run.
What We All Want To Achieve With Our Businesses
What has happened is a collection of people where a network has grown and there is a sense of belonging. The days of sharing a view with a few have now grown into a discussion with many. Isn’t this what we want to achieve with our businesses?
The ability to build a network with others who can share, discuss and come over to a place that you have complete control from an email, to a comment on your website, to a face to face conversation. Not just on a couple of occasions, but they are there every time you publish and share what you have to say. There is no better example I can think of at the moment (from the business side) with the Marketing Homebrew podcast. Figures are now starting to show a loyal audience who come to listen when each show is broadcast every Friday.
From a football perspective and business perspective what we can create and the opportunity we have is to mould a sense of belonging that originates from a belief.
Whilst the club could eventually go back to the place that has widely been regarded as home (the bottom two leagues of English football) and the crowds could go back to below 4,000, there will be those who come back no matter what league the club are playing in (I’ll hold my hand up here). It’s all about standing resolutely behind what you believe in (good times and bad).
Last night’s game against Bolton Wanderers was once in a lifetime stuff. However, one thing stuck with me more than anything else. To see two elderly gentlemen (in their 70s at least), hugging at the end of the final whistle was a moment they both realised they had the privilege to be part of something truly special. This was not just about promotion to the Premier League, but more about a journey to a destination that was never really expected or discussed at greater length apart from a ‘what if..’ scenario.
This was about being part of something that throughout 125 years the doors were never opened and welcomed in to play a part in one of the biggest leagues in the world. Ok, it could be a walk on role and we exit after 10 months, but at least we can all say ‘we saw it.’