Imagine a successful consumer focused business with tens of billions in annual revenue headquartered in the EU looking to grow profit and potentially gross margin in a captive, yet static market. Looking across the pond to the US, leadership in the business decides to mirror their American counterparts, assuming what is working in the States will translate to greater profit and revenue opportunities across the European and UK marketplace.
Leadership in the successful brand decides to take the initiative and change the structure of their product, positioning and market presence based on the success they see in America. After all, a consumer in the US is just like a consumer in the UK, right? The business leaders undertake this bold initiative without:
- Talking to mid and upper level managers responsible for implementing the transition
- Understanding how employees will react to changes in the product, something they have come to support and believe in as core to their personal success
- Hearing how the end customer perceives the idea and its potential impact on their loyalty and engagement with the brand
What could go wrong?
Announcing their intention, the business is quickly met with an outpouring of negative publicity that reverberates across the globe. Harm to the brand is immediate with employees and customers taking to the Internet and the media to denounce the effort. Within a day, leaders of this effort are forced to backtrack completely on their efforts and go on an apology tour.
Sound illogical or impossible? Something that could never happen today given the ability to gauge the pulse of key audiences quickly? Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Super League, the brainchild of Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez and his fellow owners trying to “save soccer”, which along with most pro sports, has taken a severe financial hit due to Covid-19. Unfortunately for the owners, they completely misread the fan, player and management reaction.
For old timers you might be thinking this story parallels New Coke or some other management-inspired brainstorm. Yet New Coke at least looked at taste testing to introduce a new product. They may have completely underestimated the blowback to the brand, but they did some due diligence. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Super League.
While some level of hybrid Super League may be inevitable in the future, the owner would be wise to understand:
- How will core and casual fans react?
- What are the big questions that people – including excluded clubs – have about Super League?
- How will this change impact player development, loyalty to the sport and management of developing talent?
- For cities or areas that have rabid fans following teams, what will their reaction be to any shift in their chance to achieve elite level?
- How did the establishment of a Super League impact other sports (check out Rugby)?
- How do we effectively communicate any shift to the sports public?
These are just a few of the questions the Super League advocates should be thinking of as they consider any next steps. As fans of the beautiful game – which is finally starting to gather a foothold in America – here’s hoping they ask a primary research firm the question: What steps do you think we should consider before fundamentally shifting our business model, product and market position?